Wednesday, June 12, 2019

New Baby, Old Doll

One of the display-only dolls recently

Thirty-some years ago, my two sisters and a friend of theirs bought three handmade dolls from a vendor. These dolls, with long curly hair and dressed in prairie dresses with lace trimmings, sat on display in their homes for years until my elder sister's little boy C. discovered her doll Dessa* and made her his own.

Poor Dessa, NOT display-only...

Fast forward to last Christmas, C., the now grown-up man was expecting his first child. Wanting his daughter to inherit his old pal, he rescued Dessa from the basement crawl space in which she'd been living. No longer pretty, she now had less-than-bouncy curls, barely attached limbs, and her dress was severely faded, the gingham pattern on it barely recognizable. By the end of that visit, we needed a Ziploc bag to hold all the loose strands of her mohair yarn hair. This doll needed vital reconstruction.

That is where I came in.

My job was to rehabilitate this doll for the next generation. Through the process, I would find that I don't like working on projects that I did not initiate.
I was tempted to change so much, from her hair, her facial expression, to the construction of her clothes even. However, I wanted to honor my nephew's childhood memories by handing over a doll that he still recognized.

Deep Cleanse

First steps: knowing she was in a basement crawl space for the last twenty years, I knew I was not going to hand this doll over without a deep cleanse. But how was I going to do that? She was in horrible shape, her limbs were barely stitched on, and the hair was falling out.

Reminded of how one washes fine lingerie, I decided to use a pillowcase, folding her up inside, and tying a knot down near the bottom. After a machine wash, I put her through the dryer several times to avoid any possibility of mold developing inside. It worked like a charm.

Visible Wear n' Tear

Over the years, my sister did little fixes to Dessa by putting in stitches when she noticed some wear and tear. However, the stitches were not the same color or uniform in size, and in the end, were not sustainable. Now it was time to secure and reinforce her limbs --- by first taking them off!

Poor Dessa!


When I was ready, I threaded my needle with matching thread and got to work with a slipstitch reconnecting each limb fresh, tucking in the fabric and polyfill stuffing as I went along.

State of the Hair

Original condition was similar to this.

Um, yeah...

Dessa's hair seems to have taken the brunt of his love obviously. He had loved her fiercely or perhaps one of the families' dogs spent some time dragging her around?

I tried to source her hair but didn't try too hard. Internet research made me think it was mohair, but I eventually decided to make do with her existing hair and the contents of that little Ziploc bag. I was tempted to remove it all and replace it with a clever felt "wig" but I wanted her to be the same doll my nephew remembered. My process was to apply the longest strands at her forehead, and some underneath her temples down to where her ears would be. Following tips in some dollmaking reference books, I stitched her hair down at the back along her nape to achieve some control but still allowing her hair to have movement. In the end, I added removable ribbon bows at her temples.

Best Face Forward

Perhaps the most noticeable and visually important step, Dessa's tiny dot eyes were too small, insignificant, and unwelcoming. I decided to boost their size...the better to watch over my grand-niece.
A little creepy, right?

Great improvement!

I'm proud of this rehab job and hope she lasts another 30+ years and in better condition. Of course, I made her some new clothes. A post on those are coming up soon...but right now I'm making a special something for my grand-nephew who is turning 1 in two weeks. Stay tuned...

*Dessa - short for Odessa, my late mother's name

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Stacked Triangle Skirt Round 2 - New Look 6977

Pattern: New Look 6977 (2010)

Pattern Description: Misses' pull-on slim/full skirts, pants, and raglan-sleeve top. A Just4Knits pattern.

Pattern Sizing: Size A (6-16) I used size 16 as a base and added width to the side seams to match those of a size 20.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Extremely, as there's not that much to them.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The simple ease of this view; this is basic skirt construction.

Fabric Used: 60" Black Triangle Square Print on Off White 10 oz. weight Ponte de Roma (45% Rayon/50% Poly/5% Spandex) from Girl Charlee and 2" black Dritz soft waistband elastic (taken from the original skirt that this one replaces!)

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I thought that because I had gained two sizes since last using this pattern, I had to add some width. I ended up adding 3" total, which was actually an inch more than I needed. I reused the waistband pattern piece for Simplicity 1163  knowing that it fit my current measurements.

