A Formal Topped with Lace

Months ago, I finished my most labor intensive alteration yet. It's a good thing I adore the girl whose dress it was. I was up hours past my bedtime for days, draping, drafting, pinning, carefully cutting lace, hand sewing it into place, and beading. My nieces hold a special place in my heart.

Carli, my eldest niece, just graduated from High School in June. Como say what?? She's still the sweet little girl wearing a fancy pink dress at my wedding. *sigh* I'm not even her mother and I get all nostalgic, thinking about how young she was when I married Dave.

I digress. Dress! Let's talk about the dress!

My first look at the dress was a hastily snapped picture, taken in a dressing room. I just about died when I saw it. Plunging neckline, tiny halter straps, low back and a lovey blush satin. Oh my. For Carli, though, I put on my thinking cap, researched Monique Lhuillier's beautiful lace wedding dresses, and came up with this:

First item of business was to find lace and lining fabric. There were many butterflies over finding the perfect lace. As beautiful as the blush pink satin of the dress was, it was impossible to match exactly. We toyed with the idea of white lace, but I was worried it would make the dress look too much like lingerie. My sister in law and I happened across a beautiful lace a few shades darker than the dress fabric - it was love at first sight. For us. Maybe not for Carli. There's a vast amount of trust that goes into letting your mom and Aunt pick out fabric! The lining satin was a titch darker, as well, but I knew that layered together it would be perfect.

And it was. See that thread escaping? Just keeping it real.

 My absolute favorite part was the back cutout. Holy hannah,there was much draping and pinning to get it just right. I was wishing for a dress form the whole time. Fit is everything when you are altering formal wear. No gaping, sleeves lying flat, bu still allowing for movement. In other words, one needs perfection. Especially when you want it to be modest, not dowdy. (It is possible!)

Once the fit was right, I cut out the muslin and used the pieces to cut out the lining and lace. I'll admit to some major nerves at this point - beautiful fabric is never easy for me to cut into. I sewed the lining and main pieces together and then attached them to the bodice top. Which makes it sound easier than it was. At this point I think Carli was ready to kill me. With out the lace edging the bodice and dress were rather lack luster. (Again with the trusting your aunt.) Once the dress was back together, I started attaching the scalloped edges.

To get the lace edging just so, I had to carefully cut the lace to fit and hand sew it into place. In some places, I had to re-bead, too. My stitching skills were definitely put to the test on this one!

I put in two hook and loop closures at the top of the back bodice. I had toyed with the idea of buttons, but there was no way I was going to try to put in button holes. A huge thanks to dear Andrea, who came to my rescue the day before Prom. Silly me didn't have enough hook and eyes and the nearest sewing shop is 40 minutes away.

When Carli put the dress on for the final fitting, I'm pretty sure I let out a whoop and threw an air punch. It was exactly how I had envisioned. I love the rush of getting a project just right and the rush of seeing my niece's face light up when she saw herself in the mirror. Pure happiness. Worth every minute of work, just to get that smile. Lovely girls deserve lovely formal wear that let their personalities shine through, not just put their bits on display.  I'm so very grateful that the Lord has blessed me with the ability to do so.

My only request is that she gives me a nice long break before I have a white dress to alter. *wink, wink*

Birthday Shirt

For my birthday this year, my hubby surprised me with a new (to me) sewing machine. I could scarce believe my eyes when I opened up the giant box and found a lovely Bernina Activa 230 PE waiting inside. For the past 15 years, I've been sewing on my mom's old Bernina 800 (circa 1970). A workhorse of a machine, it never batted an eye at leather, denim, satin, knit, or anything else I put it up against. My only complaint was that it only did two stitches: straight and zigzag. Not a big issue for me, but it was literally my one and only complaint.

Only when I noticed that all of my female in-laws seemed to be getting new sewing machines, did I ever voice a wish for a newer machine. (I am, after all, the seamstress/ tailor of our group.) David, the darling husband that he is, heard the longing in my voice and searched eBay for a suitable upgrade. Luckily for him, any machine made in the last 30 years would be an upgrade. As long as it was a Bernina, of course. And a Bernina he found.  Even one purchased from the same store my mother purchased hers from in the 70s! Serendipity, I say. Serendipity.

I have used my machine almost every day since I plugged it in. Shorts for the kids, alterations, teddy bears for the Kinder Teddy Bear Picnic, among other projects I can't even remember sewing. For myself, though, I sewed up a shirt. A birthday shirt, drafted, cut, sewn and worn on said day. I can not say enough about the ease of a machine that can do everything. All I have to do it switch a foot here and there. It is bliss.

