Monday, July 25, 2011

I'm going to blame my lack of blogging over the last few months on my thesis defense and then my wedding. No time to write when there are things to get done. So of course, now, when I should be writing the thesis, I'll write here instead. At least it gets me in writing mode?

I'll try to be good and just post a quicky here - a pic of the finished wedding dress:

With the husband and his sister. The first thought I had when I saw pictures of me in the dress was "I look like a cake topper!" And I mean that in the best possible way.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


When I started playing with shibori dying, especially arashi pole-wraps, I discovered that silk scarves are the perfect thing to play with - a long rectangle is the perfect shape, and a scarf can have a lot louder pattern than a whole garment. But once I made a few, I discovered that I don't really know how to wear them. So I've collected a set of links here to remind me, once I have to time to play with dye again.

For credit purposes, I should note that these came from Academic Chic's bibliography. I picked out the ones I like, and I'm basically saving them here for my reference.

French Twist. Not sure how this would actually look, but it looks interesting enough to try.

Twisted pashmina: I have to think this would work just as well with a nice long silk scarf, just ending up a bit thinner.

And a variety of cool scarf ties.

And a quick note - yeah, I haven't posted anything in quite a while. There's less than one month till my PhD defense, so time to blog is not exactly a thing I have. Unless, as today, I'm waiting while my experiment runs. Come June, I plan on actually using some of the masses of fabric I've been stocking up on.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Sigh. After spending basically the entire month of March handsewing the bodice with nice invisible stitches, the quality just was not there. Especially around curves, the strips gaped and you could see the stitches underneath. Not pretty.
I had hoped it would go away with excessive steam pressing, but no. It did get better (this is after), but not enough. So, machine top-stitching it was.
Luckily, I really like the way it looks. I debated between subtle top-stitching ("invisible" thread that is basically fishing line) or blatant top-stitching with sparkly metallic thread. I liked the idea of the sparkly - make a bug into a feature and embrace the top-stitching. Unfortunately, the way the tread sewed on my machine wasn't great, and I also think it was just a touch too blatant. I've struggled throughout the process to not just throw more and more design details at this dress. The weaving design is complex enough and can stand on its own, adding more and more will just detract from its elegance. So, invisible thread it is.

I actually really like the way the invisible thread looks with the topstitching - you can tell that it's there, but you don't really see the thread, just its imprint, so it ends up looking like the strips have slightly scalloped edges. By emphasizing the edges of the strips just a little bit, it really makes the design pop.
So all in all, while I'm frustrated to have spend so long on handwork that ended up just functioning as basting, I'm happy with the end product. I think that's a lesson I need to remember - just because you invested a lot of effort into something doesn't mean that's the way it should be.

Now if I can just get it to not look quite so wrinkly after pressing...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Vogue Summer 2011

New patterns! Of course I'm looking through the new Vogue patterns instead of editing that paper, did you have to ask?

I think I only like one pattern that's not a dress, so let's start there.
Vogue 1247: The shirt is whatever, and really so is the skirt (besides being way shorter than anything I'd ever wear), but I love the idea of in-seam pockets in a horizontal seam. I'm not sure I like the way it actually looks, but it's novel and interesting so it's a winner in my book.

Vogue 1239: Love the collar and of course the pockets, and the wrap style that means no zipper is needed. I'm definitely picturing silk duopioni to give it some texture and make all the seaming pop. I do worry that it'll be a bit too stiff to actually be practical - I don't mind impractical in formalwear, but this doesn't scream formal to me.

Vogue 1235: Now this I can actually see making. I've avoided knit dresses in the past simply because the selection of knits at Joann, my only local fabric store out in the suburbs, is atrocious. They have a few solids which are fine, but that's it. Living in San Francisco for the last month, I've found new fabric stores, and it's definitely worth going back to the city to shop. This dress looks simple and cute (although they mark it as average difficulty, which scares me a bit considering the scale that Vogue works on), and I'm a sucker for pockets. I'm not sure how well they'll hold up in a knit, so I'm curious to see if there's any extra interfacing or anything in the pattern. This dress has a bit of the gathering on the hips that seems to be in style now, and showed up in a bunch of the new patterns. I'm generally not a fan (my hips are perfectly sized as they are, thank-you-very-much), but this is subtle and frames the pocket well.