I also cut the skirt out halfway between the two lengths, so it is 3" longer than view C and gave it a 1-1/4" hem.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I've now made both skirts in this pattern and made the top three separate times, so yes, I would recommend this pattern.

Conclusion: This skirt might seem familiar. I had to replace this skirt when the fabric pilled horribly and discolored over time. Not surprising as I bought it on sale ($1.99 per yard!) and this same fabric keeps going on sale. I had more of this fabric because I originally meant to make a matching top but decided against having my entire body covered in this very loud design. I know it won't last for a long time but I'll enjoy it while it does!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Deep Sea Sweatshirt TNT Win!

Well, this time I won't be doing the pattern review format because I didn't use a commercial pattern for this at all!

Needing more warm clothes for work, I chose to finally take apart a favorite sweatshirt that had outlived its use as an actual out-of-house, seen-in-public item of clothing. I mean, seriously, it looked gross even when freshly washed! The off-white fleece had turned dishwasher beige, the texture had changed, and last but not least, some type of oil (probably coconut) had spilled all over the front leaving a disgusting permanent stain. But it was so warm and cosy!

Farewell, my love...

In the picture above, it had been freshly washed. When brand new, it had actually been the same color as that pattern cutting board. Yup. What could possibly do that to a fabric?

While procrastinating about another project (so what's new?) I pulled out my seam ripper and got to work. I laid out the pieces and traced them off on my lovely Pellon Easy Pattern paper and immediately cut out a new version.

So this is essentially a rub off of a 15+ year old L.L. Bean v-neck fleece sweatshirt. Amazingly, the size tag of this one is an XS but it fits exactly as I want it to fit now even though I must be at least 15 pounds heavier than when I bought it! However, having seen how much the fabric texture/color has changed, I wouldn't be surprised if it had also  stretched out strangely.

For my replacement fabric, I choose this 59" Anti-pill plush fleece (100% polyester) in Biscay Bay from Jo-ann, that I bought in 2017 after I was drawn to this amazing Mediterranean blue color*. I stitched it together with a matching thread, Gutermann 100% natural cotton thread in Dark Turquoise #7540.

Of course,  the fit turned out just like the original. However,  instead of the basic topstitching I used a zig-zag stitch at the neckline and on the hems for a fun touch.

Another difference is it didn't have that ribbon treatment at the back neckline (see L.L. Bean label pic) because I didn't have the patience to figure it out. Perhaps, on the next one? Anyone know of a tutorial on how to do that? Update: I just found out how to do it in the instructions for the FREE Stellan Tee by French Navy patterns.

Oh, and this particular anti-pill plush fleece feels amazing and has a great weight to it. I recommend it.

That was long before I chose that same color for one of my winter coats and then ordered two stretch crepes (one pattern, one solid) in that same shade!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Totally Not The TNT Top - Simplicity 1325

Pattern: Simplicity 1325 (2014)

Pattern Description: Long-sleeve crew-neck top, flared jumper dress or tunic with plunging v-neck, pants, and long sleeve jacket with ribbon detail. Pattern by In K Designs. View A.

Pattern Sizing: R5 (14-16-18-20-22) I cut an 18.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, but only after many alterations.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, it's a very simple top. Nothing new.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I have a TNT top pattern (New Look 6838) but I was curious to try something new. I liked the extra long sleeves.

Fabric Used: 59" Sew Classics interlock (60% cotton, 40% polyester) in Ponderosa from Jo-ann Fabrics, Wright's non-shrink rayon seam binding in Navy 55 (vintage), Gutermann 100% polyester thread in Spruce #748

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Before I cut out the fabric I compared this pattern with my TNT (New Look 6838). The main difference was that the back pattern piece in NL6838 is two pieces to allow for swayback reduction, so I transferred the curved back center seamline. For some reason, this top turned out much larger than desired even though an earlier comparison of the pattern pieces didn't seem that far off. To remedy this, I recut the side seams to match those of the TNT pattern. So basically, I should have used that pattern to begin with!

I stitched on the neckband but then found the neckline too high, especially in the back. It was also too loose, so I again turned to my TNT to correct it. I altered the neckline to halfway between this pattern's crew/scoop neck and the other's boatneck. However, I did not cut and make a new neckband. Therefore, by cutting a lower neckline and making the circumference longer yet still using that smaller band I was able to cinch and tighten the neckline. I added some subtle interest by topstitching the band with a row of zigzag stitches.

