I’ll Never Sew Again!! Tales of UFOs and Persistence

Mom looked at what I’d stitched and remarked, “it’s not right, tear it out and do it over.”  I wadded up the garment, threw it in the corner and announced, “I’m never sewing again!!” I recall that moment more than 50 years ago, but not the garment or its issues.

My Mom was a gifted sewist herself and she was patient with teaching me the craft at such a young age. Sewing had always been a part of her life and I think it gave her joy when I expressed an interest as well, I announced at age seven that I wanted to be a fashion designer and started with paper doll clothes made out of fabric. I was always eager to learn and proud of my makes and to this day, at 89, Mom beams when I thank her for sharing her knowledge with me.  That day long ago, she didn’t try to convenience me how much I loved sewing and to not be frustrated, she just let me stew.  It was probably one of the best lessons she ever taught me.

Obviously, I didn’t stay away from sewing for very long.  Continue reading

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Never Too Old to Feel Like a Princess

What a year 2018 has been . . . a complete whirlwind!  I guess that’s what happens when you get married in the middle of it! I still can’t believe it has already been over seven months!untitled-343

I didn’t do a lot of sewing this year, but I did tackle one amazing project and it is by far one of my proudest!  Yes . . . I’m talking about the infamous wedding gown!   I’ve wanted to blog about it for some time and the Designin’ December challenge is just the opportunity to do so!

It was obvious I was going to create my own gown, but it took awhile to figure out exactly what I wanted.  I sifted through thousands of pictures for inspiration.  By most accounts, I am a senior citizen and a chubby one at that!  I didn’t want to look silly for my age and weight, but I also wanted to feel like that princess everyone dreams of feeling on their wedding day.  I wanted a big, full skirt with a train, some lace and lots of pearls and beading, it also had to have some sort of sleeve.  No strapless for me and these ta tas! I found myself constantly gravitating to the same picture.  Could I pull this look off?  I always tell my clients, go try a bunch of dresses on, see what you like, what works with your body .  .  . did I heed my own advice . . . hell no!

I knew I didn’t want white, and was actually sure I’d go with a lovely cream or ivory.  I’d made some other gowns out of silk dupioni and loved the feel and the look of it, so I went online and ordered some swatches from Mood.  On a whim, I decided to order a swatch of a dusty rose as well as a pretty lavender.  If you know me, you know my favorite color is purple!  And the second I opened my package of swatches I knew I’d found my fabric! I loved it.

It was much harder finding the lace, the only one that spoke to me was also from Mood, an exquisite three-dimensional stunner with lavender and beige chiffon petals, pearled, beaded, and intricate silver stitching. And also very expensive.  But hell, I was worth it . . . it was my wedding after all!

With all my materials in hand, it was time to actually start the process.  I hadn’t sewn much for myself recently so I had to get reacquainted with the lumps and bumps of menopause  as well as deal with some major body image issues (see some of my previous posts!).  I knew the bodice was going to be my biggest challenge. I didn’t want to completely make my own pattern, so found Butterick #6186 that gave me the bodice lines that I was looking and Vogue #1095 for that big, full skirt and train that I wanted. I know looking at them you’d never imagine they’d be a good mash up, but I could envision it in my head.20180401_151938

It took several weekends, nine muslin bodice toiles, several tears and two full ‘practice’ dresses to know I had the patterns tweaked just right for my gown. The bodice is very fitted through the bust and I wanted a nice set in sleeve and the pattern just wasn’t giving me what I wanted.  I watched several videos and determined I needed to raise my armscye a few inches and that meant my sleeve head pattern had very little curve.20180331_090122 It sure looked weird! As experienced a sewist that I am, I never imagined it would take me so long to get the fit ‘just right’ or should I say absolutely perfect.

About five weeks before the wedding, I actually started cutting out my gown.  With dupioni, I like to underline in cotton broadcloth. I also decided not to put a waist seam in the gown since I’d have a waist piece covering where the lace and dress met.  I vividly recall my anxieties that Sunday morning when I said a quick prayer took that first cut into my lace . . . there was not enough for any errors and time was ebbing away.  The bodice was seven pieces and each piece had to have the pearls and beads cut off, one by one along the seam allowance so I could sew my seams by machine.  On average, each piece took about an hour. 20180408_141054

From the beginning, even when I was thinking an ivory gown, I wanted a purple train.  A fun pop of color that is totally me and no one would know until they saw my rear going down the aisle!  My soon-to-be husband, also wanted  me to make his waistcoat and cravat. I found just the right shade of purple satin from Fabric.com for both and also ordered enough to make matching table overlays.  Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment, but that’s another story!

