Painted Bunting

Ah, it’s finally spring in the northern hemisphere, at least officially that is.  It’s the time for one of my favorite parts to spring besides the newly awakened flowers – the bird activity!  The snow birds are leaving town and both our ‘normal’ varieties of avian creatures as well as unusual visitors will be showing up through this next month.  Then the sweet but noisy baby birds will be coming!  I am one who admittedly has a “life list” of species I’ve spotted, and although birding is no longer as serious of a deal that it was when I was a teen, I now have a dress for that.

Novelty prints are not really my “thing” but this bird one is winning me over.  It is such a bright and cheerful print of what is probably fantasy songbirds, but they remind me of all my vivid-colored, real-life  favorites – the kestrel, the redstart, orioles, warblers, or my ‘yet-to-be-seen spotter’s life goal’ the painted bunting.  However, this post’s title is appropriate in more than one sense!  With its swishy, full, mullet hemline and peek-a-boo flashes of skin, my dress is fully lined in a hot pink cotton for both unexpected fun in my fashion and to have a non-poly comfort against my skin.  I’m carrying a celebration of cheerfulness with me when I wear this dress!

The fact that this dress has received top rating from my 6 year old is proof of the happiness this dress exudes.  He always laughs, smiles, and is like glue to me just to study the print – if I ever want to make his (and my) day better, I wear this.  Want proof?  My son made me a necklace that matches.  It was totally a surprise project of his.  Someone brought a beading kit to keep the kids busy after church one Sunday and he was busy making something for me in all the colors, but extra beads in especially the ones I love – turquoise, purple, and pink!  Together with earrings from my Grandma which remind me of baby robin eggs, this is a combo that is spring and summer embodied for me.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The bird print is a buff finish polyester satin while the solid bright pink lining is a poly and cotton blend broadcloth

PATTERN:  Burda Style “Cut Out Dress” pattern #116B from August 2014

NOTIONS:  All I needed was thread!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was a quickie compared to how it looks a bit complex – 6 to 7 hours and finished on April 19, 2017

TOTAL COST:  I didn’t really wait for a sale to buy this – it was too cute to wait and see if there was going to be any left!  However, I did buy it years back at the (now defunct) Hancock Fabrics so sorry if you want some, too!  It was about $7 for each of the 3 yards…and the broadcloth was a few dollars a yard too.  Thus – my total is about $20.

Everything matched up well for this pattern and the instructions were decent (not as great as sometimes).  However I did go up in size and I’m glad I did.  The bust and shoulders seem to run small in my opinion, but then again I did not want a tight fit for a breezy balmy weather dress made out of a non-stretch woven material.  I also brought the shape of the neckline in just a tad – straightening out the dip of the scoop in front and bringing in the sides so as to cover my brassiere straps better.  The neckline now appears to be more of a wide boatneck, but it is still easy to slip over the head as well as complimentary open around the neck, just now compatible with normal lingerie.  Finally, I slightly lengthened the front half of the hem line to the skirt.  All these changes I am so glad I had done at the cutting stage.  I do not think I would like my dress as much as I do if I hadn’t have done such adjustments.

I do love how this dress is a balance of simple and complex depending on how you look at it.  The pattern pieces were rather interesting, too.  From the front it has clean lines – straight, shorter skirt and a basic bodice with cut-on kimono cap sleeves and only a flashing hint of the ‘party in the back’.  From the back, the skirt has a full sweep – like a lovely cape – in midi length and the bodice is separated from the waistline for some skin baring in an uncommon spot.

The cut out ‘window’ at the back waistline more than just a feature, though – is adjustable with a drawstring going through the casing made around the oval opening so you can customize your coverage to your liking.  I love when personal preference is considered in fashion!  This design also makes this dress a pull-on which needs no zipper!  You loosen up the gathers to pop it on, then pull the drawcord ends (one long 1/4 strip made of the dress’ fabric) to close the back as you prefer.  The back opening as you see it on me is almost as small as it will go, so if you like this design, too, keep that in mind.   The half waistband that is in the front of the dress merely basic and comfy elastic kept in a casing made of the seam allowance.

Such a design detail of an open back above the waistline can be seen on the sporty dresses and versatile playsuits of the vintage world of fashion.  I notice similar styling from the 1940s to the 1970s.  In the case of this Burda dress, the back opening sort of makes it look like the bodice is only connected at the front and side waistline.

In the cases of vintage styles which are similar the bodice and bottoms can be actually disconnected for completely versatile set!  There is a modern (readily available) New Look sewing pattern which offers the same cute and ingenious styling as the 40’s and 50’s counterparts I showed as just a few examples.  However, none of them include a high-low hemline, as well.

