McCall’s 7233: Gray dress w/white flowers

It took almost a year, but I’m finally done with McCall’s 7233!

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This was one of the first projects I started last year when I got back into sewing after a gazillion years away. I hadn’t yet discovered tracing paper, so I actually cut the pattern pieces. (Oh, the guilt!) This was also one of my first experiences with quilting cotton. I love the print, but it does tend to wrinkle easily.

The pattern was very easy to follow, but there were a few steps that weren’t described, like how to deal with the inside of the neckline. The hardest part, though, was finding buttons to match the fabric. I searched for several months, and even bought my first batch of vintage buttons on Etsy, only to find they didn’t go with the fabric after all. That did lead to me discovering the wonderful world of vintage buttons…let’s just say that wasn’t my last vintage button purchase.

I finally found these at Joann Fabrics:

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They’re a perfect match for the fabric!

The pattern called for bound buttonholes, but I decided I couldn’t be bothered with all that work. Besides, I had only made a few buttonholes with my spiffy new Janome, and I wanted to make more. It’s super cool to watch your sewing machine make buttonholes without you doing a single thing. I actually am looking forward to making bound buttonholes another time, but I may wait until I’m a little less fascinated with watching the Janome.

The most helpful thing I learned from this pattern was about what back darts do. When I sewed them I was reading The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting, and it was really neat to see how what I was reading about worked in real life. Obviously this was not anything crazy – back darts are pretty basic – but having what I was reading coincide with what I was sewing was very helpful. If I make this dress again I’ll fiddle with the darts to see if I can improve the fit. I’ll also iron it before I take pictures…

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The biggest issue I had was the fit of the bodice at the neckline. I tried on the dress before sewing the buttonholes and buttons, and I thought it fit correctly. I was wrong. The neck was much too wide. I ended up moving the top two buttons to take in some of the space. I had already sewn the buttonholes so I was constrained on that side. It’s closer now, but it could be a little better.

The other thing I found is that the dress moves and wrinkles in weird ways. Some of that is the fabric, since it’s a heavier cotton, but some is the cut. For example, look at this photo.

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The weirdest wrinkle looks like it’s at my waist, but it’s really 3-4 inches below my waist. I may try moving the bottom buttons around to see if I can improve this. My theory is that the dress should be a little wider at that point – or at least it should with this fabric. I think a less stiff fabric wouldn’t act the same way.

The dogs were, of course, a big help with the whole process.

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My novel is out now, so I finally have more time to sew, and I’m filled with the enthusiasm spring brings – so I’ll be posting about my next project soon. It’s my first experience with Liberty of London lawn, and oh! do I love this fabric!!!

Jasper – my new sewing buddy

Losing Lucy, my furry little sewing buddy, hit me really hard. I actually put away all of my sewing things – except for the four sewing machines, since there’s nowhere for them to go. (Our house has a strange lack of closet space.) I figured taking a little bit of time off would be okay, and besides, it’s hard to sew when you’re crying.

We recently celebrated what would have been Lucy’s 7th birthday, and that night I dreamed about sewing, so I’m getting back in the groove. And I new have a new helper: Jasper!

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Jasper is the fluffy black and white guy – Maisie is behind him.

We adopted Jasper from the Nebraska Border Collie Rescue group. Not only were we sad and lonely without Lucy, our other dog Maisie was sad and lonely, so I looked around and found the little guy. My wonderful friend Kristin went with me on the journey to meet Jasper and bring him home. It was eight hours each way, through an awful lot of uninteresting scenery – unless you like looking at cornfields while your car is being buffeted by the wind. Jasper had been at a humane society for seven months, then in a foster home for about two months, so the poor little guy was without a real home for most of the last year. He’s smart and sweet and cuddly – and he loves lying next to me while I sew or write. He’d rather we played ball 24×7, but sewing is a good second choice for him.

I’m excited to be getting back in the swing of things, especially since I found a pattern I’ve been looking for since last spring:

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Isn’t it fantastic? I fell in love with it when I first started looking at vintage patterns last year, and I put in a bid on eBay, but since it was my first eBay experience I didn’t know what I was doing and I lost it by a quarter. Even worse, I bid $2.25, the pattern went for $2.50, and after that I couldn’t find it for anything less than $60!!! A few weeks ago it popped up and I managed to get it for a whopping $5.50. Oh, happy day! I’m super excited about making it!

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I miss Lucy very much, but I’m glad to be back at it again, and I’m looking forward to many years of sewing with my fluffy new helper.

