Pink Frosting Dress: Lekala 4282

Over a year ago, Tasia of Sewaholic wrote this brilliant post that instantly added two terms to the sewing blog lexicon: sewing cake, and sewing frosting.

Frosting is the fun stuff: the special occasion garments and garments made from that “OMG I have to make something out of that!” fabric that aren’t for a specific purpose or event.
Cake is the workhorse garment that you can wear to work, a party, or just running errands- the stuff that always looks good, and is never out of place.

Publix frosting..... droooool.....

I’ve always been a frosting kind of girl.  Even in the non-sewing world, if it were socially acceptable to eat the frosting, and leave the cake, I’d totally be down for that.

The same attitude applies to my sewing so much, I haven’t given much thought to how those labels fit my projects.  I figured I was firmly in the frosting camp, and that was just fine with me.

Take me home!!!

Nobody ever told me that sometimes frosting could also be cake.

I was browsing the bolts at my favorite fabric store some months back, when I found this fabric I couldn’t bear to leave without.  I honestly have never had such a strong reaction to a fabric.  I tried to talk myself out of it.
-Holographic rainbows?  Really?  This is too ridiculous, even for me.
-I know, but LOOK at it!!!  It’s practically begging me to buy it!  Maybe it’s so ridiculous it will be awesome- the way pugs are so ugly they’re cute
-Maybe, but awesome for what, exactly? And how do you even sew that?
-I don’t know.  I’ll figure it out.  It’s only $15/yard, and I get 20% off…
-So, if it doesn’t work, I guess we’ll only be out about $40…  Fine. Get it.  But this is probably the most ridiculous fabric you’ve ever bought including the USS Enterprise silk and the DC Metro Maps fabric you made on spoonflower- which you *still* haven’t used, by the way….
-YES!!!!  I can practically feel how excited this fabric is to have me take it home!!  This is the right decision.

So I bought the fabric, and I was happy.  I had no idea what pattern I was going to use for it, or how to even sew it, but it was a challenge I was excited to take on.

At the time, I was still head over heels for Lekala, I still am, but life has been busy, and I haven’t sewn or even planned a garment since this one, and that was over 4 months ago.  UGH!!!!  But anyway…..  Lekala 4282 was high on my “to sew” list because I thought it would be a good idea for my re-do of the matryoshka dress, so I decided this fabric would be a good opportunity to try that pattern out.

Before I even cut into the fabric, I had to figure this stuff out.  I knew there was no naturally occurring fiber to be found in it, and I cut out a test swatch to see how it would hold up in my normal laundry cycle.

It cut fairly easy, and didn’t fray too much, but I decided to zig-zag the edges before tossing it in the laundry.  It was then I got my first confirmation that this was going to be a tricky fabric to sew.

Sewing on the lengthwise grain was fine, but as soon as I turned the corner and started down the crosswise grain, it was a much bigger challenge.  First of all, the polyester fibers that give the fabric the purple color started pulling away from the plastic strands that are responsible for the shimmering rainbow effect.  Also?  Every so often, when my needle hit a rainbow strand in just the right/wrong way, I’d hear and feel that gut wrenching fabric snag sound.  It was very similar to the emotional feeling you get when you feel a run start in your pantyhose, and you have no nail polish with you, no spare pantyhose, and going without isn’t an option.  It’s a terrible feeling of dread, and all you can do is hope it doesn’t get worse and nobody notices.

I searched for some trick to sewing the fabric without disaster, and got some tips by asking on the pattern review message board .  I tried a few techniques that were suggested there, and underlining it seemed to work best to give it more stability without adding bulk.  I also decided to cut the bodice on the bias, since that seemed to help with the pulling issue (but not really the snag issue), and I figured that would help at the waist when the skirt attached to the bodice.  I also thought the lines of the rainbow strips would look extra awesome on the bias, so that was an added bonus.

It’s been over 4 months since this dress was completed, and the dress I made on a completely ridiculous whim, has become one of my most worn creations.  It became my go-to dress for several parties and events this past fall/winter.  I even wore it as a Halloween costume by slapping on some fairy wings and calling it done.  So, my take away here is not to shy away from the frosting.  Even if it seems too silly for the effort, you might be surprised by how often you look for an excuse to wear the end result.

