On the Sidelines with a Sleeveless Skater

Me-Made-May, a celebration of self-stitchery and the daily donning thereof, is an event that I am wholeheartedly in support of. So, why am I not participating this year? Well, here’s the thing. . .

I decided a couple months ago that I probably wouldn’t take part in MMM14. I’m going through sort of a transitional time as I finish up one new job and prepare for another. Yep–that’s right! Starting in August I am teaching two new (one brand new, one new-to-me) classes in both middle and high school. Let the general insanity ensue! As I’m finishing up grading and lightly mourning for my departed seniors, I find myself also neck-deep in planning for a new writing class next year and the happy surprise addition of being the new yearbook adviser! This all just happened last week, and I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it.

So, while I’m happy to be free of the responsibility of daily outfit documentation, I’m also a little sad to be on the sidelines while everyone else proudly displays their lovely Me-Mades. I guess I am still following along in spirit since I wear things I’ve made almost every day. There are still considerable gaps in my closet, but doing this whole “Sewing a Wardrobe” thing has really helped me get ready every morning and–bonus!–be happy about what I’m wearing.

All that said, as promised, I do have something to show you today! It’s not the shift dress you’re expecting, but it is wardrobe worthy.

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I hesitate to call this a Lady Skater “mod” since all I did was go sleeveless. But, getting from the original plan to the final product was the sort of process that a mod typically induces.

So, here’s what happened. . .

Gaping armholes have always been a problem in my sewing life. Typically they require adding a dart and then rotating that dart into an existing dart which produces the scooped armhole that I need.

However, when working with a knit dress that has long¬†sleeves, it’s not really a problem. Until you notice it, that is.

I became very aware of the problem when I attempted to use the cap sleeve option on my red and white nautical flag Lady Skater. When I completed the sleeves and tried the dress on, something was very wrong.

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The sleeves were too, too big. Why? Because they were meant for armholes that were too big and the wrong shape for my shoulders.

Very poorly framed photo, but you can see the terrible sleeve on the right.

Very poorly framed photo, but you can see the terrible sleeve on the right.

Since I didn’t have enough fabric to cut out brand new sleeves, I had to improvise. The dress really looked more summer-appropriate than cold weather-friendly, so I decided to try going sleeveless.

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First, I had to cure the armhole gaping. The only thing for it was to cinch up the shoulder seam on the outside edge and add that armhole dart.

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I know. A dart in a knit. I know. It’s going to be okay.

But, you can see, it greatly improves the fit around the sleeves and bust. Well, the bust is a bit tight now, but that’s an easy future fix.

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Then, I cut a couple of bands to bind the armholes. First, I made them too wide, and they looked ridiculous. . .

Okay, you can't really tell in this picture, but the bands gaped at the bottom and it looked terrible.

Okay, you can’t really tell in this picture, but the bands gaped at the bottom and it looked terrible.

And then I got to rip those out and try again with a much narrower band. They looked much, much better.

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There were two reasons it took me forever to make this dress. 1. I was in shift-fitting hell. 2. Steam-a-Seam hasn’t gotten their act together yet and re-released their fusible tape. I always use Steam-a-Seam Lite to get a really nice, even hem on my knits, but several months ago they ceased production because they had run into a problem with. . . something I can’t remember. When I checked back in February to see how things were going, they were promising to re-release “soon.” Soon has not yet occurred.

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Well, not wanting to wait forever for the power to hem knits, I decided to try the Dritz version, Stitchwitchery.

. . .

I am not a fan.

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First, it’s fiddly. You have to use the wool heat setting and a damp press cloth (which, if you’re doing a hem of a full skirt means re-dampening your press cloth several times). Second, there’s no paper backing to allow you to press one side into place before fixing it to the other side of the fabric. Third, it doesn’t have the slightly tacky texture that keeps it in place before being ironed. Fourth, because it’s very lightweight and “floaty,” it easily slips out from underneath the hem you’ve attempted to perfectly fold encasing the stitchwitchery in between the layers and then gets fused to your press cloth (or worse, your iron.)

Altogether, I’ve become used to working with a much more user-friendly fusible tape. And I miss it and it needs to come back.

In spite of all those trials, I managed to create a decent hem which may or may not be even all the way round. I even attempted to use my twin needle. I didn’t have an extra spool of red thread, so I just used white. It’s whatever.

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Here’s the thing with twin needle hemming that I can’t get right: the tension. My bobbin thread never becomes the zig-zag that it’s supposed to. It’s always very easily pulled out. Even when I crank my tension up as high as it will go. I had better success this time with my Janome, but it’s still not perfect. And were this a fitted skirt, I would definitely have problems with the bobbin thread breaking.

In the end, I think we can all agree on one thing: This dress is finally done.

Outtake #1. Apparently, I wasn't aware there was one more picture to take.

Outtake #1. Apparently, I wasn’t aware there was one more picture to take.

I know I sound a bit sour, but I do like this dress. It’s only flaw, really, is that it’s too tight. And maybe the back waist is still too low.

I plan this summer to embark on a fitting journey to conquer the Lady Skater. I have quite a few legitimate mods in mind, and I need to start with a good fit. But, we’ll discuss Summer Sewing details in a future post.

