Two Books: Sundressing and Boundless Style

A couple new sewing books (okay, one new, and one’s been out for a while) have made it across my desk (okay, cutting table) and they’re both interesting.

The first, Sundressing, by Melissa Mora, is a book of (you guessed it) sundress patterns. I was pleased to see this one because it has a very large size range: 0 to 22 for women (bust 31″ to 45″) and girls (2T to 12). Most of the pattern books I see, unless they’re specifically for plus-sizes, top out at about a US size 16.

sundressing

Sundressing features 21 different styles, photographed on a diverse range of people (the photography is really nice; it’s not just skinny white women in nearly empty rooms). But it’s the methodology that really sets Sundressing apart: instead of traceable patterns for each style, there’s one basic bodice, and Mora provides detailed instructions for altering the bodice for each style.

Needless to say, this is a LOT of work (I quailed just looking at some of the instructions) but if you are looking to get into serious pattern-altering, this seems like a gentle way to start. (Many of the resources I see for taking a basic bodice block and altering it for different design elements look a lot like this ‘how to draw a horse‘ joke.)

I’m not sure if I will sew anything out of this book (leafing through it made me realize my deep commitment to sleeves), but I did for a moment wish I had the kind of life where this dress made sense:

I was far more tempted by the dresses in Boundless Style, by Kristiann Boos (of Victory Patterns), even though the size range is smaller. It also has nice photography where the dress style lines are very clear, although the list of places where I choose to wear very high heels never includes “a lifeguard station” or “leaning on a rustic fence rail” or “a birch grove” (but maybe that’s just me).

IMG_7277

The theme of Boundless Style is one dear to my heart: swapping bodice and skirt matchups to make the Frankendress of your dreams. The ‘Catrina’ bodice is probably my favorite:

The patterns aren’t paper in Boundless Style, but come on a CD embedded in the back cover, which is a plus for some (print them over and over!) and a minus for others. (I know I *have* an external CD/DVD drive for my laptop, but it usually takes fifteen minutes of trying to remember where my past self thought my present self would look first before I find it. Past Erin is not a good predictor of future Erin’s thinking.) And sadly, although the skirts are very nice (including two six-gore options) there are no pockets included or instructions on how to add them. (I wish that the Nicola dress from the Victory line had been included: it’s been on my wish list for a while!)

If you’re looking for a few new ideas or inspiration to help you stretch your sewing wings a bit, I think either of these books would be worth a look!

An entertaining coincidence

About a month ago I managed to see the Oscar de la Renta exhibit at the DeYoung Museum here in SF, and it was lovely. If you like that sort of thing, it’s the sort of thing you really like, etc.

As I exited through the gift shop I checked out the postcard rack, and was struck by this image of an Oscar de la Renta dress featured in Harper’s Bazaar in 1969:

OdelaR-postcard

I was struck not so much by the dress (which is lovely, of course), but by the fabric—it was the same as some Marc Jacobs fabric I’d bought a few years ago! (I blogged about a dress I made in a different colorway of this fabric back in 2015 here.) It’s silk/cotton, not organza:

Untitled

You can tell better in this color image:

image from rarevintage.blogspot.com
image from Rare Vintage

Or in this of another Oscar de la Renta piece in Vogue:

I think this is a jumpsuit?

It’s not uncommon for designers to revive print fabrics—most designers don’t create their own prints, but instead work with fabric houses to select fabrics for their collections. (Here’s an interesting article about the process.) Some French and Italian print houses have been around for hundreds of years, and have catalogs going back pretty much forever.

It looks like this fabric was used in the Marc by Marc Jacobs line sometime before 2009; you can see a dress made with it here:

image from FashionFuss.com
image from FashionFuss.com

Rashida Jones even wore something in this fabric in an episode of Parks and Rec! But I’ve only found one thing from the orange colorway—a strappy top.

I still haven’t made up this fabric, and probably the upshot of learning all this is that I will wait even longer to find the “perfect” pattern. (But I can tell you right now, it probably won’t have ruffles …)

Book Review: Sunday Sews by Theresa Gonzalez

SundaySewsCover

The lovely people at Chronicle Books sent me a copy of Sunday Sews, by Theresa Gonzalez recently, and it’s a beautiful book. I would love to live in the perpetual Sunday of this book, where everything is suffused in a kind of mid-morning sunlight and you still have hours and hours left to get through all your weekend errands and projects before Game of Thrones comes on. In this particular world of Sundays, you spent all day Saturday clearing the decks for a Sunday of sewing by cleaning and flower arranging and bathing adorable impish small children (with maybe some baking thrown in) and exiling the menfolk to a corral somewhere on the rear of the property. (Don’t worry, they’re happy there. Poor dears, they don’t really appreciate Sewing Sundays, and you can’t really trust them around sharp objects.)

