Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Meet Bernadette! My Dress Form Review

So, this is a post that I planned on putting up in June of 2015, thus the photos in my old sewing room. Something else always got in the way. Last year for my birthday, my family all pitched in and got me ... a dress form! I know it's old news now since I've been posting pictures using the form ever since I got it, but still. After using this form for a year I figured it would be beneficial to others to hear a review about it :)
While this was a gift, it was one that I chose myself and I did A LOT of research before deciding which one to have them purchase. I come from a small town-ish area, and around here the only type of form you ever see locally is the cheap adjustable ones you can get at Joann's (and I say "cheap" meaning how they are made, not their cost). I've used a vintage adjustable form that belonged to a friend of mine that was great because it was made entirely of metal - sadly it was a size 6 (plus it wasn't mine, lol) so that one wasn't a real option for me. I searched for vintage forms first, but it seems that no one wants to get rid of them. Even if people don't sew with them, they look cool as decor. So, I had to resort to the various new options out there. I read Threads articles and various blog posts about the ups and downs of all types of forms: Wolf, PGM, Uniquely You, My Double, Twin Fit, etc. In the end it was a combination of Gertie's review and Lauren's review that helped me make my ultimate decision: the Professional Female Dress Form with Collapsible Shoulders from The Shop Company.

The Shop Company form is very sturdy in how it's made, including it's heavy cast iron base. It has all the perks you want in a dress form - raised side seams and waist, a butt, a pretty yet basic colored fabric that is pin-able, a neck, a hem cage, etc. I went with the collapsible shoulder model because it seemed the better value to avoid the hassle of not being able to get things on and off the form easily (and believe me I use that feature all the time).
The cool thing is that you just press the shoulders toward each other and they click inward, allowing you to slide your garment on or off, then you just press them together again and they spring back into place. This makes the form perfect for really seeing how things will hang at the shoulder.
The most attractive aspect of this particular form is undoubtedly the price. It has similar features to the higher priced forms (like Wolf and PCM), but this one only costs $269 (plus I got a 10% off coupon, making it even cheaper). The prices of this form is realistically the only way I was able to get it. My family loves me and all, but no one was going to fork over $600 - $1000 on a not-exactly-necessary sewing room item that wasn't a machine, nor would I want them too (there are many other things I would rather spend that kind of money on, let's be real). But in the $200 - $250 range, that changes things. While I don't drape things on my form (though I may one day), it has turned out very handy for other applications. The one that sticks out to me the most is matching up pleats and side seams. I have to alter most every pattern I make up, meaning when I go to sew it up these seams are not always perfectly aligned. I can pin a dress bodice to the top, and strategically pin the skirt to the bodice at the cut edges and then make sure the pleats match the position of the darts. I know this is possible to do without a dress form (I made due before i had one, don't get me wrong), but it is SO MUCH EASIER with a form. You get a real 3D idea of how the fabric is going to lay while pinning. I've also loved having my form for things like adding neckline trim to shirts. For shirts like my Gathered Back Experiment and the Plantain for My Mom, I would put the shirt on the form, then drape the trim around the neckline, then hand sew it in place. This way the trim was sure to have enough ease around curves and whatnot so it does not pull when you wear it like it might if it had been sewn flat.

One thing I've intended to do to my form but haven't got around to is to pad it out to be closer to my size. When choosing a size, I deliberately went a little smaller than my measurements just in case I ever lose weight so I wouldn't have to buy a new form. I knew I was going to have to add padding to most areas on a form even if it had my same bust measurement anyway since my waist and hips are larger than the proportions that they make on standard dress forms. So, seeing something on my form is certainly not a true representation of what it will look like on my body as yet. I've had so much going on in the last year that I just haven't wanted to devote the time to it yet (just like I say I will set up and learn my old serger, lol, one day ...) Because of this fit discrepancy, I've never used the form to mark a hem (since I have considerably more gut and booty than the lovely Bernadette here, it would hang differently on me). Even though it's not exactly my size, it still gets lots of use - plus you just can't deny that it makes for great garment photos at the very least.
So while a dress form isn't something I would ever tell you to run out and buy right now, it's certainly nice to have if you can afford one :) As far as the name of mine, I chose to call her Bernadette after my Grammy. It was her middle name and she hated it, lol. She always said she would haunt me if I dared name any of my children after her (first or middle name - she hated both equally). I disagree with my grandma's feelings about her middle name, and this isn't my child, haha, so I felt fine naming my form Bernadette :)