If you’ve been following my site for awhile you may have noticed I do enjoy a high-low hem.  This style of skirt does show up here and there in my projects because I like it only in small doses.  This particular variety of a mullet hem is my favorite yet.  It has a fantastic sweep due to the back opening gathers – just the back half of the skirt was such a large pattern piece it practically was one yard in itself.  The lining underside the skirt really makes the most out of the hem shape because if you’re gonna see the ‘wrong side’ make it worth noticing.

Full body lining is the absolute best thing for this dress, I do believe.  The pattern needs to be amended from henceforth to include this step.  I don’t know about you, but I hate the feeling of a polyester fabric on my skin…man-made fibers aggravate both my body and my mental state in more ways than one.  So – to keep both my sanity and comfort whenever I do succumb to the cuteness of a polyester fabric, I line such garments in good old cotton broadcloth.

No, really, though – full body lining also makes the edge finishing so much cleaner and fuss-free.  No tiny hemming to do, and no raw fraying edges to deal with either.  I love a clean inside as much as I love how nice my garments look on the outside when on myself.  You can see the clean, no-seam hot pink lining side through the open armholes, too, and do so enjoy a garment that has its innards visible when they are done as nicely as this!  It’s not that much extra work – sure it takes twice as much fabric – but it is worth it in the end product.  For me, I guess sewing is not just materializing an idea or feeling, neither is it just crafting something I need or want.  I suppose my habit of finely finished insides say that what I love about sewing is the beauty and the art of it.

Cedar Waxwings I spotted in my parents’ backyard!

The ultimate magnificence is in nature, however, and birds are the cheerful feathered announcers that living is to be celebrated.  I am lucky to have had up-close and personal time with birds – especially the time I took a class on bird banding as a teen and actually held my favorite local feeder visitors.  Then, there is the time I was by a creek painting some flowers and a hummingbird buzzed me, coming up to within inches of me, seemingly thinking I was something which needed checking out.  Yes, the thing I love about birds is the best way to enjoy them – stop the busyness of life, listen with your heart, and soak in the cathartic benefits of realizing their simple but indispensable existence.  Something as insignificant as this post’s home-made piece of clothing, no matter how fabulous, reminds me of the greater beauty of life around me.

“Retro Forward” Burda Style – a Vintage Inspired Novelty Knit Dress

Waffles aren’t just for breakfast anymore!  Silly me, you probably knew that.  However, I’ll bet you didn’t know there was such a thing as a waffle knit fabric.  Plain, flat surface knit isn’t the only option in my mind anymore, and this opens up a whole new world of fashion ideas to me.

This dress, made from a novelty, reversible (yes!) textured knit, is sewn using a modern Burda Style pattern with strong features of 1960s and 70’s fashion.  Thus it is part of my ongoing blog series, “Retro Forward with Burda Style”.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a polyester blend knit bought from my local JoAnn’s Fabric store

PATTERN:  Burda Style #116, from February 2014, “Dress with Buttoned Back” view B, or “Jackie Dress” view A.  (Both views look the same to me, by the way!)

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread, some cotton scraps, and some buttons and snaps were needed and I had all of that on hand already.  Yay!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was made in about 8 hours and finished on October 15, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  As this knit is a polyester and it is a dense weave, it does not fray so the innards are left raw.  Hey – even the dress hem is left raw and unfinished!

TOTAL COST:  I don’t clearly remember, but I believe it was between $15 to $20.

When you look around at it, novelty knit fabric is ah-mazing, especially this waffle version, which is totally reversible, too (in a “photo film negative” sort of way), making it all the more open to crazy fun possibilities.  Novelty knits hold a certain balance that amazes me about modern fabrics – they keep their surface quality while still having a forgiving stretch which still acts like a normal knit, with a “memory” to go back to its original texture.  From what I have seen in my research, I have realized modern knitwear has been around since the 1920’s, but it seems as if novelty manufactured knits exploded into the designer fashion scene beginning with the end of rationing after WWII (in the 1950s), and have been out there ever since.  Look at this 1950 “blistered” textured knit dress from the great Claire McCardell, or this 50’s puckered knit wiggle dress for two examples of how a solid color becomes so interesting with this kind of fabric.  Then, after the 50’s, avant-garde fabrics (made of plastics, paper, and metal, to name just a few) were popular in the late 60’s and in the 70’s, so I feel this unusual fabric especially suits a design of that era.  After all, the pattern is called a “Jackie” dress, and as Burda calls it a “classic” design (which I really don’t agree with), I would like to think they are referring to the Presidential fashion inspiration for the 1960’s, Jackie Kennedy-Onassis.