The projects in Sunday Sews are nicely thought out: they’re very simple, of course, but there’s enough leeway for creativity (I hate simple-projects books that are nothing more than ‘hey, make this pillowcase and then glue some rick-rack on it!’) In particular, there’s a boxy tee that has separate sleeve and hem bands that would be perfect for bias treatment or contrasting fabric:

Sunday-Sews-PicnicTee

There are also four different dresses, of which my favorite was the Weekend Wrap Dress (despite its lack of pockets—two of the other dress projects include pockets, though, very respectable).

Sunday-Sews-wrapdress

Unfortunately, though, the sizing in this book runs small—the “Large” is about a US size 12-14. There’s also not a lot of shaping in general; the garments are fairly boxy. Not a problem for the willowy models in the book, but …  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So if you’re on the slimmer, taller side of the spectrum and are looking for some thoughtful, simple projects with a fair amount of scope for creativity, this would be a great book for you. (It’s certainly very pleasant to look at!)

Sewing Machine Review: Janome DC2015

As promised, here’s a review of my SHINY NEW(ish) SEWING MACHINE! I bought a Janome DC2015 back in January, and I love it.

JanomeDC2015

I actually bought it through Amazon—I’d bought my previous machine (a Juki) through Sew Vac Direct, so I was happy to see them as a vendor on Amazon. And Prime shipping meant I got it in two days (I’m very anxious when I don’t have a working sewing machine in the house).

My poor Juki died a painful and undignified death early this year, when (despite two tune-ups) the timing just wouldn’t stay timed. I hope I never hear again the horrible grinding noise that a sewing machine with a jammed bobbin case makes. It haunts my dreams.

Luckily, I had a reasonable budget for a new machine ($400-$700) and a short list of requirements. My main complaint about the Juki (I had an HZL-80) was that the feed dogs were underpowered, so I found myself shoving fabric through the machine (which certainly contributed to the timing problems). It was also a bit on the loud side. I also wanted a machine with a decent automatic buttonhole stitch, a blind hem stitch, and that used low-shank snap-on feet (so that I wouldn’t have to replace all my Juki feet).

Since the last time I bought a sewing machine (back in 2008!) there are a lot more online reviews of machines available, but changing model numbers can make it a little tricky to sort out which machine, exactly, you’re reading about. I probably spent about four hours trawling through posts trying to figure out what people liked and didn’t like–a few people specifically mentioned Janome’s feed dog technology as being good, so I began focusing on the DC line. (There really ought to be a sewing-machine review site that lets you filter by brand, model, price, and features …)

The DC2014 model was a little cheaper, and had basically the same functionality as the DC2015, but I didn’t think I could face SO MUCH PURPLE every time I sat down to sew, so I went with the red DC2105. I haven’t made a full comparison, but it looks to me that the annual updates of the DC line are focused more on color than anything else.

I’m really, really happy with this machine. It has fewer ‘fancy’ stitches (e.g. no alphabet letters, only twenty different flavors of scallop stitches instead of forty) than my old Juki, but since I the last time I used those fancy stitches falls somewhere between ‘never’ and ‘can’t remember when’, I don’t think I’ll miss them.

The one thing I didn’t pay attention to turned out to be my favorite feature of the new machine: the needle position setting is MUCH finer-grained than on my old Juki—there’s like six or eight possible positions, instead of just left-middle-right. (This is fantastic for sewing piping.)

The narrow/zipper foot that came with the machine is a bit oddly shaped for sewing with the needle in the far-left position, so I bought a slide-arm zipper foot and that works fine.

But perhaps my favorite thing about this new machine is the Janome invisible zipper foot. Combined with the more precise needle positioning, my invisible zipper insertion now is like buttah. It’s SO nice. I am never going back to a plastic invisible zipper foot.

And my other most-used feature, the blind hem stitch, is also much nicer and easier to use than the one on my old Juki.

And since I know some people really freak out about threading machines: the threading is amazingly simple. You could thread this machine in the dark, stumbling drunk, wearing mittens. It’s that simple. The bobbin especially has a useful loading diagram built into the cover PLUS a thread-cutter/holder.