So that's my dress form! If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask. In the meantime, I'll be here enjoying my pretty dress form :)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Sewing Room Tools: DIY Magnetic Pin Plate

Friends, I have a confession - I'm not super patient with tools when I'm sewing. I want my tools to work (and easily) how and when I need them to, and when they do I am able to be super productive. One thing that I always feel deficient in is pin collection while I'm sewing. A friend of mine gave me this awesome (but incredibly old) wrist pin cushion a few years ago, and I used it all the time for months - I could easily just stick the pins on my wrist as I pulled them out of my fabric while sewing, and then they were all ready to be used without having to arrange them any certain way. I say "used" (past tense) because being an old item (from at least the 70s, possibly 60s or earlier), eventually this happened:
I would stick the foam back into the little plastic housing, but it kept coming back out, then one day I saw the insides looked like this and I knew it was no use:
Yeah... not much left there to pin into anyway. Around the time of this small tragedy, I came across this post by Mint Green Sewing Machine and I decided to try something new (and way cuter, let's be real). I'd never thought of such a great purpose for the cute plates you find in thrift stores. I would always be tempted by pretty plates, but knew I would never use them, so this post gave me yet another thing to hunt for, lol. I picked a pretty plate, bought some magnets, and got to work.
When I decided to make it, I couldn't find my furniture felt pads, but I had just made a Princess Anna Cape and had scrap pieces of pink felt readily available and my larger circle Sizzix Paddle Punch was the perfect size to cover the magnets I bought so I just used that instead.
I wanted a strong bond (no falling apart like my wrist pin cushion!) so I used E6000 to glue the magnets to the plate, then I used a little more of it to glue the fleece to the magnets. I followed all the instructions and even let it sit overnight before I messed with it.
Et voilĂ ! A magnetic pin plate that's way prettier than the expensive than the ones made by Clover and the like.I made this plate 2 years ago (wow! seriously, it was July of 2014) and I still use this every time I sew anything. I liked my plate so much that I made more for my mom, sister, and aunt for Christmas that year (they all also sew) and I know that my mom at least mentions how much she loves hers. I may even make myself more (one for next to the machine, one by the cutting table, etc) so I don't have to remember where I set it all the time. 

To anyone going to make one themselves, I would definitely advise you maybe put one more magnet on the bottom. It's fine on the stronger magnets, but when I made my gift versions I used a different brand of magnets and didn't notice that they were not as strong until I had them glued and then it was too late, so I had to add another in the center on those. Also, the fleece totally works in place of the felt pads and it makes for one less thing to buy. My fleece is still going strong after 2 years and it keeps my magnets from scratching my desk I painted.

Anyway, this feels like a silly thing to post, but this is seriously one of my favorite sewing tools so I thought I'd share. I found a slap bracelet style magnetic wrist pin cushion at Hobby Lobby (in the clearance, no less!) a month ago, and I've used it a bit but it's still no where near as convenient as the magnetic plate. For real. This project cost about $2.00 and took maybe 10 minutes total to make. Make yourself one! You won't regret it :)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Furniture Transformation: Sewing Room Dresser

This project has been finished and in use for over a year now, but I kept putting off blogging about it until I cleaned up my sewing room really well for pictures. The room never got completely cleaned, but I wanted to get this documented and stop feeling guilty for not writing about it, so I just took pictures anyway. Now this dresser is no longer even in the same house these photos were taken in, ha ha. So, here's a real life look at another custom piece I made for my sewing room:
I finished my French Provincial dresser! I first started this redo back in May of 2013 and the dresser looked like this:
A week or so after that post, I ran into humidity problems and had to stop my spray painting for the summer (stupid Florida). I bought this dresser years ago for $10 from a friend who was moving to Saudi Arabia (thanks, Brenna!). I love French Provincial style and had a small collection (which will soon be for sale). Sadly, all of the pieces I have are pretty beat up, plus the coloring really doesn't go with any of my decor. I planned to revamp all my pieces eventually, but this was the first one to get the full treatment since I knew I wanted it to match my sewing room.

