Steampunk Holiday, part 1

by brae  

Every year, the company I work for throws a wonderful party for employees at a beautiful location.  Since I don't have much occasion for formalwear besides, I always like making something interesting and special for the event.  Last year, I made a cocktail dress I called the Serendipity Dress.  This year, my theme is Steampunk.  :D  I won't be going over the top with gadgets and embellishments, but in general, the ensemble will be steampunk inspired.

My fabrics are chocolate brown cotton velvet, cream textured home décor fabric, copper pintuck décor fabric and grey-brown suiting.  I've chosen copper buttons and grey-brown lace trim.

I'll be using two different patterns for the outfit: Simplicity 2172 and Vogue 7698.

I will make the coat from pattern 2172, with grey-brown suiting for the body and brown velvet for the false vest front.  I will omit the shoulder wings and lace cuffs as well as eliminate most of the length.  I plan to trim the neckline with the grey-brown lace and use the copper buttons for the velvet false vest.  The cream textured satin will be used for the bustier from pattern 2172.  I plan to add ivory buttons down the front.  The copper pintuck fabric will be used for the skirt from pattern 7698.  All very smart, no?  :D

To top it off, I plan to make a brown velvet fascinator with ivory netting.  I took a millinery class at a local fabric store 13 years ago, and we made a pillbox hat.  I learned to work with buckram, millinery wire and batting, fabrics and trims.  Since that class, I've made several historical reproductions to go with various costumes.  This time, I'd like to make a simple teardrop cocktail hat.

You can purchase teardrop buckram bases on etsy and the like, but I already have the materials on hand.

millinery batting and wire


The one thing I don't have is a hat form, and I see no reason to acquire one since I don't plan to make tons of hats.  So, I did some sleuthing online and found this post on making a teardrop form without a hat form.  The author mentions using a bowl, and so I had a gander around my kitchen.  I even looked in the fridge.  Voilà!  I have a lettuce keeper (or in my case, a spinach keeper).  :D  It has a nice dome shape.  Unfortunately, there is still spinach in it.  :\

I wet a piece of buckram and shaped it over the lid...then back into the fridge it went.  We'll see tomorrow if the buckram has held its shape well enough to take it out for final drying.  I suppose I could cover the bowl with foil and keep the lid out to dry.

A sense of accomplishment

by brae  

The other night when I was sewing my grey floral dress, my 401A started making a horrible noise.  :[  I know it is simply due to a lack of recent maintenance.  I do make sure the lint is cleaned out regularly, but it hasn't been properly oiled in years.  Oops.

The last time I had it oiled, it was done by a man who was older than dirt back then.  I'm not even sure he is still alive let alone still in business.  And, I was worried about being without my machine for any length of time since I've been feeling the desire to sew more often lately.

Then I thought, what the hell is this nonsense?  I've built houses!!!  :D

So, I went online and found a copy of the Singer 401 manual.  I'm sure I have the original somewhere, but it's likely still at mom's.  It told me I needed a brush, a screwdriver, Singer oil and Singer lubricant.  I had the first two, so I went to Joann and bought a bottle of Singer oil from the sewing machine business that operates inside their store.  They didn't have the lubricant for the gears, so I'll have to order that online.  The bottle looks positively vintage, no?

The manual was beyond easy to follow.  It has pictures with cute little oil droplets.  :D  You really can't go wrong.

The noise was still there, so I figured it was the lubricant that was really the issue.  I was able to scrape a small amount from the side of the gears and place it inside the teeth.  That fixed the noise...but I'll order the lubricant so I can treat all the gears properly.

I feel so proud of myself!  And, I saved myself the service fee.

Grey floral dress

by brae  

I've used this pattern before to make a top, but this time I made the full length dress in grey floral rayon.  I think Jasper likes it.  :D

shoes: Aerosoles Paperback in purple

Butterick 5485 has options to make a top, tunic and dress, all with the same general lines.

Serendipity Dress 2012

by brae  

Yes, I know I teased you with the fall outfit and never followed through.  I do have some of it cut out for sewing, though no photos.  :\

But, I have finished my holiday party dress for this year's office party.  I have the pleasure of working for a generous company that holds a lovely holiday party for us every year.  It's held at a local country club, so I always go all out.  I've made dresses with trains and even a full Victorian ensemble.  I'll have to take photos of these at some point.

This year, I went for something relatively simple since there were so many other demands on my time.  This dress came about through a series of happy accidents, so I've named it the Serendipity Dress.  I don't name many of my creations, only sometimes.

