Tuesday, August 30, 2011

honeycomb smocked dress

Okay, so it's not quite finished.  The lining needs hemmed.  It currently has no buttons or buttonholes and the sash isn't there yet.  But it's close.  I can finish it in the morning and whip up the matching bloomers that go underneath.  Mom claims that it reminds her of a Shirley Temple dress.  You know, the one from Stand Up and Cheer

I told her that it just wasn't so.  Yes, they're both white with red polka dots, and they have square necklines, but that's about where the resemblance ends.  Evie likes it, and it'll be a nice, cool dress for the rest of the summer. And most likely next spring, too.  I'll post pictures of the absolute finished product tomorrow!

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Well, I'm stuck until tomorrow morning.  I mean, I would be, anyway, because it's Sunday, but until Joanns opens 9am tomorrow, I can't go any further--my tapestry thread and needles have disappeared!  Only thing I have left is crochet thread, which is much too thick, and embroidery thread, which isn't thick enough.  I got everything cut out twice over--once out of the lining, and once out of the organza.  Then I drew the lines for the pleating on the wrong side of the lining.

I used this tutorial.  Basically, the rows are 1/2" apart, and the columns are 1/4" apart.  Then you do a running stitch on the row lines, putting the needle through on each intersection.  But before I ran the stitches, I hand basted the two layers together.  Hand basting is much easier to pull out than machine! 

The grid is easier to see here.  :)   In order to make sure that the pleating went through both fabrics, I decided that basting it first was a must so they'd be in the same place.  Next, I did the pleating stitches.

This is the result from the wrong side.  I used a pencil for the lines, so they'll wash out, and the black thread will be pulled out after I do the smocking.  The slashes you see on the sides are due to the construction of the front panel of the dress--the skirt bits are gathered and then attached to the bodice in a dart-like fashion.  I/m going to do the lining and the organza separately, and finish the seams with my serger.  I want the skirt of the dress and the lining skirt to be completely separate for floatiness.

This is what it looks like from the right side.  I know the neckline looks huge, but the excess will be taken up when I draw up the pleating threads and do the honeycomb smocking

I've made some design changes--I slit the middle of the back skirt piece and I'm adding a continuous lap there so this will be easy to get on and off of Bit.  Strangely enough, even though there are "stay" pattern pieces, they're not attached to the dress.  I'm seriously considering cutting them out of the lining fabric, interfacing them, and adding them anyway to protect the smocking stitches.  If you examine commercially smocked garments, most of them don't have the stitching showing from the wrong side because they're covered by an extra piece of fabric.  I figure I'll finish the edges of the "stays" and carefully hand stitch them to the lining. 

This has the added advantage of reinforcing the areas that I need buttonholes in for the sash, or as the pattern says--the girdle.  (The word "girdle" gives me an image not of a sash, but of a lycra body shaper...)

This is the organza ribbon I decided to use for the sash.  I think the pop of solid color will be just the thing to set off the waistline of the dress.  And, well, if it doesn't look right, I have the fabric to make one from the lining and the organza!

Plans are to have the dress and the lining only attached at the sleeves, neckline, smocking, and back bodice.  I trimmed the lining back to the fold line, and I'm interfacing the organza past that.  It should give me a nice placket with enough body to easily do buttonholes.  I still need to attach the bows to barrettes, but they're otherwise done.  I have two versions--a skinny version and a fat version.  I think I like the fat one better!

The red is a closer match to the dots on the organza, and I think the fatter one just looks better!   The knots are only pinned on because I was out of barrettes.  I'm going to pick some up tomorrow at Joanns when I get the thread.  We'll see which one I end up using, though both will be sent home with the dress.  This kind of bow is so easy to make that I can't believe how much premade ones cost!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Scary topic--Pattern Grading

Pattern grading is something I've avoided like the plague for years.  It looks complicated.  I've done it once before, but to be frank, it was a mess because I was doing it blind.  I wouldn't have done it now, except Bit did something awful, something terrible--at least when you're making something--she grew.  When you're working with vintage, the sizes you can get are more limited because they were produced as single-size patterns up until the 80s. 

(I've put the other project on hold due to frustration!)  Anyway, I've done the research on the smocking.  Turns out that it's not the run-of-the-mill smocking that you can buy already done in high-end boutiques.  That's English smocking, and it's the most common type.  Apparently, this pattern uses a kind of American smocking known as Honeycomb smocking.  Thanks to the ladies over on the Martha Pullen Forums for helping me figure it out!