This was really an easy-to-make dress that is so versatile and comfortable.  I found the sizing right on, and the instructions very good. Now, as for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My pattern was traced from the downloaded and assembled PDF bought at the online store but if you have a magazine issue, use a roll of medical paper to trace your pieces from the insert sheet.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size and add in your choice of seam allowance width.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t.

I did not make any changes to the design, but I did take advantage of it by using both sides of the reversible fabric.  The main body of the dress is in the side that has more grey than white undertones, while the belt which is sew-in to the front shaping tucks was made from the side which is mostly white.  I love how using the other side of the fabric for the belt helps it blend into the dress without getting lost over it at the same time.  I kept the dress a little on the shorter side, and I think it looks better that way…it also gives me a reason to wear fun colored tights in the winter!  Looking back on it, however, I now wish I would have left out the center back, between-the-shoulders, vertical closing because when this dress is sewn out of a knit it is not necessary.  I could have sewn a basic center back seam rather than making a proper placket with fake, sewn on, non-working buttons as I have.  It looks good in the end, so I shouldn’t complain.

I am proud and happy with the way I figured out how to interface the back placket and back belt after all.  I have seen but never tried the interfacing fabric stores sell that is labeled for knits – it is a lightweight tricot mesh with an iron on adhesive back.  I do not see how this would help much or even really work well.  A good knit dress needs certain areas to be non-stretchy, and this is what true interfacing should do.  However, anything iron-on can rip off a knit if stretched too much, and a thick facing would not look good.  Thus, I used a basic 100% cotton broadcloth and basted it in place of the interfacing with some stitching, and have it inside the waist belt straps.  This works wonders to let the back facing and belt be pliable without stretching and be stabilized without undue bulky thickness, besides being an easy, on-hand solution to something that could have been more complicated.  Basic cotton bias tape was used to finish off the neckline edge, as well.  The cotton tape, though on the bias, is not all that forgiving – it is primarily stable in character – which is what I needed to keep the wide V-neckline from losing its shape.  Cotton woven fabric used as interfacing or a stabilizer for stretchy knit fabrics is a match made in heaven and one of the best tips I have discovered!

I’d say the trickiest part to the whole dress was the back belting.  Now, it wasn’t hard to do.  It was just fiddly and required my being precise with matching up the alignment of where the belt straps came into the bodice tucks.  I did lower the belt pieces slightly by about 5/8 inch so they would land just above my natural high waist rather than be at a true empire waistline.  Even still, I was and sort of still am self-conscious about the style and how it compliments (or doesn’t compliment) the tummy and hips.  I do receive tons of compliments by people when I wear this, so it must look alright.  I fudged with the closures of the back straps and sewed on fake buttons to hide the oversized snaps underneath…so much easier to do on myself blindly reaching behind.  Thread loops at the sides and center back keep the belt in place.

This “almost-mini-dress with a back waist band that comes from the side front seaming” is something I see a plethora of when it comes to sewing patterns in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  I see variations of it in patterns from every single year from 1967 to circa 1972, even with many designer names attached, so this must be good style for it to persist for at least 5 years straight in the Disco era!

Simple, straightforward and uncomplicated fashion is needed and has its place.  Solid colors and basic fabrics are staples that many times become a most-reached-for item to wear.  However, stretching the limits of what is conventionally available (the boon of sewing) can be such a likeable refreshing change for both yourself and others to see.  Doing so also stretches one’s habits of dressing and provides fun to an everyday need and unique personal expressiveness.  Novelty fabrics and creative uses for patterns can do all this!  Don’t be afraid to go find that odd fabric that speaks to your wild side and whip something up with it!  I have thoroughly enjoyed my trial with a newly discovered fabric, and a newly found vintage-does-modern fashion style only helped me like it all the more.

Bringing Some Texture to the Party

Allie J's Social Sew badgeRoses are always lovely, and red and green are so stereotypical of Christmas.  Thus, for a yearly fancy holiday festivity (sponsored by hubby’s work), I went and made a dress which made the best of both – a textured rose satin in a blue-green turquoise.  This dress throws in some awesome texture to what was a plain pattern, and puts a nicely different spin on wearing one of my very favorite colors!  This dress is my creation for Allie J’s monthly Social Sew #9, “Holiday Glamour”.  With my sewing skills and some standout fabric, I won’t have to worry about wearing the same dress as someone else at a party!

