19 July 2014

My 1950s Bathing Suit Part II: Review and Construction

I am going to do my best to give construction details here, seeing as I did most of the sewing on it years ago. The review will be about its general functionality, since I figure there are sewists out there curious about how well these suits actually work (hint: not too bad!) Also, forgive the dog hair in the close-ups.

Here you can see the deep darts I had to take opening out into the bloomers.

The boning placement seems bizarre, but works acceptably.

The rick rack was sandwiched between the lining and gingham, alas, the zipper was not.

Pattern: McCall 9705 ca. 1954 $4
Size: 12 Bust: 30", Waist: 25", Hip 33" altered to fit a Bust: 36", Waist: 39", Hip: 37"
Rating: 4/5
Fabric, etc.: 1 1/2 yds. gingham, 1 1/2 yds. white quilter's cotton for the lining, 1 1/4 yards fabric covered featherbone, 1 yd. 1/4" swimsuit elastic, 16" nylon zipper all from Joann Fabrics
Needle Size: #14 and #12
Cost: Don't know
Time: 4 years!
  • I did not use cotton jersey as recommended for the lining, I used quilter's cotton.
  • I also attached the bodice lining differently. I completed the lining and outer shell separate of each other, sewed them together at the elastic leg openings and then topstitched through all layers at the waist. Then I folded in the seam allowance at the top of each and hand sewed it shut. The instructions have you assemble it so that the bloomers lining is flat lined. You attach the bodice lining to the bodice (right sides together) at the top and center back seams and then turn it.
  • I did do the zipper as recommended, where it is exposed inside rather than have it sandwiched between the lining and the bodice, but I wouldn't recommend this, it is a bit scratchy.
  • When applying the boning, it was already pre-bent from being stored in a loop. You don't want to apply it with the curve  follwing your own body's curve because the ends will point out from you too much. It is counterintuitive, but you want to apply it opposite from your body's curve. This way it sort of fights a battle with the fabric and ends up hugging you in properly. My professor had told me that when I started this project and I'm glad I managed to hold on to that tidbit for so long. The boning, being from JoAnn's wasn't exactly top quality so it felt like it was already giving in to body heat after the photo shoot. I wouldn't necessarily run out and buy metal stays, but I might spring for something better if I continue to wear this and it bends too much.
  • All in all, I would totally recommend this to an intermediate sewist, maybe even an enthusiastic beginner who has a few projects under her belt already. The fit is not as hard to achieve as you might expect and it is nice that it doesn't require much yardage. It also solves the problem of not liking to be seen in something so exposing as a modern swimsuit.
Functionality: I was actually very surprised at how easy it was to swim in this. Perhaps it was the fact that you get a giant air bubble in your bloomers that counteracts any feeling of being weighed down by waterlogged fabric!
When you get out of the water, it is a different story. It is droopy, clingy and doesn't dry quickly. The worst is that the leg openings sag out, so I might tighten the elastic up. I would be curious to know if doing the lining out of jersey, as recommended, would have made any difference.

09 July 2014

Sewing Full Circle: My 1950s Bathing Suit Part I

Dear friends and readers, this swim suit has been a long time in the making. Four years to be exact. Here is the original post stating my intentions to make it from 2 January 2010. This was back when my blog was La Petite Costumiere, WWNDW? did not even exist yet!

Courtesy of The Vintage Pattern Wiki

It all started when I ordered McCall 9705 (ca. 1954) on Etsy for a whopping $4 on 15 May 2009. Thrilled to find this gem at such a great price, I failed to notice that it did not have the instructions. That problem was solved through my wonderful job at the time at the Commercial Pattern Archive. The director allowed me to photocopy the instructions from their copy.
I began sewing it sometime in spring of 2010 for my final project in Costume Construction class, due the 8th of April. My wonderful professor and mentor, David, recognized it as being inspired by Claire McCardell's "bubble" swim suits of the 1950s. It was something of a nightmare to start with since it was a size 12, bust 30" and at the time I measured 38" at the bust. I did a lot of rather uneducated widening of the pattern which would come back to haunt me later. Even after that the bodice wasn't big enough around so I added some panels at center back. If you look in the photos, you will notice they're not the same size and slightly crooked. This was a shame because everywhere else I worked very hard to make the gingham match up. Not being so good at time management, I pulled an all-nighter struggling with the zipper right through to the morning it was due. I finally got it in around 5 am and put it on...and the stitches holding the zipper in ripped clean out! It didn't fit at all.
I had a good cry and then got ready for class, prepared to accept a low grade with no zipper, bad fit, no boning attached and the top not even sewn shut. I got lucky that out project really ended up being more of a lesson to ourselves of our weak spots (procrastination, anyone?) rather than a strict grade on completeness and construction skill. Let's just say I was relieved that I wasn't the only one who didn't finish.
I really did intend to finish it, but then graduation rolled around and working several jobs to pay off debt and well, I just never got back to it. It sat in a bag for four years in a closet wherever I was living, waiting. I swear, over that 4 years I have gotten better about not procrastinating. Enough to finally finish the darn thing. I pulled it out about two weeks before we left for our Fourth of July vacation in Maine, deciding that I needed to finish it because that would be the perfect backdrop for the photoshoot.
As some of you know, I weighed quite a bit more in college than I do now, almost 20 lbs in fact. I assumed the fit would be okay, since before it had been too small. At some point I must have worked on it again because there was now a zipper in it. Not very well sewn in, as you'll see when I write the construction post. However, those two panels in the back now made it too big. When I put it on, it was the saddest sack ever and I almost gave up again! Then I thought, I'm being an idiot! I do alterations like this all the time at work! So instead I spent a grueling afternoon hand sewing in some very tricky hidden darts in the side seams. To my surprise, it finally fit. And it looked pretty cute, actually, Wonder Woman waistband and all. Another afternoon was devoted to hand sewing in the rick rack and closing up the top of the bodice with the top of the lining. Finally, during the drive to Maine I sewed in the boning.
It is finally finished. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