I gave this piece the full treatment - I started with sanding, then two coats of Kilz spray paint, then two coats of Rustoleum 2X Ultra-Cover in White Satin. Then I decided to get fancy. I wanted this piece to match my desk which has a coral pink top, so I started playing with what parts I wanted to accent with the coral paint. In the end I decided to paint the drawer fronts, so I did 3 coats of Valspar Color Radiance spray paint in Coral on the tops. Things got tricky on those bottom drawers - It looks like the dresser has 4 drawers, right? Not so! The bottom drawers are double deep, so that raised bar in the middle is actually part of that drawer. This only became an issue because I wanted that middle bar to stay white like the others, so I had to do some very precise masking off. I had to touch up a few places with a small paintbrush (no easy feat), but I don't think you would notice if I didn't point them out - so I wont, lol. Once I got all the main colors on, I coated the entire piece with 3 coats of Minwax PolyAcrylic.
Once the dresser was painted, the hardware did not match at all. I grabbed a can of Rustoleum Metallic spray paint in Matte Nickel and gave all the pulls several coats. It was a bit of a challenge to get the hardware off, which mean they were also difficult to put back on. My persuasion caused a few nicks to the new paint (I let them dry for a few days, but it wasn't totally cured apparently). It's not a big deal. I remember I thought it would bug the crap out of me back in April when I finished it up, but I can't remember ever even noticing it over the last year when I look at the dresser.
I'm telling you, after working on this for almost 2 years and storing it around various places for a few years before the work even began, it was a big celebration to finally get this piece in my sewing room. I originally thought I would store fabric in the drawers, but that was naive at best (I have WAY too much fabric for this little thing, lol, luckily the fabric storage situation was solved months ago). When we put this in my room, even though I was super thrilled to have it done, I had no idea what I wanted to put inside it! Isn't that crazy?! Since my original plan of fabric changed, I decided to store notions in it instead. Overtime, I've added more and more things to the drawers and now it is an integral part of my organization in the room. I store my button stash, bias tape maker machine, trims, knitting needle sets, crochet hooks, scale, heat set tool, washi tape, yarn winder, extra pins, etc. I also utilized the area under the dresser to hold more ribbons and trims along with my old tins from my Grammy (this isn't the case in my new sewing room, but I'll still show it here until I do a new sewing room reveal).
So there you have it - my finished dresser! I know the pictures look kinds of junky, but this it the real life I guess. It always looks like this (in fact, it was much worse and I cleared it off for the photos).

I still love my customized furniture I've done, and I'm really glad I made them all for my sewing room so it adds a little touch of extra joy in the room to think that I did all of that work for myself :) Since I've moved, I won't be doing any furniture remakes in the foreseeable future :( At least I got the few things in while I had the space and got to enjoy them. The unfortunate thing is that now I always look at furniture with the creative eye to see what I can remake to fit my needs ... but I won't be able to do that! Bummer. One day, lol. I'm getting my new sewing room situated (it's all together, but I'm deciding where to hang things and making a mini curtain), but I will show that soon!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Sewing Studio - Let Freedom Ring, 2016!

