February 2010 Archives

A sigh of relief

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It's taken me a couple of days to put a blog entry together, but oh man, did I have a busy sewing weekend. And let me just cut the suspense right here: SAINTS BE PRAISED, my alterations worked.

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On Friday morning, the dress was still a bunch of flat pieces in a shopping bag. On Friday evening, it looked like the photos above and below.

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I'm glad I took these because it's easy to understand from them just how unusual the construction of this pattern is. As you can see, there are no side seams, nor are there front and back seams in the top portion. The bodice consists of three main pieces: the center front, and two long, oddly-shaped pieces that angle down and backwards until they meet at the center of the lower back, creating a deep V with fold-back lapels. Each of these side/back pieces is attached to the center front with an edge-stitched diagonal seam, like so:

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Actually, all of the lines joining the skirt to the inset to the bodice are diagonal edge-stitched seams. Which maybe gives an inkling of why I sweated blood over figuring out a way to alter the angles of certain diagonals (without messing up the angles of others) in order to take inches out of the center lower back (but not the upper back, or butt). Those two back pieces, the facings that match them, and the center back of the skirt where it joins to those four, were the parts I had to modify, and you can see in these photos that they passed the first test: once they're all finished and folded, they are the same length and the same angle. Good news indeed.

And now, here's what the dress looked like on Sunday morning!

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That ripply-ness on the left isn't a nightmarishly-tensioned seam; it's only pinned in place, and the right-hand side wasn't sewn yet at all. However. You can see that the alterations pass the second and third tests: the bodice back pieces fit the angle of the prepared center back piece, and the whole shebang FITS. At this point, after hours of intense concentration, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and went to bed.

I usually stay pretty relaxed and don't worry about "ruining" good fabric and so on. I'm not a reluctant cutter - I usually whack into my fabric unreservedly, as soon as I've done a tissue-fitting. I'm not one to stash fabric for years and years because it's "too nice" to use. But I have to admit that knowing this silk color was sold out and I didn't have time to start over before the Partnership Celebration did ratchet up the suspense. I'm looking forward to returning to lower-key sewing projects in the future...but I'm also thrilled about how this is turning out. I've reached the fun part, where all the soul-searching-in-the-desert stuff pays off!

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Here's what the front looked like on Sunday morning—you have to imagine a belt in the same fabric bisecting the diamond-shaped inset; and it also looks less blousy on my body than on Gert. But from this photo you can get a sense of the whole construction, and the way the inset plays into the design as a whole. Lots and lots of edge-stitched diagonal seams!

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It's further along now, although I took the sewing slightly easy on Sunday after Saturday's breathless stitching marathon. You can see the tailor's tacks at the bottom of the photo above; those are the placement lines for adding the two drapes to the back of the skirt, after which I'll just have to add the shoulder decorations and back closures, and hem the skirt.

I may just make it after all.

Cutting out

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So, I really did intend to document this whole dress-alteration process on the blog. "Photos!" I thought. "Meditations! Maybe even tutorials!" But as it turned out, altering this pattern was akin to one of those Carlos Castaneda-type spiritual journeys you can only undertake alone, wandering in the wilderness until your spirit-animal emerges from a tumbleweed and advises you on the proper angle to invoke in order to remove three inches from the center back.

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At first I was bummed out about this, because I wasn't having much FUN during my desert-wandering period. But then Jennifer commented that it seems like an apt metaphor for making a relationship work, and that sort of brought me back to myself. Sewing and knitting are journeys, after all, and some parts of the journey are difficult; that's as it should be! It just means I'm learning and growing. This is stuff I always tell other people, but in the pre-Partnership-Celebration stress I'd forgotten. I took a few deep breaths, returned to the pattern with my hat in my hand, and she and I sat down and talked about our disagreements. Eventually, I think, we sorted it all out.

And then...

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Well, another good relationship practice is knowing when to reward yourself for having worked something out. The pattern, David and I took a trip over to my folks' house, where my mom and I teamed up to cut it out in the fancy silk! This was a luxury, because my parents, unlike David and I, are possessed of a dining room table.

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As you can imagine, keeping all that silk clean while cutting out on David and my floor and trying to keep Mr. Bingley entertained would have been a recipe for disaster. The table and the extra cutting help were amazing!

First we ironed:

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Then we planned...

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...and pinned...

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...and pinned, and measured...

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...and occasionally we stopped to regroup and consult the strategic plan...

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...and then, after measuring twice, we cut!

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No turning back now! During the process of cutting I remembered just how beautiful this fabric is, and I'm both psyched and, I must admit, slightly nervous to start working with it. Luckily, I have quite a bit left over to practice on, but I can't spend that long fiddling around: the Partnership Celebration is in under a month! I took the pieces home and marked them with tailor's tacks, and soon the actual garment will start coming together.

Nothing like a little adrenaline to keep a girl honest...

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(Thanks to David for the lovely photos this time around.)

Sock Club!

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Thanks for the sympathetic comments and emails, everyone. I am back on the dress-making horse, having fought and eventually won a gruesome battle with alteration math, and almost ready to cut out in my fashion fabric (about time). In addition, I'm feeling quite a bit more cheerful today, partly because of a couple of exciting packages that arrived on my doorstep this afternoon. One of them? Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott's Sock Club: Join the Knitting Adventure, which happens to be the first printed book featuring a pattern from yours truly!

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You've seen it before, of course: the Indiana Jones socks (here on Ravelry), which were originally a sock-club exclusive for Kate over at Knit it up!. Non-members of that club interested in knitting this pattern have been super-patient, and now it's available to the general public in lovely, paper-and-binding form, along with 22 other sock patterns. A couple favorites of mine:

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"Low Country Light" by Beth Parrott (click on the photo for a larger view) makes beautiful use of a Gradience colorway from The Unique Sheep. I've been drooling over these unique color-spectrum yarns for quite a while, but was having trouble visualizing something to do with them that would be interesting to knit. I think Beth does a great job here developing a stitch pattern that provides some visual interest but doesn't clash with the gradience colorway. I even like her use of dropped stitches, of which I'm normally not a fan. Now that I've seen it can be done, I'm more anxious than ever to try my hand at designing something in a Gradience yarn. Maybe even a sweater! Wouldn't their Cafe au Lait or Herb Garden colorway make a gorgeous cardigan?

And look at this pretty and unusual heel construction on Charlene Schurch's Havana Lace pattern (neither of these are in Ravelry yet; sorry for the lack of linkage):

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Love it! So cool and retro. I dig the idea of these in a dark, smoky charcoal or black-green; there's a skein of Sundara's "Irish Laughter" sock yarn in my cabinet that may want to become a pair of Havana Lace socks.

Those are my two, somewhat idiosyncratic, faves, but I suspect that Terry Morris's Cozy Cable Socks and Debbie O'Neill's Ariel Socks will appeal to lots of folks, and Adrienne Fong's Tea Time Socks are full of charm. Want to see for yourself? It's for sale at Powell's and Amazon, and hopefully at your local yarn shop, as well!

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