I found the original length too long and cut off 1.5 inches. The sleeves were meant to be extra long to bunch at the wrist but I found them too wide for that purpose, even if they had been made in a Lycra stretch fabric. Because I had used a non-stretchy interlock the extra length didn't work so I removed most of it and then added tiny elastic to the sleeve hems. Next time, I might try a wider hem circumference for a more dramatic effect.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? No, I would not. However, I bought the pattern for the dress so I hope I won't have as many problems with that. I will definitely take my own pattern measurements and compare them to the printed finished garment measurements before cutting anything out next time.

Check out my @grombre transition

Conclusion: I am happy with the final top but I really should have used my TNT pattern!

Friday, February 01, 2019

Dark Floral With Swing - Simplicity 1163

(This was actually made in 2018.)

Pattern: Simplicity 1163 (2015)

Pattern Description: Misses' knit skirt with option of asymmetric faux wrap, flat front, or pleated front drape with length variations. View F

Pattern Sizing: R5: Sizes 14-16-18-20-22 I cut the waistband for size 20 but cut skirt in size 22 for a little more fullness.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, exactly.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Extremely easy. The only issue might be in hemming the long skirt hem in a knit but I didn't really have a problem because I chose to sew it by hand. Also machine basting directly on the stitching line makes it easier to roll the hem over at the seam line and stitch it down.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I wanted a skirt with movement and I liked the angled overlay.

Fabric Used: PPK6 KP5 Brushed floral knit (96% polyester 4% spandex), Dritz 1-1/2 soft waistband elastic

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I cut the skirt portion one size larger than the waistband to create more fullness in the skirt. I also thought the finished garment length of 19" was too short and added two inches to the length of the pattern pieces. I will probably add even more width and another inch of length next time.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I will definitely make this skirt again, especially the longer midi version of this same style. It's a great pattern, the styles are interesting yet the construction is simple enough for these to be quick makes.

Conclusion: A fabulous dark floral knit made into a skirt in a style new to my wardrobe which consists mostly of pencil skirts.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Oyster White Shell Top - New Look 6838

(This was actually made in 2018.)

Pattern: New Look 6838 (from 2008, since reissued as New Look 6402)

Pattern Description: Knit tops with neckline/sleeve options and pull-on drawstring pants. View C.

Pattern Sizing: Size A (XS-XL) I cut a M (14-16) for the 40.5" bust and 37" waist finished garment measurements.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, very simple.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love the wide neckline and the curved back seam which took care of the swayback situation.

Fabric Used: Ponteroma knit in Winter White for $3 per yard (orig. $15) from Hancock Fabrics liquidation sale.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: When I made this pattern the first time I had fitting issues and had to alter the paper pattern extensively. You may find that the top is drafted too long, the back pattern piece will be a full inch or so wider than the front, and the neckline is extremely wide and might need adjustment. When I use this pattern I now sew a larger seam allowance on the center back, I have added to the inner neckline on my pattern piece, and also eliminated 1.5" from the hem.

This time I made the sleeveless shell. Noting that my other versions were now tight in the chest I created a faux full-bust-adjustment by adapting a technique from a favorite Kwik Sew pattern. The front piece is curved outward at the bust (adding more length/room there) and gathered to fit the back piece. Once worn, the bust fills out that excess fabric.

A simple turn-under of fabric at the neckline and armscye completes the top.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I can not recommend the pattern as is since I had to do a major reworking of the original pattern. However, the one great thing about this pattern is that the back pattern piece included a shaped center back seam which has addressed any swayback issues. I suggest looking for similar patterns in order to create the best fitted t-shirt block that your particular shape needs.

Conclusion: I am happy with the custom fit I achieved on this make and there will be many other versions.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Looking at the New Year

Hiya. Happy New Year!

I hoped to have three completed pattern reviews on here before 2019 but it didn't happen. Getting photos for the blog just wasn't possible even though I had brought two of the pieces on holiday with me. I just didn't feel like begging some family member to take photographs last week. It always becomes such a hassle. It's weird but non-bloggers seem to not understand what 'take a picture of my outfit looking good' means. So much bunched and lumpy fabric, unattractive body positions, weird shadows, and so much blurriness, ugh! So, I will try again by myself while also starting on my first new projects for the New Year.