So, I chose to exerise my liberty this 4th of July by buying amazing fabric for a steal of a price - as I usually do :) I took a break from moving and unpacking to go with just my mom this year and we had a great time. For those of you not from Florida (or new to my blog), The Sewing Studio is a fabric filled treasure trove located in Maitland (just outside Orlando, still sort of Orlando). The store has high quality fabric for everything from quilting to wedding dress making to home decor and everywhere in between. Each 4th of July and New Year's Day, they put their entire store (!!!) on sale for 40% off. This includes the items that are already in clearance for 50% off - you get another 40% off of that price. Craziness. Since these biannual sales coincide with holidays where people sometimes give money (Christmas and my Birthday at the end of June), I like to splurge on all kinds of stuff twice a year :) Generally I spend most of my time in this store looking like this:
Yep - that's "The Sewing Studio Effect", lol. It's so much fun. I do still have to reign myself into a budget, especially since it would be SO EASY to spend way too much with all the lovely silks and laces and other fancy threads. I can let loose a bit, but still within reason. It's a pretty overwhelming experience the first few times you go, but I've gone enough to get something of a game plan each time. If you're in the Central Florida area, this store (and especially this sale) are well worth a trip on your holiday. Anyway, you're all here for the fabric, so let's get to the good stuff :)
This was my haul this year :) I went a little crazier than normal (meaning I purchased a few things that were a bit pricier than my usual), but I have plans for almost every piece of fabric. If only the purchase included guaranteed time to make up everything you want, right?  Here's what I came away with specifically (all fabrics listed clockwise):
  •  4 yards of Moda Bandana Bows and Dots print cotton - This will most definitely be a dress :) I'm thinking it would be cute as Butterick 6321 if I can find a matching blue or mint green for the contrasting pieces :) 
  • 4 yards of Cotton + Steel Homebody Buttons printed cotton poplin - This will be probably a dress, perhaps a shirt dress? I only wanted 3 yards at first for a Hollyburn skirt, but when there was just 1 more yard left on the bolt I bought the whole thing. 
  • 3 yards of  Windham Snippets mint green needle and thread printed cotton - Another dress here :) I may go for the tried and true Simplicity 2444 or 1419 - just depends on how those dotted lines handle darts.
  • 1.5 yards of Free Spirit Memory Lane pink floral printed cotton - this is soon going to be on my lampshades in my new bedroom :) Whatever is left will also be used around the room on pillows and whatnot.
  •  2 yards of Amy Butler Soul Blossoms Cotton Canvas in Temple Tulips print - This is another I have to decide on. Originally I wanted to make a bag, but it would also make a pretty cool a-line skirt. With how wide the fabric is, I might be able to do both :)
  • 2 yards of Free Spirit dark blue twist printed heavy canvas - this will also be a skirt, possibly a Melissa, and the excess will be great for a bag too.
  • 2 yards of Cotton + Steel Mochi Folklore Moon Rabbit Autumn Rice printed linen cotton. This is 55% linen, 45% cotton and has a metallic gold border print. I think it will be a great flared skirt.
  • 2 yards of Art Gallery floral printed lightweight denim - This stuff was a slight splurge for me. I almost bought this exact fabric a month ago on Fabric.com, but held off and got some Brussels Washer linen instead. So when I saw this for 40% off, I knew I had to get enough for a skirt. I'm still deciding on a pattern, but it will be flared :) It's so pretty and drapey in person! I can't wait to make it up.
  • 2.25 yards of crazy 3D squiggle flowers in pink and purple on mesh - This will be an epic skirt. I'm thinking circle skirt on this one :) The flowers are done the same way as one of my favorite trims I've used (on my mom's birthday shirt last year), and it was just so pretty and fun.
  • 2 yards of bright pink poly chiffon - this will line the crazy flower skirt :) It's not opaque at all, but the crazy flowers plus this make for just enough to not show off anything.
  • 1.5 yards of emerald green rayon jersey - This will be come a plantain tee with 3/4 sleeves. I adore this color, so I had to get some. Now if I can just find a nice mint green ...
  • 1 yard of Mickey and Friends printed cotton jersey - Isn't this adorable?! I'm not usually a "wear Disney characters" type person (I blame the oversized t-shirts of my chilhood printed with Winnie the Pooh), but I think in the right pattern this will be really cute (especially if I wear it to the park itself). I'm thinking a Sorrel top with white collar and cuffs, but we shall see.
These were all remnants, so they were really cheap :)
  • 1.75 yards of Amy Butler Alchemy Velveteen - this was a wild card purchase because to be honest I have no idea what I will do with it, but it was so cheap. This cut cost me $3.00. It's super soft, especially now that I washed it, and I can't decide if it would be ok to wear or not. It may become a skirt, but then it may end up covering a chair, lol. I'll have to see what inspiration strikes.
  • 1.62 yards of black and white polka dot knit mesh - This will be really cute as a shirt, maybe a Parisian top with a white collar? It's a fairly dense knit, so I might not have to line it. 
  • 0.9 yards of Ming green 100% silk chiffon - this piece was just one of my favorite colors and it's so beautifully drapey. This will become a top, but because it's only 42" wide I'm not sire if I can get a whole top out of it or if I'll have to use a different fabric for the back or something. I generally stay away from silks since I'm clumsy and tend to get picks in it, but this one seemed fairly robust. 
After the hours of fabric selection, we hit the notions wall and I was pleasantly surprised by some products I love that the store just started carrying (they now stock Sew Keys E knit stay tape!). The threads were grabbed for some of the fabrics I purchased that day (as well as the mint green zipper), plus I got white and navy thread since I go through those colors faster than anything else. The pink zipper is for my crazy flowers skirt, and the plum zipper was just really inexpensive so it will end up in a skirt eventually. I'm running low on Wonder Tape, and they only had this Dritz brand (I usually buy the Collins) but at 40% off I figured it was worth trying out. I gasped aloud when I saw the SimFlex Expanding Gauge! I've toyed around with buying one of these for years, but I just never justified spending $20+ on it. Since it was only $12 I decided to grab one and I can't wait to add buttons or pleats to something so I can try it out. My final decision of the day was the bag of buttons. I brought along my Hetty Cardigan to see about buttons for it since I'm almost finished and I didn't love anything in my stash. I actually laid my sweater out on the floor in the button area and went back and forth auditioning various button styles, and when I came across these round shiny ones I knew it was meant to be. All the others I tried were either too small, too red, too orange, too "old lady"-ish. These were the exact color of my yarn and they were the perfect size AND they were shank buttons (my preferred for hand knits). There was only one catch - I needed 9 and the store only had 8 if I bought the display button too. I tried out more buttons, but none held a candle to these. So, I tried out using a decorative button at the top of the sweater and ended up with a pretty mother of pearl checkerboard inlay button to possibly go with it. I still can't decide if I will use this button or just pull out the buttonhole band and redo the spacing to have only 8 holes. We'll see. I've got til the end of the month to finish, lol.

