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.

I’m No Martha Stewart

I’ve been neglecting my blog reading (and writing) lately, but I managed to log into my reader today to find this excellent post by Suzannah of Adventures in Dressmaking.

Apparently, Martha Stewart said something kind of crappy about bloggers earlier this week:

“I do have a minor gripe about that, too, because who are these bloggers? They’re not trained editors and writers at Vogue magazine. I mean, there are bloggers writing recipes that aren’t tested, that aren’t necessarily very good or are copies of everything that really good editors have created and done. Bloggers create kind of a popularity. But they are not the experts and we have to understand that.”

I have a confession, y’all.  I’m no Martha Stewart.  You are advised to use extreme caution before attempting a recipe from my kitchen.  I’m not crafty- I think most crafts are actually kind of pointless, and 2 years ago I couldn’t thread my sewing machine or wind a bobbin without consulting the manual.  I earn my living working in a profession where “creativity” is usually rewarded with jail time, and my sense of style is so terrible I had to learn to sew because stores don’t sell the ridiculous things I wanted to wear.  Not even Mod Cloth.
So, if you came here expecting Vogue or Southern Living or Martha Stewart, Google really really failed you this time.

The thing is, I like bloggers for exactly the same reason she apparently dislikes them. They AREN’T experts! They are often people like me, that have no degree or professional cred behind their hobby. They are trying to juggle working a full time job, raising a family, and finding time to finish a project. They are sharing their pitfalls so the rest of us can learn from their experience.  They are showing off their successes, so we can be inspired to try something new. Because if a blogger can rock that pattern, despite her lack of accredited expertise, maybe I can too!
I have never religiously followed Martha, but I used to watch her tv show and think “she makes it look so easy, but I’m sure it would be a disaster if I tried it. I’m no Martha Stewart.”
Bloggers make these projects attainable. They often show what the tricky part is, what went wrong, and how they fixed it. They give us the courage to walk into the craft store, buy the Martha Stewart brand crafting supplies, and try it on our own.
Nope.  There are no experts or crafty people here.  Just me, inexpertly flailing through my sewing projects.  If you were looking for Martha Stewart, she’s on aisle 10 at Joann.  Go have fun, but don’t tell the internet about it…

I’m sharing this post over at parentwin.com, where you can find more posts to piss off Martha from amature chefs, crafters without art degrees, and even articles about feminism from people without women’s study degrees (I’m pretty sure they have vaginas, but I have not personally verified that).

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….

finding sewing’s lost generation

I’m part of a blog share with my friend Darlena at Parentwin.com.  This is my first post as part of her “craft central” section.  You should check her out if you’re interested in a great blog about parenting, current events, recipes, and more!

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the lack of people my age who sew (awesome people in blog land aside). It struck me at sewing expo last month that #1 I was probably a good 15+ years below the average age of the other expo attendees and #2 garment sewers were clearly in the minority.

The fact is, I believe a basic knowledge of sewing and garment construction are important life skills, admittedly these are skills I am only beginning to acquire.
I think the lack of young adults that are able to sew on a button, hem a skirt, or even construct a garment has contributed to our disposable clothing culture and all the problems associated with that in terms of the environment, human rights, personal finances, and even personal sense of style/self image.
Besides all those heavy reasons, garment sewing is fun. It’s extremely liberating to know I can choose a fabric and pattern and put them together to create something that nobody else has, and was exactly what I wanted.

We could probably spend a lot of time analyzing the various reasons for the decline of at home garment construction- home ec no longer being required in school, cheap clothing from Old Navy, lack of exposure to everyday sewing (to name a few), but that’s not a topic I’m looking to dig into today, and I have a feeling I’d be preaching to the choir anyway.

The thing that interests me, is what happens from here.  What small thing can I do to get my daughters thinking about what’s involved with creating the clothes in their closets?
Of course they see me working in the sewing room, but seeing is very different from doing. I could sit my older daughter down at the machine and walk her through the basics, but she’s only 8, and I’ve only been sewing for a year.  Sewing hasn’t been part of her background, and I don’t want her to get discouraged when she sits down at a machine and a dress doesn’t magically appear 2 days later.  I want her to know what to expect of the process before she makes that first stitch.  Even if my daughters never want to learn, I want them to understand how their clothing came to be.  It’s not something I gave much thought to before I started sewing, but this is not at all an automated process.  Everything you wear represents time and effort that someone spent at a cutting table, a sewing machine, or a serger.  In the long term, I hope that I’m teaching my daughters to be empathetic, good global citizens, and conscious consumers.  In the short term, maybe they’ll appreciate their clothes more and not leave them in a pile on the floor.

Since this has been on my mind, when my 8 year old daughter came home with a paper doll and an assignment to dress up the doll to represent my child’s heritage, I immediately saw an opportunity to start getting my point across.
“Would you like to raid my fabric scraps to use on the project?”  You would have thought I was offering her tickets to One Direction, she was that excited.

To be continued…..