Where the dark purple train met the waistband, it needed a little something. I made a multi-purple silk chiffon butt flower – great term, eh?  Not as elaborate as I thought I’d do, but I didn’t want my gown to cross over into a costume.  “Scale back and edit,” was ringing through my ears . . . thank you Tim Gunn!untitled-472

Two weeks before the wedding, I hit a snag.  I had done all of my fittings by myself up until this point, but now that the gown was well under construction and the zipper was in, it was proving to be very difficult.  I knew my fiancé wouldn’t have the patience to deal with the zipper and that fluttery lace so I attempted to, once again, do it myself, zipping it part way with the zip in the front and then spinning it around my rotund girth and getting my arms in the armholes . . . Well, the zip got stuck on the thickness at the waist (the dress not mine, hahaha!!), and in my attempts to get it up or even down, it seperated.  Needless to say I was in tears and it seemed to take forever to finally get out of it!

Out came the seam ripper and a trek to the store to purchase a new zipper!  Mom was due here in a few days and I knew she could help with the final fittings as well as get it zipped for me.  Afterall, she was the one who taught me how to sew.

My gown is fully lined in china silk and I also made a foundation piece under the entire bodice. I sweat a lot so didn’t want any rings coming through on my big day.  I actually ended up with seven layers of fabric in my bodice – no moisture was going to penetrate that! The waist piece was cut on the bias and pleated in the center and stiffened with an underpiece that is interfaced.  I was so pleased how the waist held up through the entire day, kept its shape and didn’t wrinkle! The ornamentation was a pin I picked up, of all places Michael’s craft store!  I used two inch horsehair braid in the hem for the flare, as well as wore a very full petticoat that I purchased at a bridal shop underneath.  I wish the the petticoat had been even fuller to really hold the dress out like my inspiration photo.20180418_112644

I completed my gown the day before the wedding and had it professionally pressed. They were amazed I had made it myself! Of course I needed something to keep me busy on the morning of the wedding so that’s when I made my fascinator as well as covered the buttons and made the buttonholes for my husband’s waistcoat. He said it didn’t make him the least bit nervous . . . he’s a keeper!!

Blood, sweat, and tears were worth it . . . I truly did feel like a princess all day!!

 

 

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TGIFF -Is it Done Yet?

Is it done yet??  That seems to be the question I keep getting over and over. Why did I tell so many people that I was making my own wedding gown!!  It’s so easy for me to talk with clients and help them create something that is just special for them!  Now my self talk has begun . . . it’s time to start on some simple garments and work with my boobs and broad shoulders so that I can make a pattern for my gown.  Once I get a few items completed, I’ll be much more comfortable drafting a muslin mock for myself of the actual gown bodice, that by-the-way, was supposed to be done weeks ago.  Truth be told, I’m not feeling that far behind or stressed, so that’s all good.  Two months Five weeks is plenty of time!   [Update – I wrote most of this post weeks ago.  I’m happy to say the toile and pattern for my gown is complete!]

From my pattern stash I pulled out a few and carefully studied how they were made in the bust.  I wanted one that had some similar lines to the bodice of my gown, and I wanted something that I could wear to work, church, or a dinner function. I decided on an ‘Amazing Fit’ by Simplicity # 1277. I’ve used parts of the Amazing Fit line with good luck with my customers, so I was hoping for the same for me.  They include pieces based on your cup size (up to DD) and have a wide range of sizes going up to a Womens 28.

I also chose this pattern because I had enough fabric . . . as I mentioned in my last post, I had a motivation picture that I’d posted to Instagram.  It was a jacket and pants that I’d designed for a Simon Mall competition a few years ago. The fabric I’d used to line that jacket was a lovely weight paisley polyester blend ‘silky’ from Jo Ann’s, called ‘Ocean.’ After my competition, I’d gone back to get more of it for a dress  for me, I liked it that much! It’s navy blue background with various shades of teal running through it, these colors are really good for me and they do remind me of the ocean. Ironically, I knew I was falling in love with Carl at the ocean and that’s where we’re going for our honeymoon. But we’ll save those stories for another time . . . and another blog post!