So, that was my sewing studio trip :) I think we were in the store for about 3 hours, which is pretty normal for us. It was crazy busy when we first arrived, but when we left it was much quieter (thus how I was able to lay out my sweater on the floor). It was a fun day, and I've been washing fabric ever since. I've also already uploaded my fabrics into Trello (thanks to Camille for this post - so great for organizing!), and I love scrolling through my collection online at will :)

I will confess that I started off my fabric buying weekend a little early by going to the local Hancock sale. Hancock is going out of business (which is so sad since I just moved to right around the corner from the nearest store), but they are in the final throws of their going out of business sale and prices are finally low enough to get some good deals. Saturday night I came away with this:
  • 4 yards of coral rayon challis - this will be a dress, possibly with some other rayon as a contrast to give more interest.
  • 2.38 yards of damask printed stretch cotton twill - this is going to be a skirt (I'm thinking a traditional knee length "jean skirt" style like the Style Arc Sally skirt) and I'm sure I'll have excess which will probably become a bag or chair cover.
  • 2.5 yards of charcoal gray stretch denim - I'm really wanting to try sewing Ginger jeans, but I've been too cheap to potentially waste fabric on a muslin. This was cheap enough that I'm not too worried about it, so we'll see how that goes.
  • 5 butterick patterns I've had my eye on: 6090, 6260, 6321, 6282, and 6285. The patterns are still not super cheap at $1.99, but I've wanted these for a while so I went ahead and bought them. I'm holding out that they will go a little cheaper soon and then I may get more. 
This was my second trip in to Hancock, and it's seriously so sad that they are closing. This store has been in the same spot my whole life and for a long time it was the only fabric store I knew about, so it's certainly the end of an era. I hope someone buys them out and reopens, but I'm not holding my breath. I'll especially miss them when I need notions on the quick - they were my place to go for thread and buttons all the time (so much so that the night shift ladies nick named me "button girl" because I was always there for buttons). I guess the universe just really doesn't want me to live that close to a fabric store - they are currently building a Hobby Lobby near my house that I'm selling and they are closing the Hancock around the corner from my new place - I can take a hint!) It's probably better for my budget, but it's still a bummer that now my nearest store is the Joann's in Melbourne :/ Anyway, it was a great weekend of retail therapy and fabric shopping :) Now I just have to get to making things with all this so I can justify going again on New Years' Day!