Butterick 9578 – Polka dot apron…round 1

The apron won this round, but I control the scissors…

I acquired a copy of Butterick 9578 a few months ago, and was very excited when the Did you make that? Apronalong came along because it gave me a reason to try out this pattern instead of finishing all the projects I’d already started.

I made my first apronalong apron using a free tutorial by Bari J. It was easy, fun, and very convenient because I caught a cold and discovered that the pockets are perfect for carting around tissues.

My second apronalong apron was a half apron – version D from Butterick 9578. I love this apron. I keep wanting to wear it, but I feel like I should only do so if I’m going to clean or cook. Since I rarely do either I’m going to have to come up with another reason because it’s so adorable I can’t not wear it. I even posted about it on WeSewRetro – my first post there – because of its charming vintage-y goodness. (The pattern is from the 1950s – unfortunately the exact year isn’t listed.)

And then I moved on to the apron I really wanted to make…version A from the same Butterick pattern.

No, I’m not wearing the apron. I’m too cranky to want to be photographed in it; I’d just have a big scowl on my face.

The tie belt is quite nicely done. It’s in two pieces; you sew the unfinished ends inside one of the pleats. The half apron has pleats on the outside; the full apron, which uses the same skirt pattern, calls for the fabric to be pleated on the inside instead of the outside. That makes sense because for the half apron the waistband covers the top half of the pleats, whereas with the full version the tie belt starts in the middle of each front half, and therefore wouldn’t accomplish the same thing.

That’s a close up of the tie belt and its enclosing pleat.

The pockets look very cute. I wasn’t sure if I’d like them because they were folded down for the half apron, but they turned out to be just right for this variant.

You may be wondering what’s wrong… The bodice, of course…I always run into trouble with bodices. This apron is almost like a dress in that the bodice wraps around. Here’s a shot of the button in the back.

Those are sparkles in the fabric – it’s a really fun print! The button isn’t very exciting. The apron really should have a hot pink button, but this was the best I could come up with since I wasn’t about to run out to purchase one button for a pattern that’s irritating me this much.

I thought I’d be safe with the bodice because this is an apron, but apparently not. It bunches up in a weird way in the front, and in the back it’s poofy and doesn’t lie flat. I can fix this, but not in my current cranky state. So…technically the apron is done in time for the apronalong, but I won’t be wearing it until I can figure out how to correct these issues. I’m toying with the idea of changing the back to be more like the gingham apron I made in the summer, but that feels a bit drastic. Probably.

On a positive note, I finally found the right fabric for my Peony dress!

It’s Japanese cotton I found at Elfriede’s, the nicest fabric shop in Boulder. I bought a few other things, but was smart enough to restrict myself to buying fabric for only three patterns…nicest also means most expensive! I picked up a lovely floral print for the Sureau Sew-along (no, I haven’t learned my lesson…yay for sew-alongs!!!), and two different wool crepes for a fantastic Simplicity pattern from 1942. I’ll undoubtedly be making several muslins for that dress. The very nice lady who was helping me clearly thought I was a beginner. I wanted to say: thank you, but I’m an advanced beginner! I was very polite when she explained what a muslin is, and didn’t even react (hopefully) when she told me that she makes her muslins out of $12/yard fabric because it’s less expensive. I’m making so many muslins these days that I can’t even keep up with the math to figure out what that would cost me! But she was very helpful, and while it did take three people to help me settle on the colors for the wool crepe dress, it was a lot of fun. And I can finally make my Peony! Of course, the sew-along for that pattern is over…but at least I’ve found a fabric that I love!

Butterick 9578 – Black and pink half apron

I’ve been wanting to try out Butterick 9578 for a while, and the Did you make that? Apronalong gave me an excellent reason to make yet another apron in spite of the fact that I rarely cook.

I blame my pose on my photographer, who gives me directions like “wave your hands around” or “look at the ceiling.” Most of my photographs are clearly pictures of me caught in the middle of telling him how ridiculous his instructions are.

There’s no copyright on the pattern, but it’s probably from the late 1950′s.

I’d been planning on making the full apron, but thanks to Karen’s apronalong and the convenient timing of a fabric sale, I decided to make both a half and a full apron. I started with the half apron so that I could experiment with the pattern.

The apron has four sections of pleats; no gathers. The pleats are a really nice touch.

The pockets are made by sewing squares of both fabrics together, then the top corner is turned down to display the contrasting fabric.

The directions just say to fold the pocket down. I was planning on tacking it down, but they lie pretty flat. There are four pockets total, and they line up at the corners.

The apron goes pretty far around, unlike the last apron I made.

Here’s a side view so you can see about where the pockets stop.

I really love how this turned out. Now I’m off to finish the full apron since the apronalong ends tomorrow!!!