Shana floral and Ponderosa interlock from Jo-Ann

Currently in my queue are another simple knit tee and a highly anticipated knit wrap dress. The green interlock originally was to be a TNT New Look 6838; however, I've decided to try the top from Simplicity 1325. I compared the patterns and this one has a different armscye and longer sleeves. It doesn't have a back seam (for shaping) so I will change that.

New Look 6301

The wrap dress is something I've wanted for a while but since I wanted a fuller skirt I was surprised to find that most Big 4 wrap dresses are designed with straight skirts. Therefore, I bought New Look 6301 and I hope that it works out. I've read reviews of this one and others similar that day the bodice could be tricky if you're more than a B-cup.

If I have any sewing goals for the New Year it is to
complete my goals from last year:

  • Develop a fitting shell from McCall's 7279
  • Draft actual slopers
  • Learn to fit pants correctly and make lots of them
  • Work through my fabric stash (I was doing so well before buying silk for that family wedding!)
So, let's get this plan in action, everything is cut out and ready to go. Also, look out for my last two pattern reviews from 2018, hopefully soon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Scuba Staple Skirt - Butterick 6464

(This was actually made in 2018.)

Pattern: Butterick 6464 (2017)

Pattern Description: Close-fitting, pull-on skirt with side panels and thin elastic channel inside a wide waistband.

Pattern Sizing: Size E5 (14-16-18-20-22), I cut a size 18 and adjusted on my body accordingly.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing it?  Sorta, the actual skirt's waistband appeared more gathered than in the drawing.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Extremely easy. Great pattern for a beginner and it has more style than a basic pencil skirt.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Having made this before I knew that the fit would be excellent.

Fabric Used: Black/light gray double faced neoprene (polyester/Lycra) from Mood (a gift from Allie J. as part of a giveaway*), Stretchrite 1/2" polyester braided elastic, Gutermann 100% polyester thread in #592 Black, Dritz size #16 (100) ball point machine needle (for heavyweight knits)

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: The design ease for this skirt of 43.5" for a 42" hip is too much positive ease for a knit skirt. I decided to cut my skirt halfway between size 16 and 18.

I love the way the waistband is constructed. It consists of a wide waistband/yoke with the elastic channel hidden inside so it's not evident from the outside. The yoke sections are stitched together on the sides first, then a casing is formed at the top edge where the elastic is inserted, and once secured the entire yoke is turned inside out; essentially hiding the elastic.

The only difficulties in construction were due to the fabric choice. Cutting it out was easy with a rotary cutter but the heft of the fabric required me to trace the cut-on-the-fold pattern piece for the center front and back as complete pieces so that I could cut them out flat.

Because this was my first time using scuba I began by testing out different sewing and pressing techniques on scraps. This resulted in me choosing to use a ball point needle made for heavyweight knits and my walking foot. Stitching over multiple layers of this fabric was still difficult and I admit I had to reinforce some areas when I noticed some skipped stitches.

All of the seams were pressed first, on the wrong side and then the right with a "pressing cloth" (scrap of random lightweight fabric) which I then weighed down with whatever I had on hand until it was cool. (I just keep putting off buying a wood clapper because this still works!) This was very important for the top of the waistband, which really didn't want to behave. Even though it would have elastic inside and be gathered, I still wanted to avoid as much bulk in that area as possible. This pressing-and-resting method took over an hour to treat all of the seams and to tame the waistband.

The rest of the skirt was incredibly simple, consisting of center and side panels on both the front and back. I top stitched the panel seams and the waistband to add dimension to the scuba.

I have no idea how a folded hem will affect the look of the skirt so I'm wearing it without a hem right now. This works because scuba does not ravel.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?  Yes, This is a definite TNT pattern and I will definitely make more of these. I highly recommend this skirt pattern.

Conclusion: This was a successful make, a slim skirt with an ingenious waistband treatment and visual interest provided by the topstitched side panels.

* She actually questions in the comments here what to do with the leftover yard from her own skirt project...well, she sent it to me!