Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall is here, so that means one thing...

Time to get some Christmas shopping started - or, if you are like my more "with it" friends, finished!

I've got a little something brewing that I'm going to have up soon (fingers crossed next weekend) in the etsy shop.

Here's a little tease...

Stop to smell the flowers

So the day finally arrived where I got to showcase my "handiwork" as it were with my daughter's flowergirl dress!  The bride's aunt made the sash with the rosette; she is a seamstress by trade and expressed a desire to have control over that element, and since I was worried that I would even get my zipper to stay put, I was more than happy to hand over that little element of the project!  I think the final collaboration turned out aces!!
Don't you just love her rosette crown?

 She was - without a doubt - the hit of the wedding party.  The bride looked like a supermodel who walked straight out of Bride's Magazine, but she said everyone's first comments to her at the reception were, "You sure do win the prize for having the cutest flower girl ever!"

I am BEYOND tickled.  I mean, Lilah is my best craft yet, so for people to enjoy her as much as I do is awesome!

The whole ensemble
This isn't the best photo, but you can see the whole dress and shoes together.  The slippers worked PERFECTLY.  I'm sure she was the most comfortable guest at the wedding.

In all, making the dress was relatively easy.  The pattern was very simple.  The directions were easy to follow.  The fabric wasn't as hard to work with as I had feared.  But the zipper...

I'm going to need a zipper insertion intervention.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Zip it!

I got my sewing machine back from the repairman on Thursday with the promise that it is GOOD now.  I love it when a repairman looks at your problem and declares that they have no earthly idea what could have possibly happened to make the problem occur.  My husband swears I have some sort of machinery breaking abilities.  I told him to keep it on the DL, because I might have X-Men-like powers and would soon be recruited by the government as a super weapon.

I decided to test out the machine and get Lilah's flower girl dress finally FINISHED.  Well, it needs a good pressing and some stray threads clipped, but it has exceeded my seamstress abilities and I am just calling it done, though it is far, far from perfect.

The main problem I had with the dress is the D@mn zipper!!!!  Why?  Why is it so hard to install a zipper????  I read the directions.  I even watched and read a couple of tutorials (this one was especially easy to follow) and I STILL couldn't get it in right.  The little overlaps totally are hanging way above the neckline, and the zipper area itself is far from perfect, since many places along the zipper didn't get caught in the sewing so it could come right apart at any second.

But she's only got to wear it for a couple of hours.  The parts that are so messy will likely be hidden by her sash, and the neckline...well, I'll just try to neaten that up as much as I can.

One day, maybe I'll know how to sew and sew well, but for now, I'm just glad to get my first attempt at a "formal" dress done.

The wedding is next saturday, so I'll save a picture post for the full dress/sash cute child combo :-)

Now, onto trying to finish MY dress...which also has a zipper.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again??

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fall is in the air!

I just stepped outside to let the dog out and was pleasantly smacked with a cool breeze and the smell of Fall around the corner. Don't get me wrong; summer has it's place with it's sexy, sweaty, skinny-dip inducing heat, but nothing does it for me quite like 65 degrees on a porch swing snuggled under a blanket with your beau. Too bad about my not having a porch swing.

Anyway, with my machine BACK to the repairman, I decided to cut out some of my Christmas projects and get things prepped and ready for the coming weeks of "Rachael sews her a$$ off". These are just a few of the fun fleece fabrics I am working with. Don't you adore them?

Kittens and mushrooms and puppies, Oh my!
I know you can't wait to see what they become, but I once heard that patience is a virtue, so I'm testing the theory.

Next up:  finishing the flower girl dress and the odd green Japanese floral dress!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lock Blocked

For years, I coveted my friend Callie's "Baby Lock Ellure Plus" sewing/embroidery machine, because I love to sew personalized projects.  She was always making such cute things, and I had friends with cute kids for whom I wanted to make cute things, and then I was going to have my own cute baby for whom I wanted to make cute things, so every year at Christmas it was what I hoped for under the tree.

The problem was not that the husband wasn't hearing my requests or wanting to fulfill my dream, but this machine is about a million and five dollars, give or take, and it just was never financially feasible for him to run right out and make my dream come true.

Until this last Christmas.

On Christmas morning - the first for our daughter - I opened up all my lovely gifts and was happy with all I had given and received.  But my husband had a surprise for more present was still upstairs, and would I just run up there and get it?

It was the biggest box I had ever seen and I knew right away what it was!!!  I was *so* excited I could hardly stand it.  And when I opened it, I was the most overwhelmed and excited that I had been since our daughter was born.  Because this thing has bajillions of stitches and accessories and how would I ever learn to use it?!

But slowly and surely, I started using it for my new year's projects and I was in heaven.  Until one day when it started making a "kachunk" noise as I stitched.   Oh no - I have BROKEN IT!  IT IS BROKEN!!!  I thought as I took it down to be worked on.  First time it was simply a matter of having the bobbin casing slip out of place and it was fixed with a little dab of oil and knowledgeable hand to replace the casing.

Then, while sewing on a hem, I ran over a pin.