On to more specifics of dress creation!
After I had decided on the pattern, I headed back to the fabric store to pick up a little more just in case, and it was then I realized this amazeballs fabric came in sparkly rainbows of every shade!  I decided to keep the purple in my stash for some other purpose because pink was obviously more “me”.  This fabric was so much fun to sew.  It was mesmerizing watching it go through the machine under the bright lights.  I couldn’t resist capturing the moment, and joked I was working on a dress to wear to the grocery store some random Tuesday at 10am- something I haven’t done yet, but maybe one day!  Why NOT wear this frosting dress grocery shopping?  I don’t need an excuse to enjoy my personal sense of style, questionable though it may be.

There were not too many issues with construction.  Bias cutting the bodice turned out to be a good idea, as snags were minimal.  The snags actually not nearly as big a deal as I feared they would be.  Not because they didn’t happen, but because they didn’t “grow” the way a run in pantyhose does and also because there is just too much to look at and process with this fabric that small snags just aren’t that noticeable in all that sparkle and awesome.

My negative issues with this dress (because I have yet to sew anything “perfect”) came down to style and fit.  Pleats at the bust just aren’t for me, unfortunately.  It’s also quite high waisted like the Tiana dress I made from a Lekala.  I even added length because I made a muslin of the bodice, but I either did not add enough, or that change didn’t make it into my final copy of the pattern.  I made a couple of fitting tweaks to the shoulders, which worked well.  This was related to Lekala user error in that I told them I had both broad shoulders and a broad back, when I actually have narrow shoulders and a broad back (I am still not sure how that works, But the Tiana dress bodice fit so well, and those were the parameters I used for that.
I think those shoulder/bodice tweaks are why I have that kind of “w” shape going on at the waist because that definitely wasn’t in the line drawing!  It’s something I would correct on a do-over, or maybe I’ll get around to fixing some other way in the future, but I didn’t hate it enough that it stopped me from wearing it in public 4 times in a 2 month period.

And the fit issues…  The back is just… not great.  Again, this is totally my fault.  I actually wore this dress before it was technically finished.  I hadn’t finished sewing down the bodice lining or done the hem, but I was completely out of time and options to go to a Halloween party.  Tim Gunn was seriously standing over my shoulder shouting “Miss Parayim!  Time is UP!  This is SO unprofessional!” and then I told him I’m actually an accountant, and this is supposed to be *fun* for me, and we were cool again.

But seriously, I wore it out unfinished, because it was a costume anyway, and I was totally swimming in the bodice.  I later measured 2″ of extra ease PER SIDE.  It felt awkward.  I was overly ambitious when I made the correction and should have double/triple checked that adjustment or done something more sloping and gradual rather than taking a straight 2″ from the entire side.  Around the armpits isn’t that bad, but go down a couple of inches, and things are starting to look tighter.  And since I was in a rush to wear this to another party, I just let this mistake ride.  Thank god for spanx (which probably don’t help as much as I imagine they do, but since I don’t ever look at my back, I don’t mind living with this fantasy).
In terms of deliberate design changes, I decided to gather the skirt instead of pleat it.  This was partly because it had been a while since I had done a gathered skirt, partly because gathering is faster for me than pleating, but mostly because I couldn’t make heads or tails of Lekala’s pleating marks or instructions for this, and I didn’t feel like doing the same type of box pleats like the Tiana dress.  I’ve written about Lekala’s pretty terrible sewing instructions before, but the good news is I’ve heard they recently hired someone to overhaul their English translated instructions, so maybe there is hope for the future.

I finished this dress on the inside by covering the waist seam in this cute Hello Kitty ribbon I had in my stash- because why not.  I covered the hem in a different Hello Kitty ribbon, but I neglected to take a picture of that.

So, that’s the story of my Lekala 4282 pink frosting dress.  It was pretty fun to make, and is lots of fun to wear, flaws and all.  I don’t think I’ll be making this again because the bodice pleats are not my cup of tea, but I still think it’s a cute design- it may be better for someone without such a *ahem* curvy silhouette.

Here’s a couple of extra pics:

So… Any guesses why I just had to have the pink version?  That headshot was a bathroom selfie from a Macklemore concert I went to with some friends.  As I was going into the venue, a woman stopped me to ask if I had gotten this dress at a thrift shop.  Ouch!  Turns out she was a reporter with a local publication and was doing a story about… people that go to his shows wearing stuff from the thrift shop? Because he has a song called Thrift Shop?  I don’t even know, but I guess my sewing skillz need improvement.  Then later that evening, some little girls asked to take a picture with me!  I felt like a cosplayer at a con for a moment, but it was nice!  Vindicated, a little bit!