McCall 987 – Black gingham apron

After reading about Anna Depew’s latest apron I knew I needed to sew one myself. That didn’t mean I actually needed an apron…I have three perfectly fine store-bought ones. And it certainly didn’t mean I’d sew an apron nearly as well as she did.

Unfazed by these facts I plowed ahead, using this lovely pattern from 1942:

I quite enjoyed making this, and the extra excitement of having a needle break made it even more fun. This is the attitude of someone who took too much time off from sewing… Years ago such an occurrence would have made me irritated instead of gleeful, especially considering the fabric I was using. Who breaks a needle sewing lightweight gingham?

Fortunately I had some spare needles in the secret compartment of my sewing machine. It did briefly occur to me that they might not be the right size, but to be sure I would have had to dig out the manual, so I decided to hope for the best. Luck was on my side.

Even a casual glance will tell you that while this is a cute apron, it’s not as figure flattering as the pattern cover might lead you to believe. But it is cute!

I love the strap in the back.

I learned a few things from making this:

  • If you can’t understand the directions and decide to go your own way, figure out what your way is before starting.
  • It’s best to not drink sangria until after you’ve finished sewing for the day.
  • I love rickrack.

Wow, do I love rickrack. What’s not to love?

(There are a slew of ways to spell rickrack, so I’ve opted for Wikipedia’s version.)

I didn’t use as much rickrack as the pattern called for. The instructions say “Trim apron with rick-rack braid as illustrated on envelope.” Since the envelope was in another room (coincidentally, the same room as the Kenmore manual), I put two strips of rickrack over the two front seams. After my photo shoot I realized I’d under-rickracked. I quickly added it to the side seams, but decided not to continue the rickrack up the straps as indicated on the pattern cover. That seemed like an excessive amount, even given my newfound obsession. Besides, I was out of rickrack.

Here’s the final version, although it’s somewhat difficult to see because I was distracted by my newly washed and therefore extra fluffy companion.

Lucy matches the apron – she even has a red collar!

If I make this again I’ll use a different material. I love gingham, but this fabric (it’s 65% polyester, 35% cotton) is too thin to really protect your clothes if you’re doing something like cooking. Fortunately cooking is man’s work in our household, so I can wear my apron while I do women’s chores, like sipping wine while watching my chef slave over a hot stove, or cuddling with one of the dogs.

McCall’s 6740 – Blue shift dress

The first pattern I attempted after my multi-year hiatus from sewing not only required the basic skills which I’d had at one time, it also was designed for stick figures instead of people. I had to add 1/2″ to the diameter of the shoulders just to get to where I could pull the sleeve up my arm, and it was clear that more work would be required even if I managed to stop sewing things inside-out.

I quickly switched patterns.

The new pattern, chosen because of its simplicity (and lack of sleeves), was a simple shift: McCall’s 6740 [© 1963].

Hooray for a remedial sewing opportunity! But it provided some challenges. The first one I tackled was the neckline. Here’s the before picture:

It’s not the best photo, but take a look at the girl in the giraffe version on the pattern. She looks happy, doesn’t she? She’s probably on a beach vacation, so she’s able to ignore the uncomfortably high neckline. Sure, some people don’t mind the feeling of being on the verge of being strangled, or turtlenecks would never have taken off. I’m not one of them. This one isn’t even that tight, but for a summer frock that should make you feel carefree and happy, the neckline is surprisingly high.

Not anymore!

The inside of the dress now looks a bit Frankenstein-ish since I made the decision to lower the neckline after I’d clipped corners and trimmed away the extra fabric on the seams, but the outside looks much nicer – and the dress feels way more summery. I also learned a valuable lesson…just because the women depicted on the pattern look comfortable doesn’t mean you will feel the same.

The next task was to deal with the width of the neck. I definitely do not have narrow shoulders, so I was surprised to find that the straps were far too wide for my build. After some thought, mostly involving lots of button browsing (I love buttons!!!), I decided to fold in the fabric neckline on the front of the dress and add buttons to make it look like I’d planned this all along. I tacked it down about 1/2″ on each side.

The last step was the hem. I cut the dress out at the longest length, then asked the man of the house what he thought of the dress. He said it looked nice in a shapeless kind of way, and reminded him of the dresses his aunts used to wear when he was little…right at the time when dresses like these were all the rage. If that’s not success, I don’t know what is!

That said, it was hard to imagine I’d ever actually wear something that looked that much like a potato sack, so I hacked off 9.5″.

That’s our brand new fence in the background. The process of getting it built has been kind of like making this dress.

Now I just need a beach vacation!