I was planning an ensemble last year and ordered an olive green smooth satin for it.  This is what came....

Satin, yes...smooth and olive green, no.  But, I loved I kept it.  :D

I order a lot from, and they offer free shipping for orders over a certain dollar amount.  I like to pick up yards here and there of fabrics I might not otherwise try to reach that minimum order.  One of those fabrics was this lovely embroidered organza.  There was exactly one yard left.

Now, together, they are just lovely!

I used two patterns - the skirt and sash from Vogue 8184 (Views DEF) and the bodice from Butterick 5351 (Views AB) - to piece together a dress using both fabrics.

I had to take in the bodice darts as I cut the fabric, but they were rather large and forgiving for this change.  To make the most of the scalloped edge, I placed the top of the front bodice and the bottoms of the skirt pieces along this finished edge.  I didn't have enough to also do this for the top of the back bodice, but I think it worked well design-wise.

Once the cutting was done, it was time to figure out the construction.  Because the organza was a heavier decorator fabric and very sheer, I couldn't just use the green satin as a lining.  Instead I sewed the pieces together along the dart lines and then made the darts through all thicknesses.  I basted the sides of the bodice and skirt pieces together.

I realized too late that it would be better for the green satin to hang below the organza scalloped edge along the hem, but I just added material to each skirt piece before sewing it together.  You can somewhat see the seam, but it is fairly well masked.  Besides, I'm hoping the dress wows you enough that you don't start looking for construction issues.  :D

My second time putting in an invisible zipper!  :D  I learned the technique using a regular zipper foot from this youtube video.  I need a lot more practice, but it gets the job done!  I've changed the slit construction since this photo, too...made it lapped instead of open.

I also added a plain green satin sash and beaded ribbon straps that bring out the champagne threads in the organza.  The white gold shoes are by Liz Baker from JCPenney.

It's not the cleanest construction I've ever done, but it worked and I was able to get the dress done in a weekend.  In case of disaster, Plan B was to make Vogue 8184 in all lime green satin, and I have enough fabric left over to do just that (someday).   Haaaa!

Oh, and seeing April's post reminded me.  Here's my machine...a vintage Singer 401A that belonged to my grandma.  She gave it to me when she upgraded to a modern machine and said while she didn't regret giving it to me since I used it so much, she never felt the same about her new one.

If it ever kicks the bucket and can't be repaired, I'll be hunting for another just like it.  :]

Boden USA inspired autumn outfit

by brae  

I haven't written here in so long mainly because minis took over my creative time again.  There just aren't enough hours in the day to pursue all my creative outlets.  :\

But, with the end of summer approaching, I feel the urge to sew again.  And, all the lovely fall catalogs showing up in my mailbox have loads of inspiration.

The new Boden USA fall catalog had this delicious outfit that instantly caught my eye.  I love the colors, patterns and textures.

Unfortunately, it is a little pricey for my budget:

Orange polka dot top - $78
Cable sweater - $118
Tan bouclé skirt - $118
Total - $314

Detail pictures of the items shown in the inspiration picture.

I love the inspiration picture, but several things about the items themselves don’t work for me.  The orange top has fantastic fabric, but I can tell the boxy cut will not flatter me at all.  The sweater has a crew neck which isn’t as ideal for me as a V-neck and it also looks boxy.  The skirt is lovely, but paying over $100 for a pencil skirt that would take me two hours to make offends my sensibilities.

For the top, I’m thinking a fitted tank in Amy Butler Lotus Full Moon cotton.

To me, it’s the orange polka dot fabric that really makes the look.  And, with a cardigan, I like a more fitted silhouette underneath.  I already have the fabric and several shirt patterns to choose from -- this one is Simplicity 2703 for example.  It has some pleated details at the neckline, too, so I could retain that detail of the original inspiration piece.

For the sweater, I found two options that will work well for color and texture.  Each will change the look of the outfit depending on which one I wear with it.  On the left is the Charter School V-neck cardigan from ModCloth at $35.  On the right is the Donegal Cable cardigan from Eddie Bauer at $68.

For the pencil skirt, I could buy beige bouclé, but I already have some lovely beige woven suiting fabric that is softer and more versatile.  I also have a basic pencil skirt pattern.  It might even be fun to punch up the feminity of the outfit with the Vogue 8317 bustle skirt I love so much.

Now to find the time to make it all come together.  :]

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