Don't be fooled by my "sunisinmyfacedidthestupidremoteworkthistime?" face. I love this shirt. Laundry gets done so I can wear it. Around here, that sort of a big deal.

Self drafted from a GAP outlet knit shirt that I adore, this top is made from a rayon challis, black cotton lace and a cheap black quilting cotton for lining. I didn't want to line the lace, but once I cut out the top, I realized the lace was too open for my level of modesty. Layering in heat is one my least favorite things, so I opted to line the lace and forgo the dreaded undershirt. This top is so light and airy - perfect for the heat that has already blasted us here in NorCal.

Both the cotton lace and the floral rayon challis are from Fabric's R Us in San Jose. My favorite place to buy fabric - their selection is huge, the prices are super cheap, and the Vitenamese ladies who run the store are adorable. Well worth the long drive to get there. I think the whole shirt cost me a whopping $5. Happy Birthday to meee!

KCW: April 2014

Seems that I participate in Kids Clothes Week annually. Usually at the same time I am busy altering prom dresses, designing fliers, logos, etc. Go figure. I seem to function best with a fire lit beneath.

My planned KCW projects were whittled down from four to just one... and a half. A dress for Miss E and a bow tie for Geth. No pictures of the bow tie, as Mr Fourteen month old refused to leave it on. Oh well.

Miss E has asked for more dresses, which I am thrilled to make her. Shirts and pants, but dresses were my first sewing crush. I let her pick the fabric for this dress from my stash. Which is over run with girl prints. Yet another reason this attempt at KCW was derailed. No fabric suitable for the wee man, who really needs clothes.

(excuse all the visually amputated feet - Miss E has become extremely stubborn and only lasts about 2 mins these days)

After attempting to draft my own pattern, I decided to go the easier route and used a vintage Simplicity pattern. Super simple, quick and twirly. Problem is, I don't want her wearing it to school now!

The popsicle print cotton poplin is from Joanns, part of the Little Lisette Spring 2013 line. Such a lovely, high quality fabric. Not something I really want her to romp around the playground in, now that I've sewn it up.

I made two changes to the pattern: I added about 3" to the hemline and swapped the zipper for a loop and button closure. So much faster!

Now to talk her out of wearing it school....

Fabric: cotton poplin Little Lisette Spring '13 collection
Headband: H&M
Shoes: Payless
Necklace: LC for Khols

The Nessie Top Pattern by CINO

Can we just start out by saying that Jess is awesome? I've known her since forever. We played together as kids, most often while her mom was cutting my mom's hair into the perfect 80s wedge. A wedge my mom rocked for two decades. I digress. Anyways. Jess runs the uber popular CINO blog and has ventured in pattern making. I am so happy she has started creating patterns! This girl oozes talent.

Jess's latest pattern is the Nessie top, an adorable knit shirt that sports a mullet hem and a bazillion ways to customize it. I made two - one with the color block option and one with the collar option. My serger is constantly on the fritz, so both tops were made completely with my faithful Bernina 800 sewing machine. I use a small zigzag for all seams and hems, and a long straight stitch for overcasting. A double needle does look more professional, but I hate taking the time to switch needles and get a second spool of thread out.

Miss E's sweet friend Scout let me rope her into a photo shoot after school one day. (Don't mind the apple eating) These two are the best of friends, but getting them to sit still is herding kittens! So, the shoot didn't go quite how I envisioned. Sit still for a tea party? Never! Ah, such goes photographing children.

When you get shots like these, it's so worth the dashed visions and bazillion bribes. At least I didn't have to bribe them to actually wear the tops. Both girls loved the easy going, comfortable fit of the Nessie top. E wore her color blocked top to school that day, with her beloved boots, and new jeans. I pretty much threw the collared version to Scout, and told her to put it on, with no thought as to styling. Her's is my favorite, by far. Leopard print leggings and red star boots for all little girls!!

Lets get down to the nitty gritty and talk about each top.

First up, Miss S, sporting the collared version of the Nessie top (both tops are size 5, which was just a tad short on my super tall girl, but perfect on Scout):

Isn't this floral rayon challis collar amazeballs? Melissa let me have a bit of her scraps when I visited her last August. (side note: Melissa is just as lovely and cool as she seems. Adore her!) I've been trying to figure out what to use the fabric for and when I saw the Nessie collar, I knew it was a perfect match. And it is. Especially with a yellow and white stripe knit and orange duck buttons.  I had a lot of trouble getting that collar to fit on the super stretchy knit. So a word to the wise, if you want to go the collared route, don't use a 4 way stretch knit with bad recovery and a slippery, tightly woven fabric like rayon challis. It was a match made in sewing hell. But the results were totally worth it!