If I never show up here again, it’s only because I’ve been shanked in a shady, back alley Steam-a-Seam Lite deal gone wrong.

Outtake #2. There was a wasp. I was worried.

Outtake #2. There was a wasp. I was worried.

Anybody doing Me-Made-May for the first time? How’s it going?

P.S. Raise your hand if you found the kitty ūüôā

The “Suck It, Fashionistas!” Peplum Top

We actually had snow here in Atlanta a couple weeks ago–so crazy! (And, as I’m writing this, we may be having some more this week.)

Winter Greens

I am very thankful to have made it home safely–lots of people were stranded. But still, it was refreshing to wake up that Wednesday morning to a free day at home and a fresh blanket of snow. So, I dashed out to take pictures in this rare phenomenon. Unfortunately, they’re all very hard to see.

To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of the peplum. They look nice enough on other people, but I have always felt pretty strongly that a peplum would look ridiculous on me.

And maybe they do. But I really like this top.

LS Peplum Front

Somewhere behind the scarf and the frigidness is a black peplum top.

I used leftovers from my color blocked skirt. Some pieces are cut on the cross grain which is why they fit tighter than they should and why the peplum flares more than it ought to.

Modifying the Lady Skater was very simple. All I had to do was shorten the skirt to peplum length.

LS Peplum Side

Because the peplum isn’t as weighty as a skirt (and because of the grain issues I mentioned before), I should have lengthened the waist just a bit. It’s not terrible, though. It would have been much worse if it had been too long.

LS Peplum Back

This top works with denim, of course. And the surprise is that I also like it with my red Moss. I’ve never really liked black and red together, but this works for me. I did try it with my color blocked skirt, and . . . no. Just no.

LS Peplum Red Skirt

Couldn’t handle the cold in a skirt.

Even though I really love dresses, I always find myself needing more separates, simple separates that aren’t hard to pair but aren’t too “plain Jane.”¬†This one fits the bill exactly.

What’s your favorite separates pattern right now?

The Every Day Lady Skater

When I think of a “skater dress,” I think of figure skating, not skateboarding.

When I think of my navy Lady Skater dress, I think “dress I want to wear every day. Every. Single. Day.”

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There’s not much to say about the construction. I chose not to follow some of the directions. Especially with the neckband. If you follow the directions, you sew one shoulder seam, then apply the neckband flat, and then sew the second shoulder seam. I chose to sew my neckband and then apply it in the round so there would be no visible seam allowance.

Different day, different look.

Different day, different look.

The one disappointment I have with this dress is that the waist is too low. I shortened the waist on paper before I started. Then, when I tried it on the first time, I had to scramble to shorten it again. It was quite the process. If you’ve ever attempted to unpick knits, you know my pain. In the end, the waist is still too low, particularly on the sides and the back.

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Why am I always looking down in pictures? Well, when I look at the camera, I’m either smirking or scowling. So, until I learn to smile properly, I’ll continue to stare at the ground.

Before I make this up again (because of course I will be making it again), I plan to try the dress on, mark where the waist should be, take it off, and then measure from the shoulders or arm holes to the waist so I know exactly how much to alter the pattern.

Boots

I did modify the skirt a bit. I wasn’t really going so much for the mullet hem to be trendy. I just wanted it to be shorter in the front, but I wanted to not worry about being too flashy in the back when I bend over to pick up things I inevitably drop (I’ve become super clumsy the past few years). I do like the look, though. The skirt is crooked because of my quick and dirty method of waist-shortening.

Lady Skater Skirt

So, yeah–if I could wear my Lady Skater every day, I totally would. On average, it gets worn about once a week.

Lady Skater Collage

I also have my first Archer to show you. This was the first project I made with my new sewing machine. The top stitching, therefore, is very crooked since I was still getting adjusted to the super-speedy pedal.

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There were a couple parts of the process that had me choking back tears of frustration. Primarily the trick you use to sew the collar stand to the button plackets. After watching the video at least 8 times, I finally figured out what I was supposed to do. The collar stand still doesn’t look great, but I’ll show more detail pictures when I talk about my other Archers.

Archer CuffsTwo other smallish things to point out: I whipped up this infinity scarf with a half-yard of jersey knit from Girl Charlee. I am really pleased with how it turned out. I read several tutorials and all of them require a lot more yardage. I ended up just ignoring them and using what I had. And it’s pretty much exactly what I wanted.

Infinity Scarf

And finally, I made these little bracelets with some scraps my sweet Quilting Friend gave me. It was just an experiment to see how I liked them, but I’ve ended up wearing them all the time! I want to make lots and lots more in all the colors. I sort of came up with the idea myself, but when looking for inspiration, I found my exact idea on LBG Studio. (They had the idea first, to be fair.)

Bracelets

The bracelets are out of focus for artistic purposes. Not because I don’t know what I’m doing.

 

I have two shirts and two skirts left in this first round of sewing. Although, I’m considering using my gray pin dot knit for another Lady Skater rather than a maxi skirt (which I can’t figure out how to wear like I imagine). I’m just wondering if the metallic will be a little over the top. I don’t know–the more I think about it, the more I love the idea.

Yep–I need a whole army of Lady Skaters, and if one happens to be a little blingy, SO MUCH THE BETTER.