More about that later.  Anyway, Gracie has been solidly in size 2 patterns, both vintage and modern for the past year and a half.  That's a 21 inch chest and a 20 inch waist.Occasionally, I've needed to adjust the fit of the shoulders, but for the most part, the commercial patterns have only needed  altered for length.  Until now.  See, when I fell in love with the pattern, it was in a size 2.  At the time, that wasn't a problem, but now Gracie is 21.5 in the chest and 20.5 in the waist.  It's half way in between the sizes.  While it should still fit, it won't for too long, because, frankly, she's in a growth spurt.  So if I want it to fit for more than a few weeks, I need to go up to a size three.  To add to the complications, the original pattern was missing the back bodice piece.  What I ended up doing was borrowing a back bodice from a modern pattern, tracing off the size three, and then adding in ease for the rest of the pattern while I was sizing it up.  I figure it's a good thing, because it'll make it much easier to get on and off!

Here's what I learned: 1) Bit will not only let me work when it's for her, but will try and help... and mostly succeed.  2) Because they go up in 1 inch increments, they're easy to resize.    and 3) Tutorials help.

So, the first thing I did was to trace out the original pattern.  Usually, that's a good idea with a pattern this old, anyway, because the tissue is fragile and usually tattered.  Once that was done, I drew lines where I wanted things to be bigger.  Usually, I was working with 1/4" increments, because I was adding a minimum of an inch into the pattern.  Though I did add more in places for ease and to widen the neckline.  The most complex is the front piece.

Rather than add all the needed length in one piece, I lengthened the bodice so that it would match the modern back bodice.  I used graph paper for ease of measurement--the little squares are 1/4" square, so it makes measuring simple.This one has an attaches skirt to the front bodice.  You're supposed to gather the sides and dart them for the skirt, and everything is gathered because of the smocking, anyway.  :) I'll be cutting out and doing the pleating tomorrow!  I added a 1/2" to the front to help widen the neckline so Bit doesn't feel like she's choking.  I also added 2" to the gathered part of the skirt to preserve the original width and add to the floaty-ness of it.  Remember, this is going to be made out of organza and fully lined.  All the other slashes were spread by 1/4".  So the shoulders, armhole are adding an inch to the dress.  I added more to the back skirt, too.  And repeated the process with the sleeves, adding 1/4" to the middle.  The panties were both widened and lengthened by 1/4, and I redid the stays to match.  Tomorrow, I'll cut out, add the markings and gather for the smocking, and, if I'm really lucky, get the smocking done! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jalie 2920

Gracie needed some leggings to go under her shorter dresses.  It's consignment season, you see, and she's getting new-to-her dresses that while they fit well, are simply too short for her to not wear something underneath.... well, unless we want everyone to know if she chose to wear the princess undies or the sesame street undies that morning!  Knowing I'd eventually be making her some leggings, I bought Jalie 2920, because she'll never outgrow it!

I love the range of sizes--I get a lot of bang for my buck with Jalie patterns.    This one goes from 2T to women's 22.

My only quibble with it is how short they turned out.  Maybe because it's that Bit is so tall, and all leg, but there's no way these would have reached her ankles.

While I did remove three inches from the bottom, because I wanted them capri length, they would have still been two-three inches too short.

I've seen several pairs of boutique-style leggings lately with ruffles around the bottom, so me and my rolled hem setting on my serger went to town and made ruffles to go on the bottom. Hard to believe that people are charging $30 for something so simple!

No, I didn't make the dress.  It's a BJ Kids dress that I got for $2 at a consignment sale.  I can't buy the fabric for that!  It has lots of rows of tiny tucks, and the neckline is edged in 1/4" pink cluny lace.  Very pretty! 

I made a 3T, and it was a good fit for Bit.  If I were going for full size leggings, I'd have to measure her inseam to make sure to lengthen them appropriately, but it's a common problem for my leggy little girl.

This is Bit hiding from the camera!

This whole project, from tracing the pattern to the finishing, only took about half an hour.  Easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy sewing!
I can see more leggings in Bit's future--especially if I can get a great deal on four-way-stretch knit again.  I have about a dollar invested in this project.   Not bad for sewing on a budget!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I survived

Well, I survived the incursion.  Having my bedroom taken away for three nights, having to put up with some of the worst tantrums I've ever seen, the bruises from dealing with said tantrums, the interrupted sleep due to screaming fits in the middle of the night, the withdrawal from sewing...  I'm grateful that we could finally send them home tonight.  And I never, EVER want to do that again.  Not that I wanted to the first time.