P.S.  I have been making snuggie after snuggie since this dress.  First for winter holiday gifting, then for myself, my kids, and Mr. Parayim, and then for my new etsy shop.  I am kind of tired of it, though, so I’ve started listing some of my extra yardage on etsy too.  By taking a break from snuggies, I’ll free up time to allow me to focus more on the sewing I love- garments and costumes.  Hopefully I will get to post more about that in the next few weeks.


Panda Bear Picnic: Lekala 4276

I’m a week late to Fall for Cotton, but I did manage to finish up Lekala 4276 this past weekend.

The reasons for my delay are both good and bad.  Everything was going along just fine until I attached the skirt on September 27th.  I should have no trouble finishing by the 9/30 deadline, right?  Well…  Unfortunately for me, it was immediately apparent that this skirt was wayyyy too tight :(  I double checked my measurements against what I told Lekala my measurement’s were, and I am entirely to blame for this snafu.  I used the same measurements as for my Tiana dress, but either I measured wrong, or my body changed because my hips were a good 6cm larger than I had reported.  Not a huge amount, but when the skirt has so little ease, 1 cm seam allowance, and 3 seams to work with, it was apparent that no amount of seam tweaking was going to save this thing.  Fortunately, I had enough fabric to cut another skirt.  Unfortunately, in the quest to get this thing done in time, I just added .5″ to all seams except at the waist, which was fine.  This worked well to fit my hips.  It did not work so well for giving me a skirt that didn’t look like I was sporting saddlebags.  Fixing that issue took time and frustration, so I moved forward on this at a snails pace.  Also, the inside is ugly as shit as a result of all my guess and check work, so you will get pics of the outside only!

More bad news on the timing of this dress- the deadline fell right in the middle of a super busy time at work, and was one of the 4 weekends a year where I lose most of my weekend for work.  Womp womp womp….

Her name is Rarity, of course.

But wait! Didn’t I say there was a *good* reason for missing the fall for cotton deadline? I surely did! Possibly the most best reason!!! The same Friday of the skirt fitting disaster, I became a proud new mommy to this baby:

She’s a barely used Pfaff 4.2 that I got a pretty good deal on (I think). My husband and I were talking about a new machine for Chistmas, so I wasn’t at all expecting to get one that day, but I knew the barely used ones would be gone by then, so I high tailed it back to the dealer as soon as the expense was approved.

I love it so far.  It’s so quiet and fast, and I haven’t even had time to play with all the awesome features yet.  The invisible zipper foot is especially good.  It really curls up around the zipper teeth, so it feels like there is little to no chance of hitting them.  I always had to be oh so careful doing invisible zippers with my Brother CS6000i as things had a tendency to shift, and I’d get too close a good part of the time.

I am reminded why I hate collars. I need to tack that shit down.

This post isn’t (only) about my new machine, though, so here’s the details on the dress:
I really liked the design on the Lekala website, but I felt like I wanted to pull the contrast fabric into another part of the dress besides the collar.  Initially, I planned to do the midriff portion in that same fabric, but once I had the fabric all cut out, I started to doubt that plan.  The midriff was a bit wider (taller?) than I expected, and that felt like too much of the contrast.  I debated flat piping the seams, but decided that looked weird.  I wound up making a belt.  I apparently suck at making belts.  I’m glad I have the option to not wear it.

Construction and fit wise, this was not a difficult dress.  I was nervous about the keyhole part.  The instructions told me to cut the hole in fabric and lining, then sew it.  I decided this was a supremely bad idea.  Instead, I marked the stitch line around the hole,pinned it, sewed it, then cut it.  That worked just fine.

For the custom sizing of this Lekala, I went with “average” on the choices that affect bodice front dart placement, and I didn’t have the issue of darts being too low or too widely spaced like my other Lekala had.

I still had them give me the broad back adjustment, and that worked well, but it’s still a bit tight and has a very slight upper mid-back gap, so I probably would do well to add a little more back room in the future.

I think this dress is supposed to be more form fitting than the previous Lekala I made, but back wrinkles aren’t a good look even if it was still comfortable.