And this is where it all goes downhill.

Because apparently, running over that pin messed up the timing.  And when I took it in and had the timing fixed, they didn't QUITE get it right enough so that even though it was sewing ok, it wouldn't work during the embroidery function.  So when I took it back AGAIN, and that was fixed, I thought I was in business and wasn't expecting to make the 30 minute long trip back to the store again until it was time to get my machine serviced.

But a few days ago, I broke a needle while I was sewing.  It's ok.  It happens.  I just replaced the needle and went about my business and thought nothing of it.

Until two days ago.  I was creating a basting stitch along the bottom part of my green dress I'm working on and KACHUNK - all of a sudden, the needle started catching on top of the fabric and not descending into the bobbin chamber and all the alarms of the machine were going off and - you got it - it is now acting like the timing is off.  Again.  About 6 weeks after it got off track the first time.

Now, I don't know a lot about sewing machines.  But I know a  lot about expensive things, and the thing I know most about expensive things is that THEY SHOULD F'ING WORK!!!!!!!!!

I'm totally convinced at this point that there is something more fundamentally wrong with this machine than meets the eye, because having the timing go out, and even having needles unexplicably break, just isn't what happens in the course of normal usage.  And believe me - I am way within the realm of normal usage.  I don't sew crazy things.  I'm sewing run of the mill items on run of the mill fabrics here.  BUT for a squillion dollars, if I wanted to sew sharkskin onto diamond-embedded velvet, the machine should run like the luxury item that it is.

I need help.  Certainly, at less than a year old, there is some warranty on the thing that will allow me to trade it in for a non-lemon.  Because I can't afford a $25 repair every 6 weeks.  Not when I'm going to need to up my usage of said machine in order to help me make a living.  It is not just a hobby machine for me, I need it to be reliable so that I can make ends meet.

So.  I guess tomorrow, I get to go BACK to the store and ask what my options are. I do not want to do this, but by god, I've got a flower girl dress that I have *GOT* to finish in the next week (was hoping to get it done this week while I had my husband around and not out of town.  Oh well) and I can't do it without a machine.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mama needs a new dress

I ran out of thread while I was working on the flower girl dress, so I decided to jump right into making a dress for myself! Better that than waste time, right?

I'd had this dress cut out for at least 4 years, and since I'm in need of a new dress, I figured now would be a good time to finally get this one together!

I picked the pattern many moons ago because one of my best friends used it for her "going away" dress after her wedding. She did hers out of a really pretty light weight white cotton, because it was summer, and paired it with vintage red jewelry and some fabulous red shoes and looked totally stunning.

Why I picked this sea green Japanese looking fabric I can't tell you. The color is not great on me, but I think it'll be a really pretty dress in the end, so that's all that matters. And maybe I'll surprise myself and work that seafoam Japanese dress like nobody's business!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shoe fetish

I realized the other day that Lilah was kinda/sorta going to need some shoes to wear with her little flower girl dress - unless she wanted to look like some sort of hippie at the wedding -  so I set off on a little online window shopping adventure that left me feeling quite depressed about the cost of children's shoes.  This wasn't a surprise to me, I just try to avoid it all by buying shoes either at consignment sales or on a supersale at the store.  I just can't get behind paying as much or MORE for a pair of shoes for a child who is going to outgrow the shoe within 6 weeks of buying it than a shoe I would buy for myself, when I can wear them for YEARS.  And in seeking the perfect little ivory colored shoe for Lilah, all I could find was shoes that cost $20 - $50 which is definitely NOT in our budget, not even for a wedding.

I even thought of trying to get little ivory ballet slippers, because the bride herself is wearing ballet flats and I thought it would be cute if Lilah mimicked that aspect of the bride's attire.  But the "perfect" shoes - in both price and look - didn't happen to come in Lilah's size.

Not ready to be defeated by the children's shoe racket, I decided that maybe I could score a pair of cheapie shoes at the thrift store and cover them with some of the remaining fabric from the dress I was making.  But looking online for directions, none of the shoes had a really pretty finished look to them, and so I quickly decided that covering wouldn't really work for me.

Then I thought, hey - maybe I would just make the whole shoe myself.

I admit that I've always been a big fan of Robeez shoes.  The "slip on/slip off" type of shoe fits right in with my lazy nature, making it the perfect shoe to throw into your purse last second as you are running out the door to get wherever it was that you were supposed to be 10 minutes ago.

But I've always seen them as a casual shoe, something that is fun and cute with shorts or jeans but not something you can wear to a more formal occasion - even if you're under 2 (since we know the true etiquette of fashion doesn't actually kick in until at least age 4).

Cute, but not very formal!

But when I found a great tutorial online at the Tacky Living blog for how to make the shoes, I knew that this would be the answer to my problems.

I present to you:  Dupioni silk baby shoes!

Aren't they awesome???  They fit and look just like a little pair of Robeez, but these shoes cost me only $1.99 to make, because except for a leather needle, I had everything else I needed at home already.