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Motivation pic – I won the contest

I’d actually forgotten about the fabric until last year, when in a panic for one of my fashion shows I needed to come up with something, and I needed it quick. I was going to add a cold shoulder sleeve to a vest I’d already made and shown in a previous show, giving it a different and new look.  My Ocean fabric was in the right color family and since I was only going to be tacking these sleeves on for one show, they’d be usable after for my dress – if and when I got around to it!

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Look at those points!!  I could be a quilter!

I pulled all my pattern pieces out, comparing them against my own measurements and determined I’d need to cut the largest size for my body but a different, smaller size for the neck and shoulders.  Patterns run so differently than off the rack, it’s hard to not be discouraged when you see the number, but it’s just a number that really means nothing . . . Or so I’m trying to convince myself!

The measuring, altering patterns, pinning, rechecking measurements, and cutting always seems to take the most amount of time, this is when you know whether your garment will fit or not.  Once cut, you can’t easily make larger, especially if it is something in the length and my torso is long and wide.  I tend to always go with the larger size and take in as needed and this pattern has a generous 1″ side seam allowance.  Since my tummy area has no defined waist, I wanted to give the illusion with a contrast for the inset pieces. I had some teal lightweight wool left over from the pants, and I already knew it matched!  The only thing I did when cutting out my dress was straighten the side seam.  I’d rather nip it in a bit for my own curves than have it too tight to start with.

 

 

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Hey, I do have a waist!  And don’t you love that pocket!

I was so happy with the fit on the base of this dress that I left it behind to move on to making my bodice toile for my gown (watch for that blog post!!)  And then, thanks to my friend Rebecca and her blog post, I was inspired to complete this dress for the TGIFF Party.  I’d already inserted a muslin sleeve and knew the adjustments I needed to make to the sleeve that had been tacked on to the vest.

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Muslin sleeve that had already been inserted into the dress, laid out to recut just the top from the original sleeve I’d had for my other project!  Wasn’t quite wide enough, so I added a triangle gusset in the underarm. Who’s going to be in there?

Sleeve inserted, hems and hand stitching done . . . and I’m off to work!!  And it’s completed by Friday!  20180329_084634I think I might shorten it a bit, making it more flattering.  And I wish I wasn’t such a big girl, but I do feel great in my me made!! I also love the bell sleeve with the elastic gathering at the elbow.  I know I’ll feel just as awesome in my wedding gown too!

PRO TIP:  When you’re trying to match a waist seam while inserting an invisible zipper, stitch the right side.  Zip it up. Place a pin with a colorful head, or use a chalk pencil, where the seam is. Unzip, being careful not to lose the pin!  Place that pin at the waist, pin on both sides and stitch it up.  Voilà, it matches perfectly!!

 

 

 

 

Revelations – Whose Body is This?

I’m sure you’re all wondering how the gown is coming . . . there have been so many revelations!  I’ve spent the past two weeks wondering how to articulate and I’m hoping my jumble of thoughts and words will translate well to paper.  I feel it’s important, as I know I’m not alone.

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My gown is the lovely lavender on the right . . . all I see is the fat neck and huge double chin.

I am an excellent seamstress and have enormous confidence in my work.  I have created hundreds of gowns and dresses in my lifetime.  Most of those have been for others.  Part of my responsibility, I feel, when sewing for others, is to make them feel good about themselves, accept their body, as it is today.  Not what they hope it might be in the future. Now I’m trying to tell myself these same things.  Why is it that it always sounds better coming from someone else?

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I have come to realize that as I’ve gotten older, gone through menopause, my body has drastically changed!  I think that’s really what they mean when they say ‘the change’!! Add to that that I have spent the last 10 years or so rarely sewing for myself.  I have lots of started projects, but very little end results.  Mostly due to starting and not finding time to finish, often times having to put customer work first.  OR, and this one is a biggie, I don’t like the way it looks on me, the fit or lack thereof, over my boobs.   Yes, I do all the full bust adjustments and am well aware of the tweaks  that are needed for that perfect fit.  It’s much easier to do those playing with someone else’s ta tas rather than my own!