All I have to say is that she'd better get control of that kid before too long or she's going to have a juvenile delinquent on her hands.  And they seem to start earlier and earlier these days!  This "I'm reasoning with him" stuff is pure garbage and doesn't work.  I have a degree in early childhood education.  That means that I've learned a lot about child development.  The rule of thumb for attention span is age plus two minutes.  Here on Granny Lane, that's how long time outs last... unless we're forced to add on more.  Ricky fought, screamed, bit, kicked...  Makes me very, very thankful for Little Bit and Baby Bit!  We nipped LB's tantrums in the bud really, really early.  She knows that Grandma and Aunt Laura don't put up with them--tantrums mean that she needs a time out and then a nap to our minds.

Ricky, though...  I wish my sister luck and a firm hand.  She's going to need both.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


My sister is showing up tomorrow.  We've been informed that they're spending the night and we're to take them to the airport in the morning.  We've also been informed that her kids will be here for three days for us to take care of, and they're to have their own rooms.  Joy.  This is a three bedroom house with a partially finished basement.  Five people live here.  All of the rooms are taken.  *sigh*

Anyway, I'll be too busy for sewing for the near future.  At least until Thursday.  Wish us luck.  We're going to need it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A New Use for Buttonhole Elastic

We bought Nikki the Bright Starts Sugar Blossom Melodies Bouncer.  The last one we had was a Bright Starts and we were happy with it, so it was pretty much a no-brainer.    The first attempt at this one was a failure because one of the back corner braces wouldn't stay engaged, so we returned it.  We ordered another and after I got it put together, I noticed some flaws.

Lucky for us, all that required to fix them was the ability to rip out a seam, sew on snaps, and sew on a button!

The pillow wasn't held on with anything.  I thought about velcro, but I need to be able to adjust it as Penny grows.  So I broke out the buttonhole elastic.  I can change where it buttons, and while it's probably not the most elegant solution, it works!

And as for the toys that were supposed to come off but don't--I ripped out the stitches holding the toys on the straps and sewed on snaps.  Now they really are removable!

This is the kind of sewing my Mom taught all six of us kids--survival sewing.  She made sure that all of us could patch things, sew on buttons, and put up a fallen hem.  It was part of the 'life skills' that my parents insisted all of us learn.  It didn't stick with my brothers.  They still bring me things to patch and buttons to sew on.  Yes, even Jared, the married one.  (My SIL is a sweetheart, but she barely knows one end of a needle from the other!)

I took it further, and learned how to sew for real.  My sister has delusions of sewing (she buys materials but has yet to make anything in four years!)  and brings me incomplete projects to finish for her....

Monday, August 8, 2011

bits and pieces

I can't believe that it's only Monday.  It seems like it's been a long week already!  It's hard taking care of a baby and a toddler while dealing with my autistic older sister.  She has Aspergers Syndrome.  Which means that living with her is like living with a spoiled five year old that has no concept of the fact that there are other people except as an ends to their own wants.  Yes, there are usually tantrums involved.  It's just how her brain is hardwired and there's really nothing we can do to change it.  There are early intervention programs now but there weren't any 35 years ago when it could have helped.  Heck, Aspergers Syndrome hadn't been discovered then.  Just think--that 'weird' person you knew who didn't relate to other people at all could have really been on the Autism Spectrum.

I'm getting frustrated with the lack of sewing going on.

On the bright side, however, I figured out how to replicate my next project in a smaller size.  It's Butterick 7637 from the 30s.

I asked around over on the Martha Pullen forums and the nice people over there hooked me up with a Honeycomb Smocking tutorial.  (Where better to ask about smocking?) Apparently, there is more than one kind of smocking.  Who knew?  When I think smocking, I think of the English smocking that you get from high-end stores or do yourself.  I'd never heard of either "honeycomb" smocking or "American" smocking.

Well, you learn something new all the time!  I made a trip to the Store-that-should-not-be-named for Pearl cotton and a darning needle, so I'll be set when I finally finish the project I'm still working on.  The Knott's dots I ordered came in, too, and I'm following several pleaters on ebay.  I'm going to learn how to smock if it kills me.  ;) The cuteness factor of my nieces' clothes depend on it!  And, well, I can both embroider and cross-stitch, so it shouldn't be too hard, right?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Crazy Craft of the month: Custom Coloring book

Did you know that there are tons and tons of sites where you can print coloring book pages on the internet?  I found them last year when I was looking for Cookie Monster pictures for Bit to color.  This one is my favorite, because they've got a fairly comprehensive site.  It's got a little of everything!  Bit sits on my lap, and together we choose what to print.

You do need to choose "print pages 1 to 1" so as to not waste paper.  But the notebook keeps them from getting wadded up and in order, and I keep the binder 3-hole-punch inside the notebook.  The graphics on the front came from googling "crayons" and then adding the text in paint. 

I will never have to buy a coloring book again.

When her interests change, I can almost always find coloring book pages for free online to match.  When the notebook gets full, I can pull out the colored out pages, and simply put in new!