These are going to look perfect with her little dress, and if she never wears them again, I'm only out the two dollars and a few hours of my time.

The bottoms are a white/ivory leather that Ben had in his crafting supplies from when he used to make his Native American dancing costumes for Scouts.  It was so soft and easy to to work with!  I did deviate from the directions a little; I ended up putting the elastic channel on the inside of the shoe instead of the outside, and I basted the leather sole to the felt liner instead of heat bonding the two.  But I think that the final result is just fabulous, and I can see all types of uses for this pattern in the future - Can you imagine if you did a little monogram on the shoe upper and used them as baby christening shoes?  What about an embroidered cross with the christening date beneath?  So sweet, so easy!  And for babies who don't walk, you can make the whole thing out of fabric, saving yourself the need to buy a leather needle at all.

I lined these with ivory colored canvas, so they are sturdy and though I doubt Lilah will ever wear them again, I don't think I have to worry about them falling apart!

This definitely turned out to be a much easier project than I expected, and I know I'm going to want to make these in the future - probably to match the little pillowcase dresses and things I make as baby gifts! 

Oh, the ideas...I need to put them on a shelf so I can get finished with the projects at hand!  Next up:  The flower girl dress.  Wish me luck!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Flower Girl

Recently, Lilah was asked to be a flower girl in a wedding at the end of this month.  The bride is really laid back, and said just to get her any old cute dress and it would be fine, but when there was extra fabric leftover from the bridesmaids' tops, we knew we had to try and make Lilah's dress to match.

Luckily for me, I already had the perfect pattern:  New Look 6448

 I had purchased this pattern about five years ago when Ben and I first got engaged and were discussing wedding plans.  I knew that I wanted a friend's twin daughters to be our flower girls, and I knew their mother sewed like a champ, so I wanted to go ahead and have the pattern picked out so I could save the time later on.  And of course, as it happened, we had such a small wedding that there was no flower girl and so this pattern has just been sitting in my pattern box since 2005.

Until now! 

I'm choosing the view shown above by the sleeveless pink floral dress with the dark pink sash and, the greatest thing about the pattern is that for this view, there are literally six pieces.  That's it!  Six pattern pieces!!  Six pieces is right up my alley!

What is not up my alley is the fact that I have to put in a zipper and the super delicate silk of which there is not enough for second chances.  So I have to be so, sew careful!  Do you feel the pressure???  I have also decided - in my infinite wisdom and propensity to create projects where I need none - that I am going to sew a little pair of slippers out of the scrap fabric so I don't have to buy a pair of ivory shoes that she will likely wear just this one time and then grow out of before warmer weather and other dresses that would match them.

But - as long as I don't totally mess it up - it is going to be STUNNING.  It is ivory dupioni, and the sash and matching jacket (which she'll only wear if it's cold) is going to be a pale, peachy/coraly satin.  It is going to be lined with a simple ivory colored batiste.  It is going to be amazing.

*If I don't mess it up.*

Currently, Google is my best friend as I look up tips and tricks for sewing on dupioni. 

Anyone have any tips for sewing on delicate fabrics?  "The Google" says I'll want to be sure I use a supersharp needle and make extra reinforced seams. 

I have a feeling I'll be ok, right up til I get to that zipper. 

*shakes fist at sky*

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Catch-up, it's not just for hotdogs anymore

Well, so it seems that September is National Sewing Month, which I'm sure has something to do with how close we are beginning to get to the winter gift giving holidays.  Well, for people with good sense and better sewing skills than I have, obviously.  I mean, let's face it - if you're me, you had big plans for being finished with all your holiday crafts by October as you purchased supplies and made lists and bought patterns at the beginning of the year and September as a jump off to the 900,000,000,000 things you need to get finished ASAP  (Darn all these new babies this year.  They have messed me up.) just isn't feasible in the craftiest of crafters for what I try to accomplish.

It also seems as good a time as any to start making this fortune I got a couple of weeks ago come to fruition -

See, in addition to ALL the sewing I need to do for Christmas, I also have the GIANT BOX OF PROJECTS (futhermore to be known as GBoP) from when my previous sewing machine stopped working reliably and I gave up on sewing for a little while.  And that means some people will get birthday gifts this year that were intended for last year (or before) and so on.

But it's all good as long as they're getting done and moved out of my house before I crack and buy even more patterns and fabrics and create more projects, right?

My husband isn't in the same state with me right now, but I can hear him cracking up at that last part.  I swear, honey, I'm working on it!

Here's proof:

This "mystery" gift has been cut out - partially - for nearly TWO YEARS.  That is so shameful.  Although I will say now that making it at this point means it has turned out way, way, way more awesome than I had at first imagined it.  So the receiver will have the benefit of my fancy new sewing machine AND my sewbilities that have strengthened since I initially decided to make the object.

Oh, what's that?  A little black, a little white, a little hot pink??

Since the person who will be receiving this MIGHT see this entry, I'm only going to show you some little teases of the finished product.  But have no fear, as soon as it is opened, I'll post the final photos that I am taking tomorrow.

Here's to a productive National Sewing Month!!!