Lekala’s instructions for the kick pleat were a nightmare.  Frustrating because it’s a really neat detail.  Even more frustrating, I couldn’t find great instructions for it in any of the big 4 patterns in my stash.  Luckily for me, the geniuses at Threads magazine saw a need to tutorialize this technique last December, and they totally saved my kick pleat from becoming a vent.

The intended length of this skirt is also super short!  When I decided to re-cut the skirt, I took the opportunity to add 2″ to the length, and that hem is .5″ single folded up and covered with navy blue lace hem tape on the inside.  Maybe having that first skirt not fit was a blessing in disguise because otherwise I wouldn’t have had the chance to lengthen the skirt.

I think that’s about all I have to say about constructing this thing.  It’s a cute dress, but I’m reminded why I like full skirts in crimes against quilting cotton (wrinkles!!!  UGH!!! ), and if I make it again I’m going to do a proper hip adjustment and let out the back just a little bit.

Oh- and tack down that silly collar!


I don’t really like to go around sleeveless, anyway, and a cardigan conceals most of my issues/insecurities about this dress, though I’m ambivalent about the belt either way.


Finding Inspiration in Fabric and Patterns

There are as many ways to become inspired as there are things in the universe, but when I’m feeling especially directionless with my sewing, I generally gravitate towards 2 things to get my creative juices flowing:  Sewing patterns, and fabric.

The Big 4 (Vogue, Butterick, McCalls, and Simplicity) issue new patterns several times a year.  I am sure there is some sort of schedule to it…  I usually start checking daily when it seems like it’s been a while since new patterns came out, and then they are inevitably released the day I don’t check, and I have to find out from twitter or pattern review.
The independent companies aren’t quite as regular, which makes it even more of a treat when a new pattern debuts.  They usually like to tease us with twitter or blog posts leading up to it, so new pattern day is not as hard to miss!

This past round of releases hasn’t delivered many must-haves for me, but I will probably add Simplicity 1558 to my stash just for that skirt.  Simplicity 1553 is probably not something I’ll pick up, but did you see the hem of the skirt and list of notions? Battery operated micro fairy lights?  I didn’t know this was a thing, and it’s definitely got me curious.
McCalls 6891 is very interesting, and I’ve been turning it over in my head as an option for a costume if the corset  doesn’t pan out.
Then there’s Lekala.  I’m not sure how to classify this pattern company since it doesn’t really “feel” like an indie, but they aren’t like the big 4 (or their various underlings) either.  Maybe they deserve their own category.  Whatever they are, their 4282 pattern has me itching to do a matryoshka dress do-over like you wouldn’t believe.  Because I never really sold myself on that bodice I made.  Because despite pre-washing all my fabric, I got maybe 3 wears out of that dress before an unfortunate laundry accident caused the blue part to bleed all over the matryoshka part giving everything that was creme colored an off-putting and unintentional tinge of aqua.  4282 is the real reason I’m pushing onward with 4278…  Because I *need* to know if/how well this custom sizing system works before I blow another $2.18 and who knows how much time assembling another one of their blasted PDF patterns.

Which brings me to fabric:There are more online fabric stores than you can shake a stick at.  I dare you not to become inspired after spending time browsing, Mood, or Fabric Mart.  The fabrics you see made up into clothing at your favorite retailer are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s out there, and while I could tell you that I sew because I have a passion for fit, or sustainability, or to avoid supporting sweatshops- the main reason I wanted to learn, and the thing that keeps me inspired, is the fabric ~*~*~~*fabric*~*~*~ FAAAAABBBBRRRRIIIIIC!
Because I love my “hot dog dress” from modcloth, but what if I’m in the mood for a grilled cheese? And how else would I get a dress with roller skates all over it to wear to my favorite band’s show?

And sometimes you find a RTW dress where you love the fabric, but hate the design (and/or pricetag).  SEWING TO THE RESCUE!!!!

I found the fabric!  And this might be great for my matryoshka re-do (if it’s not too heavy….  that’s one of the risks with buying fabric online).
And so many others I could shop and sew forever….

Sewing room update!

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a new cutting table at Joann.  It was a good size, and looked a little sturdier than the other cutting table I had seen there.  And CUBBIES!!  I snapped a picture and sent it to my husband- because I’ve been wanting a better cutting table and more organized storage in my room, and this would kill 2 birds with 1 stone, for a pretty reasonable price (especially if I used a coupon or my Joann VIP card).