I do have a few quibbles: the bobbin winding is on the slow side; the default width setting on the zig-zag is (I think) too narrow; and the automatic backstitch setting is a little inconsistent (or I’m not using it right, who knows  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).  I did sit down and read the manual cover-to-cover before using it, which was eye-opening. (The things you think you know … shakes head.)

Otherwise, A+++ machine! And the Sew Vac Direct package came with a bunch of nifty stuff, including extra bobbins and a really cool flat screwdriver that makes taking the bobbin case out super-easy (which means I’ll clean it more often, win-win). Now if it only came with  a few extra days in the week to sew in!

 

Oh hey look a new pattern!

I made a dress that *wasn’t* the Simplicity 2389/Heidi mashup, finally:

Untitled

The bodice is the same one as here (Anne Adams 4687) and the skirt is (I think) from an old McCall’s pattern that I traced off ages ago to make the pockets bigger, then lost in a clutter of random pieces and finally unearthed two months ago.

The fabric is from Britex, and I sewed it up in about a week, which is surprising because usually when I buy fabric at Britex it’s so eye-wateringly expensive that it takes me ages to get the nerve to cut into it and sew it up. But this was a very inexpensive (and fuzzy!) marled cotton flannel … it’s incredibly cozy. (They don’t have it on the website that I could find, or I’d link to it.) It’s also pretty stretchy.

I lined the pockets with some Liberty print and also backed the lining with organza to try to take some of the weight (it’s heavy fabric), which wasn’t entirely successful but oh well  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ :
fuzzy dress pockets

The neck is finished with self-binding—because the fabric is so stretchy I had to go and look up how to do stretch neck binding again … it’s also slightly lumpy where the ends meet:
fuzzy dress neck binding

Of *course* I piped those pockets:
fuzzy dress pocket piping
And here’s the side zipper … I found out that they make heavyweight invisible zippers, did you know that? They’re sometimes called #4 invisible zippers. (That’s what I went to Britex to buy in the first place, I think.)

fuzzy dress size view

This dress is so incredibly comfortable … it’s very warm, for cotton, and when I wore it in rainy Vancouver it shed water like a duck (if ducks were made of gray flannel). The piping at the sleeve edges and the neck make it a little lumpy to wear under a cardigan, but it’s not “shouldn’t you get those growths on your biceps looked at” lumpy. I wear it with knee socks and roper boots (but then I wear EVERYTHING with knee socks and roper boots these days, so …)

I’ve also made this in a heavy black cotton faille, which, if I ever need to play an ominous widow in an amateur theatrical production of … just about anything that includes an ominous widow, will be just the ticket. I’ll try to post about that one soon.

(Also, I updated the last post to congratulate the winner of the Gertie giveaway!)

Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book (and fabric!) giveaway

Gertie has a new book! It’s called Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Bookand it’s pretty wow.

cover of Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book

I really liked that this book is self-contained: I think you could basically hand this book to someone who knows little or nothing about sewing and they should be to get through it fairly well. And it has good instructions for my most-used alteration (expanding the waist, sigh)!

The dresses are really, really, really cute—mostly in that new-retro style that Gertie rocks so well. If you have ever watched a dumb 1950s movie allllll the way through just to see the clothes, this is a book for you. The dresses lean a bit towards the “party dress!” vibe, but there are definitely ways to tone them down a bit for work or just a random Saturday.

My favorite dress is probably the “Plaid Secretary”:

plaid secretary dress

Gertie gives tons of instruction on how to prepare, cut, and match plaids, so if you’ve never sewn with plaid before, this would be a good way to start!

Here’s another view of that collar:

And thanks to Gertie’s publisher, I have a copy (and some fabric from Gertie’s line for JoAnn’s!) to give away!

If you don’t win the Gertie fabric, FabricMart has some very Gertiesque fabrics right now that would be perfect for some of the dresses in this book … check out this pin-up-girl print, this flamingo print, and these pique lighthouses!

I was trying to think of some heroic task you’d have to do to qualify to win but even trying to think of a task made me tired, so just … leave a comment? (Make sure your comment profile has a linked email address so I can contact you if you are the lucky winner!)

I’ve turned off comments because we have a lucky winner! Thanks for entering, Yael, I’ll be sending you an email about how to get your winnings!

(If you’re looking for a review of Gertie Sews Vintage Casual, you can find it here.)

Gertie’s book is on a blog tour—you can find the other stops here:

March 8 Brewer Sewing
March 9 Madalynne.com
March 14 By Gum By Golly
March 18 Lish Dorset