And in case you were wondering, here is an accurate photo of the colors!

27 May 2014

Completed: Lacy Mocc Socks

I tried really hard to take a vacation from "making" while here in Chicago because after my bustier project I was in need of a recharge. Well, that lasted a week and then I had James mail my sock project out to me! I needed something to get me through the daily commute. I'd tried journaling, but man, I really don't like writing, so I stopped doing that altogether.
I'd finished one, and hadn't yet started the next. I got down to work, but I was a little worried. You see, Lee gave me the yarn when she moved and it was split into two small skeins. I had no idea if it would be enough! The yarn itself is discontinued, and while there is some ravelry stash for sale, I didn't want to buy more of some yarn I got for free only to have more left over. The above photo is how much I had once I started the toe decreases.
Success! I had a very tiny ball left over. They're wool, and a little chunky so they'll be perfect with my stretched out moccasins come autumn. I also owe a big thank you to Clio for giving me "Hand-Knit Socks - Threads Selects", from which the pattern came. She's got me addicted to socks now!
Pattern: Women's Lacy Footlet by Kathleen Taylor
Size:Women's 7-8
Rating: 5/5
Needle Size: #2 dpns
Cost: $0 - STASHBUST!
Time: March 16-May 23 2014
Notes: This was a good challenging pattern. There are definite screw-ups in the lace, but I don't think you can really see them. The k3tog were hard with a heavier yarn than called for. I love the heel construction, I want to do flap and gussets forever!

22 May 2014

Class Review: Bra Sewing with Sharon Butler

It would seem that fate had brought together a certain group of sewing ladies to one of Jennifer's Crafty Happy Hours. By the end of the evening, most of us had happily agreed to be Sharon Butler's guinea pigs for a bra class she would be teaching. I had found the idea of bra sewing interesting, but the cost of materials and the very high failure factor I'd read about on others' blogs had turned me off of the idea. 
We all met for two sessions at Workroom Social, and how charming it was! Jennifer has created a delightful space full of light, flowers, sewing machines and a coffee/tea station. It may just be my new ideal for a sewing space!

The first session was spent figuring out what size we would be sewing. Sharon is very professional but also very funny during fittings, which I think is the perfect mix. I've developed an indifference to nudity in my line of work, but I think her approach would be great for someone who was uncomfortable in such a situation. You remove your upper clothes and wear a piece of silk for modesty. She has a mock-up of every cup size and an underwire in every size as well and tries them on you to figure out size. This alone saved us the hassle and cost of bra muslining that has left so many disappointed.
The next session we got down to the nitty gritty of sewing! Sharon was trained under Beverly Johnson, so she uses her method and the Pin-Up Girls Pattern which you can check out at Bra Makers Supply. The class came with the pattern and enough supplies to make two bras.
Sharon and Clio of Clio and Phineas

In the allotted time, we didn't get to finish sewing our bras, but we got far enough along that we could pin on straps and a hook and eye band in order to do our final fittings. To go a little off topic - I was really excited to learn that I was a model of bosom perfection, meaning they're essentially the same size, don't point in odd directions, the fullness was evenly distributed, etc. Normally I have to alter patterns a lot to get a good fit because the rest of me is not close to the ideal. I'm sure my fellow sewists will forgive me a little bragging on that front!
Sharon and Nicole of Bold Goods 
That's not to say I didn't need any alterations - we did take one big dart out of the cup which you can see below in my take home goodie bag - but Sharon said in this edition of the pattern that she'd been seeing that same alteration a lot. And yes, it is what one would consider a "granny-bra" but she showed us Beverly Johnson's book which shows you how to convert the basic pattern into many other styles. I like lace bras for dealing with summer heat, so I'm hoping to create one from this.