There, I’ve said it . . . I hate my body!  And with only three months to go, will I be that beautiful bride that I envision in my head or just a fat lavender boob that looks ridiculous?  I vow to start eating nothing but fruits and vegetables, no carbs and to exercise like crazy . . . Ha!  I’ve been saying that for months now and I’ve yet to really adhere to this change.  Face it, it’s not happening. Or at least not enough to really make a difference.

Once I had this revelation last weekend, I realized why I’d been shying away from my studio.  I hadn’t sewn anything since November. I have put all customer work on hiatus so I only have myself to sew for.  It was time to tackle this body and get reacquainted with it, lumps, bumps, flaws and all.

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Motivation Photo

Prior to the ‘revelation’ I had been going through my old photos and posted on Instagram one of my proudest pieces, hoping to get me motivated.  I think it worked, I went up to the loft, sifted through several patterns and chose one that I thought would be quick enough to put together and help me start building up that confidence that I can make myself look and feel just as good as I can my clients.  Ironically, my stash contained a pieces from my IG motivation photo and I had enough yardage to make it work.

Let’s see if I can create something cute for myself and get over this hurdle!  Stay tuned . . .20180121_160928

The Venture Begins

In four months, a mere 117 days, 23 hours, and 28 minutes, I’ll be married. But who’s counting.  YIKES!!  So much to do.  Why is it when we got engaged last February it felt so far away.  Now that the new year is upon us, it’s first and foremost in my mind.

Luckily our church and reception venue has been reserved since last spring and I finally got the save the date cards in the mail the first week of December. Man did that make things real! This first week of 2018 we’ve been busy making phone calls and sending emails working on securing a caterer, florist, cake maker, photographer, musicians and probably others that aren’t coming to mind at the moment. Luckily, everyone, thus far, has been available for our date. Now we just need to start making decisions and doling out those deposits.  And every time I think I have thought of everything one more item pops into my head.  I know it will all come together we’ll have a beautiful and special day!

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Lake Pointe Hall Colonel Francis Beatty Park
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Outside of Lake Pointe Hall – Perfect for pictures!

The most important thing, my  dress . . . YES, of course I’ll be making it!  I’d been looking at silhouettes online and even dabbling with sketches and a few months ago came up with a vision in my head.  Although I will soon be 60, I  wanted a traditional wedding dress. I was thinking a full, gored,a-line ivory gown would be flattering for my body type. What princess doesn’t want layers and layers of crinolines under her skirt! I also wanted it to have a train and some type of sleeve.  It had to be me, but as a designer, I also wanted a statement piece.

I had made some client gowns this past year and loved the drape and feel of silk dupioni. I also loved how it photographed.  I ordered a few swatches from my various resources and on a whim ordered a very soft lavender from Mood.  Those who know me, know my favorite color is purple and I already knew my wedding colors were going to be hues of purple.  Did Pantone pick Ultra Violet just for me?  It sure seems like it!! The minute I opened the envelope and saw this 5″ x 5″ piece of fabric, I knew it was my gown.

lovely-lavender-solid-shantung-dupioni-fs36003-1429-11I had also decided that I wanted a lace bodice and elbow length lace sleeves.  I’d been looking in my local Jo Ann’s, again doing more searching online, but nothing was doing it for me.  I was about to place my Mood order for the dupioni and did one last search so I could order any swatches I wanted at the same time.  I kept gravitating to a pearled and sequined three dimensional lavender and beige floral embroidered lace.  The picture wasn’t great and it was $99/yard, but I figured what the heck, for $5 for a sample I’d go for it.

Again, my package arrived and I was excited for the silk, but I couldn’t wait to see the lace . . . O M G, it was exquisite! And it was a perfect match.  They only had 14 yards and then the next day it was down to 12, so I knew I had to make a decision fast.  Was I worth it, we all know the answer to that question, yes I am!!  I have the talents and confidence to work with couture fabrics . . . for my clients. So, I’m looking at myself as a client. I can do this . . . The package arrived mid-week and I finally opened it yesterday. WOW is all I can say.