After talking it over, my husband and I agreed on a budget for sewing room furniture upgrades- I figured it would be enough for that table and a new fabric cabinet.  Awesome!
Then Brooke, over at Custom Style, showed me a picture of her completely amazing Ikea hacked cutting table, and I abandoned my original plan for something a little more extensive.

UntitledI’ve been browsing furniture online for a while.  There seems to be an abundance of ugly, expensive, and/or not optimal pieces out there, but since I had to go to Ikea anyway for 12 Lack side tables, I headed to their website and quickly targeted the Micke series of office furniture.  I really liked that these pieces are just under 20″ deep to help maximize room space.  The tables I had been using as desks were 24″, and I knew I wouldn’t miss those 4″.  I also liked the variety of desk widths, so I could mix and match a combination that would best fit my space and they would all coordinate with each other.

I broke out excel, and started playing around with different combinations and layouts of desks that would still allow for walking space around my Lack hack cutting table, which wound wind up measuring around 65″x 43″ in my 10’x 13′ formal dining room turned craft room.  I settled on 2 of the desks with integrated storage (yay! cubbies!) along the windowed wall of the room, and in the heat of the moment at IKEA, I decided a drawer unit would fit well on that same wall.

I ordered a new fabric cabinet from somewhere else, but I wish I had considered the Ikea armoires.  I figured their armoires were like my old one- with no peg holes to easily add shelving, but that is NOT the case.  If I had a do-over for that, I’d get something from there since their stuff seems sturdier and some of it is less expensive than what I ended up with, but the one I got isn’t bad, and is a big improvement on what was there before.

I spent most of the weekend building furniture and organizing. I even re-found some interesting things during my cleanout- maybe it’s time for a blog giveaway?

I really love how the room turned out.  Here are some “before” pics:

Sewing room "before" pictures

My old cutting table was a small Ikea dining table on bed risers, and my assortment of plastic drawers were pretty disorganized.

Sewing room "before" pictures

My sewing table and computer table were 2 plastic folding tables cornered against each other. I really hated the lack of drawers, and the folding mechanism took up too much room to put drawers underneath them.

Sewing room "before" pictures

Fabric cabinet of doom!!! This beast is nearly 45″ wide and 24″ deep, and no shelves, so that was pretty much as organized as it ever got. This thing felt like it took up half the room, so I had to move it out to make room for a larger cutting table.

And the “after” pictures:

New sewing room furniture 2013

The tables were pretty easy to put together, but stacking them securely was a bit tricky.  I tried to do 2 dowels per corner, like Brooke did (yes, another link- because I love it so much) for hers, but it. did. not. go. well.  I would up just doing 1 dowel, measuring 1″ by 1″ from the outermost corner to the center, and that worked pretty well.  I used 5/8″ dowels, which are a bit bigger than the ones that are standard with Ikea furniture.

New sewing room furniture 2013

I decided to put the drawer unit in between the desks. It’s on casters, so I can roll it out to access the back cubbies. YAY! CUBBIES!

New sewing room furniture 2013

The corner where the armoire used to be. Now I have wall space to freely acquire the last 4 months I need to have a complete set of Al Moore’s 1950 calendar girls.

New sewing room furniture 2013

The cubbies make great bookshelves, and accommodated my tallest and widest books without a problem. I hung my thread pegs to the side of the drawers for easy access.

New sewing room furniture 2013

I have a hook on the wall for when my ironing board isn’t in use. A toothbrush holder on the cutting table holds tracing wheel, seam ripper, seam gauge, and chopstick (for point turning), and little plastic baskets for colored pencils and pattern weights.

New sewing room furniture 2013

Just for fun- I keep my super special knick knacks on the window ledges. The Wizard of Oz snow globe was my Mother’s Day present from the kids this year. They are also responsible for the munchkin cards and stickers on the window.

New sewing room furniture 2013

Rarity supervises my sewing desk to make sure I do everything just right along with a solar dancing flower and a cast iron mermaid that turned out too small to be a bookend.














I hope you enjoyed the tour of my sewing space. I am super happy with how it turned out, but please don’t expect to see my room this “put together” in future pictures!
I guess I really have no excuse now to procrastinate working on my muslin for the craftsy fitting course!