In conclusion: Will I pursue more bra-sewing anytime soon? I'm not sure. I'm not a difficult bra size to buy, and I can walk into a Victoria's Secret and usually find a well-fitting bra in my size (the hardest part is finding one without push-up factor) for around $40 which is cheaper than making one myself. On the other hand, someday I would like something beautiful, more akin to a La Perla bra, which I can't afford. So if I ever get around to it I think that is the sort of bra that would motivate me.
As far as the class goes, if you are at all interested in bra-sewing I cannot recommend it enough! This is one of the few things that it is just better to learn how to sew it from someone else, especially if that person is Sharon!
The final product (my dress form has no bosom, so no judging fit on it here):

14 May 2014

Leather 101 at Chicago School of Shoe Making

I am going to try to get my post about the bra-making class I took up this week, but I wanted to get this one up while everything was fresh in my mind. I knew after reading about the Leather 101 class that Meg took at the Chicago School of Shoemaking that I had to take one during my stay.
It was really fun, I can't wait to buy my own set of tools and some leather and work on more projects at home. Tandy Leather sells lots of starter kits but I've also seen some on Ebay and I've started a pinterest board of my future leather crafting library.

This is all intended to be constructive criticism. I feel bad being critical, but I've taught classes before and this class just didn't have the organization to make it run as smoothly as it could. I've also worked professionally in costume and paint shops and know just how far things like giving your tools a permanent home and having a labeling system can improve efficiency, especially when you have new people in the space. On the other hand, I would absolutely go take another class with them, and you can't get a better recommendation than that. I just want people considering the class to know what to expect.
We learned cutting techniques, marking, gluing, punching holes and how to set rivets and snaps. Everyone made a clutch except for one woman who made a very nice belt. You also had the option to make a leather cuff. The belt was the first project done - the clutches involved a lot more rivets so they took longer. I think a cuff would have been the fastest project because the belt involved a lot of gluing. I knew pretty much what design I wanted to make so I finished my project only about ten minutes past the end of class, but I did have to rush on some of my rivets. Some people were not even close to being finished when the class time ended. I didn't get to put the wrist-strap on my bag like I was hoping for but at least I have a bag that closes!
Megan and I had different teachers, so I'm sure that makes something of a difference, but we also found that we generally had some of the same issues with the class. My impression of the class is that it was really great and friendly for beginners and the teachers were awesome, but there wasn't enough time or tools for everyone. An extra hour would really help since we even had an extra teacher hanging out and assisting us. If you do take the class, show up early and bring a notepad! That way you have time to think about your design and you can sketch it out. You can also look at the examples on their facebook page and come in with your design ready.  
The teacher explained that the school has two classrooms and that teachers frequently take supplies from the room we were in and don't bring them back, but that she didn't have a key to that room. That meant there was no pattern making paper, so only one girl got to alter a pattern because they found a scrap for her to use. Another woman wanted to make a brown bag, but they had no brown leather in the weight we were using. I could understand not having an unusual color, but neutrals should always be well stocked. Then there weren't enough of the larger size bronze rivets, so I got stuck using smaller ones. Megan's class had a run on silver ones. Not the end of the world, but still a bummer. The same sort of thing happened when it came to applying rivets and snaps - there were only two anvils to use so you ended up having to wait and when you only have two hours that's frustrating.
Thank goodness we also had the extra teacher, because I ended up asking him most of my questions. With six people, the teacher's attention was very divided. They had some worksheets about how to set snaps and rivets but poster size versions at the station where you did it would have been great too so if you forgot a step you didn't have to go find the paper and wait for someone else to be done with it. A set place like a few wall shelves with all the tools, labeled, would also have been a huge help. I kept having to run around trying to find the rivet setter because it didn't have an obvious home so people were just setting it down any old place.
Not to be a total negative nelly, I also have some compliments to pay. The teachers were extremely kind and patient. They knew their craft well and did a good job of explaining processes. You were allowed to alter your pattern within reason and weren't made to feel limited in your creativity, which I love. Nobody likes a class where everyone has to make the same thing exactly the same way and you all end up with a clone project. Megan and I both agreed that you come away feeling confident and excited about what you've learned, enough to either take a more advanced class or pursue projects on your own. There is nothing better than having your students feel that way.
That said, here's my fabulous clutch. You can bet I'll be flaunting this beauty at all those New York brunches!

Folks Serv