20171226_141818Sew . . . it’s time for me to get busy.  I want to get a muslin mock done by the end of January to start working on fit with the gown completed by the end of March.  I still have to find lining fabric and since  I’ll be underlining the entire gown with cotton broadcloth that will have to be ordered as well.  I perspire a lot, so I want to keep the gown all natural fibers (no, that lace doesn’t fall into this category – oh well) and it’s an early May wedding in North Carolina, so it could be warm. I also have to find the fabrics for the train . . . I did say statement piece, didn’t I?? Stay tuned while I chronicle this next venture in our lives.

Musings from 2017

Here I sit, the last day of 2017. As I drink my coffee on this cold, chilly morning, bundled in fleece, I reflect on my accomplishments.  There are many. I participated in three runway shows, created two collections, “La Paci Primavera” in April and “Plums the Word” in August. I made two wedding gowns based on photos for two very different brides. I created numerous prom gowns and shed tears over a mother of the groom outfit that my client decided she didn’t like.  I alterated 40 evening gowns for sick kids to attend a special prom for The Sandbox.  I did my first ever quilt blocks and created an ugly Christmas sweater for my soon to be husband. Whew, no wonder my studio looks like World War III!!

There are also those numerous projects that didn’t get accomplished. A lovely summer red dress for me, Carl’s frock coat for holiday caroling that was started in 2015, sketches on paper, designs in my head, numerous patterns, and yards and yards of fabric.  However, I’ve learned how to say no to clients.  I just can’t do every single project any more and I am busy enough that I don’t have too.  I keep alterations to a minimum, refer all home dec items, and even hand off some custom sewing if the time constraints don’t fit my schedule. I think there is plenty of sewing to go around for all of us.

On a personal level, I got a promotion at work, basically a better title and more money! I dealt with an aging 90 year old parent having heart valve replacement surgery. I had a concussion, spent time at the ocean, had numerous dinner parties, visited my Mom in Florida, cooked some luscious food, and held my dying friends hand, making promises I don’t know if I can keep. And I got engaged!

IMG_20171230_210805One of my last sewing projects for the year was for a client celebrating her 50th birthday.  She liked a halter top she’d seen online, even ordering it.  It was cheap polyester, unfinished hems and even worse construction.  She wanted  it to be royal blue with a soft drape, but not flimsy and it had to cover her tummy pooch.  She also wanted matching cigarette pants. I had made a prom gown earlier in the year with a peachskin from JoAnn’s and they had the perfect shade of blue for this outfit. I have decided to make this my entry for the Designin’ December Challenge. 

I started with a muslin to work on the fit, especially in the bust.  Having the original, I could tear it apart and make a rough pattern from it, although it fit so poorly I didn’t want to rely on it too much, besides it was a knit and I was doing a top out of a woven fabric.  Getting the front to lay right over her full bust and not gape was a problem.  This is one of those garments that you need to wear the same bra for all of your fittings.  One time she didn’t and the fit was totally different! And not in a good way  . . . she had to return the following day with the right bra.

20171028_111954To make final tweaks, I had to tear apart at center front, under the bust, and pin on her to get it to lay correctly. Stitching and refitting a couple of times while she stood in the studio holding a tee shirt over herself while I stitched. I put an invisible zipper in the side seam and used a silicone coated elastic to hold the top against her back so as not slip down – a great product but difficult to sew with the machine! I also had to add a waistband on the pants to allow for them to not be baggy in the crotch yet fit her backside correctly. All in all, we were both very happy with the final outcome. I hope she had a wonderful birthday bash . . . I know the 50s have been my best decade.

As this year comes to a close and my coffee cup sits here empty, I can proudly say that I’ve accomplished enormous feats in 2017.  My customer sewing for 2018 has been put on hiatus, I’ve got a wedding gown to create – my own!  And I plan on blogging about the journey – 125 days to go and sew much to do!  Maybe I should start with a tidy studio . . . Happy New Year and here’s to an even better 2018!!!!

Looking at Each Other Resized

The Lessons Dad Taught Me

facebook_1497831913762A beautiful Sunday here in North Carolina . . . bright blue skies, lots of sunshine, the temperature and humidity letting you know that summer is just about here. And it’s Father’s Day. I’ve wanted to do nothing but watch sappy movies and pull the covers over my head.  I haven’t even been able to post well wishes for those great Dad’s I know on my Facebook feed.

You see, five years ago this month, I lost my Dad.  We didn’t have that close bond like a lot of daughter’s do with their fat Continue reading