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.

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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.

Patterns:
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 Fabric.com, 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….

Sewaholic Cambie: The Enterprise Dress

UntitledIt’s been a month since my last completed project post, but I’ve been busy! I’ve been working away at my version of the Sewaholic Cambie dress. I decided a while back that the a-line version without the sweetheart neckline (thanks to the handy dandy tutorial on Tasia’s blog) would be perfect for my favorite fabric.

I finished the dress over a week ago- just in time to debut it at the super awesome fun time that was Play On Con. So, while I usually have tried to post my projects within a day or 2 of completion, I am doing this a little late because I had a lot of sleep to catch up on.

I love the shape of this dress. The A line has a little bit of a late 1960’s feel, but is not so obviously retro. I like that there is a little flare still in the skirt. It doesn’t feel as sultry bombshell as a straight or pencil skirt, but it’s much more tailored than a fuller gathered or pleated skirt, and I only had about 2 yards of the fabric, so I wouldn’t have had enough for that anyway. I think it’s a good balance between the two, and just right for showcasing a large scale, busy print.

The main fabric is silk, and is probably the softest, floatiest fabric I have worked with so far. I’m glad I did some test stitches on scraps because I very quickly discovered my feed dogs were hungry, and they think silk is delicious! To avoid disaster, I pinned a strip of tissue paper to the feed dog side of every seam before I sewed it. It was a pain, but it worked. I also reduced my stitch length to 1.6 (my machine default is 2.5). I thought puckers might be an issue, but that was fine. I noticed in my test scrap that the seams with a longer stitch length were pulling at the fabric, and I could see the holes where needle and thread had gone. Shortening the stitch length helped prevent this from happening, and kept the seam together and strong.

UntitledI tried to be soooo careful in laying out this pattern. I even made myself a chart of each piece of the garment, and where the enterprise would wind up- left or right, top or bottom. But I must have had the pattern piece for the skirt back wrong side up when I went to cut it because I ended up with 2 enterprises on the same side in the back. Oops! It doesn’t bother me too much- especially since I don’t look at my own back, but I was kind of annoyed when I discovered the mistake.

The back of this dress ended up being a little bit tight, but nothing some spanx couldn’t make better. I’m not exactly sure why that happened. I muslined the dress 3 times, and it seemed like it would be OK, but I wound up having to take it in at the neckline, and maybe I got a little over eager at that point. Or maybe the zipper in my muslins wasn’t placed well. Or maybe I gained 5 lbs in between starting and finishing this dress. Who knows. I really like the pattern, and I’m not too disappointed with the fit, but I will definitely be re-mulslining it if/when I make it again, and will probably add a side dart and a real FBA instead of only monkeying with the back and side seams, which is what I did here.

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I lined the dress in a quilting cotton I found at Jo-Ann. I didn’t plan to line it in quilting cotton, but when I saw the print, how could I not? I wanted something breathable since I’d be wearing this at “Nerd Camp”, and while a lawn or voile would have probably been softer and more drapey, the cotton did the job of ensuring against transparency, keeping me from sweating, and providing some support to the bodice. Also- ENTERPRISE!

You can see in the final muslin/lining fit photo there’s some gaping around the neck area. I thought this might be self correcting once I attached it to the silk, and wasn’t looking at seam allowances, but no such luck. Doing the fix at that point in the project was definitely not ideal, and another reason for a new muslin next time.

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I finished off the hem with piping I’d made from leftovers of the sleeve and pocket fabric, and I covered up the ugly with this sparkly blue trim. I’m a sucker for the sparkly. I look for excuses to work it in. That contrast fabric has a little bit too.
I originally thought about using the piping around the neckline, to make a clean, sharp, seam with that floaty silk, but it was suggested I understitch it instead, and that worked just fine. I’m glad I didn’t use the piping there because it does add a little bulk, and I made sure I packed my trusty iron for the con to de-wonk the hem before heading out, and that helped.

Sewing the dress was a good experience. I sewed a fabric I had never worked with before, and while it isn’t perfect, I don’t regret it. I feel like I learn something new with every project, and this was definitely no exception! I didn’t even get into the genius way the invisible zip is installed, but I know I’ll be using that technique in the future.
I really like the pattern, and I think I will definitely make it again!

This post is part of a blog share with parentwin.com– an awesome blog about parenting, current events, crafts, and more!

A trip to New Orleans and fitting progress

When we last left off,  I was in the middle of Lynda Maynard’s Sew the Perfect Fit, and dragging my way through it whining about wanting to make something wearable.

3 weeks later, and not much has changed. I’m coming off the busiest period of the month at work, which was preceded by a 3 day work trip to New Orleans. I was able to work on the muslin again last night for the first time in 2 weeks, and I feel like I’m making good progress. I’m in the middle of cutting out my 3rd (final? If I’m lucky) bodice muslin, but ran out of muslin (gee, that sounds awkward), so that will have to wait.  I might be able to call it done this weekend.

While my trip to New Orleans was  mostly work related, I did have time to find my way down to the apparel fashion fabric shop, Promenade Fine Fabrics. I’ve made a habit of Googling for local fabric shops whenever I’m going to be away from my home turf, and New Orleans did not disappoint.  Lucky for you all, twilltape made a trip and great post about this shop just a couple of weeks before I was there, and I think she described it (and photographed it), better than I ever could, so I must go on and just share my finds!

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First, this beautiful cotton lawn. It’s a blush pink, with an Asian inspired toile print. It feels so delicate and airy, and although I usually go for bolder colors, I just couldn’t leave it. I imagine making something full skirted and breezy that will be beautiful and cool in the hot Atlanta summer that needs to hurry up and get here already!!!
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Some detail of one of the toile motifs. I was so taken by the texture of this fabric, I didn’t even examine what was in the toile images until I photographed it. It’s a cream on pink, so it’s pretty subtle if you aren’t looking closely.
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With my hand underneath to give an idea of the sheerness. I think I will underline it with something peachy. It’s kind of in between a peach and a bubblegum pink, and I don’t want to push it closer to bubblegum.
The other fabric I picked up doesn’t really jive with my lack of photography skills + cell phone camera, but here we go anyway:
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It’s hard to capture the color for some reason, but what’s coming up as gold, is really a lighter green. The first picture probably comes closest to real life colors.

The guy that helped me out was pretty awesome. He had left law school to come back to the family business, and he was a lot of fun to talk to and very helpful. When I picked out the lace, he asked if I was planning to line it. I said “Well, of course!  Otherwise I’d be indecent!”  And without missing a beat, he said “Yeah- If you had said no, I’d have to come to Atlanta to see that!”  hahaha!  It’s been a while since a random guy has said something cheeky to me, so I bought 4 yards. Thanks for the ego boost, Promenade fabrics!