I added my own twist on the Nessie sleeve: instead of hemming, I took some extra neck binding and tossed it on the sleeve. Yes, I hate hemming that much. I also like the smidge of length the binding gives the 3/4 length option. Can you believe this yellow stripe was once a night gown? It was meant to be a Nessie top.

When I first showed Dave the shirt, pre buttons, he wasn't impressed with my stripes and floral mash up.  He doesn't always get my artistic vision at first, but that's ok. Getting my little duckies in a row made the all the difference for him, though. Those buttons are from my mom's plastic button stash. I remember playing in her art studio/ sewing room with those buttons as a kid.

Onto Miss E, in the color blocked version:

A while ago, I found a 1/4 yd of this adorable scalloped knit at JoAnn's in the remnants bin. I think I spent $1.50 on it. This is one high quality knit, so buttery and soft that it was a dream to work with. Luckily, I had an old tank waiting to be re purposed that was just the right shade of pink to match. Knit is so hard for me to justify buying that I just end up using my cast off shirts 90% of the time. I did, however, place an order with Girl Charlee last week for *gasp* new knit. After seeing Jess' stash of their knits, I knew I had to buy some.

There wasn't enough left of the pink tank for sleeves, so I ended up using the same scallop knit on the sleeves as the color blocked bodice. I love that it creates a continuing line from the bodice to the arm, sort of like a faux dolman or kimono sleeve. Next time I might get fancy and curve the sleeve hem, to follow the lines of the bodice down on the arm.

Again, I put binding on the sleeve instead of hemming it. The short sleeve is a great length on their own, but since our weather is finally getting cooler, I wanted to have a little longer sleeve for my warm blooded girl. I also love the more finished edge the binding gives this sweet top.

All in all, I loved the Nessie top pattern so much, I made a third. A fourth and fifth are in the works, too. This is a great pattern for beginners and even those afraid to sew with knit. Jess has included a  knit tips section that is fantastic. So, go, buy, and make the Nessie top!

MADE Kid Shorts Pattern (Version 2)

Back in July, I purchased the MADE Kid Shorts Pattern after seeing it light up the blog-o-sphere.* I grabbed some light blue denim from my stash, some pink and white striped seersucker bias tape and set to work. Did I mention this was the night before a trip to Utah? Yeah, I was up all night sewing that first pair. Totally worth it.

please excuse the lack of feet on Miss E - taking full body shots of this kid is hard!

These shorts are Miss E's favorite. Since that first pair, I've made two others, with two more in the works. Thanks to mild California winters (can we even call them winters when it's 80 in November?), she is still wearing the heck out of these shorts. Our favorite combo is the racer short with the front pockets. There is something so magical about a pocket with a fun lining for Miss E and I am in love with the curved hem of the racer short. Miss E is a tall drink of water, so I added 1.5" to the size 5 girls' pattern.  The length addition makes for a nice modest length for Kindergarten playground shenanigans.

For this particular pair, I cut out up an old 90s romper. Back when my sister and I were kids, matching rompers were all the rage. We waited eagerly to wear this particular pair to pick our parents up at the airport, from a long trip to London. I felt like such a cool old kid in that peter pan laced collar and balloon panted romper.

Miss E found my sister's when my parents were moving and fell in love. Sadly, it was far too short for her. I'm not sure I would have let her out of the house, even if it had. There was, however, enough fabric in those voluminous pants, to make a pair of shorts. Out came the pink and white bias tape and in an hour, we had an adorable pair of modern shorts. Have I mentioned how in love I am with a vintage floral paired with a striped seersucker?

Anyways, I have to say these are my favorite pair of Kid Shorts yet. Nostalgia and function colliding makes my heart all fluttery. I am such a sucker for re-purposing fabrics and items from my youth.

As far as the pattern goes, it's a simple, beginner pattern, that includes a bevy of sizes. My first pair took a few hours to make, as the directions are online and I just couldn't be bothered to read online while I sewed. Subsequent pairs have come together in an hour, after I took the time to read the directions. Fancy that, right? My only complaint is that I had to search for the seam allowance. (It wasn't easy for me to find in the online directions) For a digital download, a seam allowance marked on the cutting lines would be more convenient. Other than that, this pattern is well worth the moolah.

*These opinions are completely my own. I was not asked to review nor compensated for them in any way.