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The inspiration for this dress is due to the chic fashion of the villainess on the Marvel TV show “Agent Carter”, Whitney Frost (played by Wynn Everett) in the Season Two episode “Better Angels”.  If it hadn’t been for seeing the Hollywood model gown, I wouldn’t have had the gumption or the idea to even try to sew a dress like this…believe me, I’m loving wearing the result!

whitney-frost-her-first-use-of-zero-matterThe “Agent Carter” designer Gigi Melton’s original dress is different than my own but I hope you can see where I was coming from, especially with the golden background colors and the mirror (which was an important symbolical part of the scene).  I believe the original dress has rows of crinkled, shirred, ribbon-like rows of fabric creating the direction and texture on top of a solid dress base.  My dress captures a similar symbolical greenish hue, the same complex surface, and the same wide shouldered classic silhouette as the original.  I am glad I made my own interpretation because there is something a bit unsettling about how “alive” the original dress is – it is as unnerving and deeply layered as herself and her first use of “zero matter” – a dark force from another dimension.

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I see this as a pure fantasy dress, with no real vintage to date it.  After all, I did use a modern pattern, albeit with many changes.  However, at the same time as I say this, I must be honest and admit there are references to this style to the late 40’s or early 50’s, the consistent era of Whitney Frost’s wardrobe.  The longer calf length hem and the wider skirts are very mid-40’s to early 1950s.  Also, the shoulder widening, face framing capelet-style collar piece to the dress can be found on many patterns from the same time stretch (I have saved many of them together on this Pinterest page here – look at McCall #7662 and Butterick #8457 especially).  It is interesting to me how styles were used in the past…studying such often gives me great ideas of how to use them in the present, and I’ll bet others, including Gigi Melton, do the same.

THE FACTS:mccalls-6505-year-2012

FABRIC:  a polyester satin specialty rose fabric bought from the Etsy shop “Fabric Cult”, based in Los Angeles, California.  Sorry, but if you wanted some for yourself, it’s no longer available!

PATTERN:  McCall’s 6505, year 2012

NOTIONS:  I already had on hand all the thread, bias tape, and zipper that I needed.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Believe it or not, this was practically a one evening dress.  It was finished on December 1, 2016, after only 5 hours of effort.

dsc_0843a-compwTHE INSIDES:  This fabric’s raw edges were so messy, with the roses fraying and unwinding at every cut edge, so all of them were covered nicely in bias tape.

TOTAL COST:  only 2 yards of this lovely fabric cost me $14!

In my opinion the pattern runs a bit snug in the fit, but I do like the basic design, which gave me room to improvise as well as not calling for much fabric.  By having few seams, the designdsc_0798a-compw of the fabric wouldn’t be marred besides saving me from sewing more than I had to on this thick and complicated material!  The French bust darts are a nice touch I don’t see as often as I’d like in modern patterns.  I just don’t understand the one way mentality for this pattern to be made in lace – I treated it as a regular pattern for woven fabric and it turned out fine.  My changes were mostly only to lengthen the hem by 12 inches, widen the skirt, and eliminate the sleeves in lieu of a lapped on, all-in-one collar piece.  For both the front and the back, I matched up the sleeve pattern to its corresponding bodice and used leftover tissue to redraft based on tracing from the finished garment shape.

The capelet collar was added on as my smart and sneaky way to finish the neckline.  It was sewn on like a visible facing saving me even more time and trouble, besides ending up with a clean finished neckline!  If you look, perhaps on the front you’ll notice I didn’t top stitch the collar hem to the dress all the way to the sleeve for a real “cape” appearance, softly covering my arms.  With the collar being one solid piece around the neck, I had the back zipper start from its hem end, several inches down from the neck.

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Breaking up all the monotony and busyness of the dress is my belt.  It was self-drafted from the solid, flat fabric selvedge edge, stabilized with interfacing, and it ties around me with a grosgrain ribbon top-stitched down through the middle.  The original inspiration “Agent Carter” dress has a similar non-texture middle where it lacks some rows of crinkled gathers, and a simple ribbon becomes her belt.  I do love how my Chelsea Crew brand vintage style “Mandalay” sling back, peep-toe, tie-up shoes compliment the belt…wearing these shoes with my dress was my hubby’s idea – thank you!  My vintage brooch is also another bow tie…

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Have you ever tried an unusual novelty fabric?  What did you make with it?  What would you make with such a thing?  It’s different and took me some confidence and a number of compliments to realize my experiment with unusual material was a success.  But it’s definitely a relatively easy way to achieve a very luxurious and complicated frock.  I now know that with a lovely specialty fabric, much of the effort of making your handmade garment look good is done for you!  Besides all this, I have never yet gone wrong imitating an outfit from Marvel’s “Agent Carter” (just an F.Y.I)!

Happy New Year everyone!  Enjoy whatever you’re doing, wherever you are over the transition of the new and old year!  Here’s to 2017!

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