Vogue 1236: No zipper and pockets - sensing a theme here in what I like? This one is a lot like Vogue 8645 that I already made, and I have to admit I feel a little weird paying for a pattern on something so very simple. This one at least has the neckline tucks that are interesting and not super easy to draft myself, and really, who am I kidding, I've never actually drafted a pattern. I like the high back neckline on this and the fact that they have little belt loops included (which I had to add to 8645), so this may be bought the next time Joann has a pattern sale. I will say this for Joann - I'll never buy patterns anywhere else or for full price with how often they have sales. Of course, that does mean I have about 20-30 patterns sitting around that haven't been made yet, but I have the option to make them anytime should I want to take it!

Vogue 8723: OK, I've given in and included one pattern with a zipper, but it has pockets at least to make up for that. I really like the high neckline - it's conservative without looking dowdy. And it's the same in the back too - a lot of high front necklines have a low back neckline, which I'm not a big fan of. It looks like the back zipper could be moved to the side without too much difficulty, so this is an option. I refuse to make anything other than formalwear with a back zipper. I need to be able to dress myself!

The last three are going on the list to be bought, or at least reevaluated, at the next pattern sale.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Progress report

It's been over a week since I posted my progress, so here it is. I am again actually farther than this, but don't have the pictures.

I gave myself the deadline of the end of March to finish the piecing of the strips, and I think I can make it. The back pieces go much faster - less curve to shape around, and shorter distance to sew. I'm really hoping the wrinkles will go away with a good steaming. This pic looks particularly wrinkly since the last strip is just pinned on, but it shows the process - pin the current pieces back onto Gertrude, then align the next two pieces (one on either side), pin them in place, then remove everything from Gertrude and sew by hand.

Doing everything by hand lets me really be precise about what goes where, and I think it's worth it for the final outcome. I hope! To get around the curves, I had to do a bit of gathering:

The gathering looks really, well, gathered, but I think it'll look more smooth in the final product. A lot of the gathering on the outside edge there went under the next piece - you can see in the top picture that it doesn't look gathered. Also, I think steaming a bit will help - silk can definitely be manipulated into shape with some steam, as I found out when originally pressing the formerly perfectly rectangular strips. Heavy steam and a tailor's ham should do the trick here, I hope!

Monday, March 7, 2011


I tore up new strips of leftover fabric to get a gauge of how the fabric would curve. Good thing I can't stand to throw out scraps! The actual fabric (interfaced silk tubes, basically) is stiffer and won't curve quite as well, but this is a decent start. It's actually pretty in black and grey, I think - too bad my mother told me the one requirement for my wedding dress is that it not be black!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

You Can Tell It's Made by an Engineer

It's time to get cracking on the wedding dress. Self-imposed deadline of the end of March for the bodice, and I've got crazy school deadlines in there too. It's time to ban myself from any other projects*. In the interest of pushing myself to keep making progress, I'm going to try to post progress updates. That way it won't feel like such a big project, when there are little milestones along the way.

* excepting the dress I'm making for our engagement pictures, which is almost finished anyways.

So below is the draft of what I want the dress to look like. This was a test version that I used to try out a bunch of different techniques, so it's sloppy and the colors aren't right, but you get the idea.

In order to make sure the sides are symmetric, I gave myself a grid to work off of. I couldn't find any skinny tape that wouldn't leave a sticky residue on poor Gertrude, so I just pinned ribbons. I think it's my engineering side coming through - I always feel more comfortable working on graph paper!
Next steps: 
1) Lay out strips of scrap fabric to outline where the final strips will go.
2) Make a couple dummy strips (good thing I hoard charmeuse remnants!), properly interfaced and everything, and practice hand sewing. If the hand sewing doesn't look quite right, I've already practiced doing it by machine, but I think the wedding dress is an appropriate place to take the time to do hand work! 

I'm thinking I need to wear gloves to avoid staining/mussing the silk. Latex gloves probably aren't very comfy but may do the trick. Besides, then I can look like a deranged scientist while sewing my dress!