Yet another version of the Moneta Dress by Colette Patterns. This one inspired by the fact that it does sometimes get rather chilly here in the winter time (or just whenever the sun decides it’s had enough of us). I tried two new things with this dress: lining the bodice and extending the skirt to make a maxi dress that would keep my legs warm on my walk into work. Useful lessons learned include actually lining the bodice with the same color fabric as used on the outside (I’m forever tucking the lining fabric in so it doesn’t show) and the fact that after lots of stretching during the cutting and sewing process, it’s best to wash your dress before finishing the bottom hem (the length of the dress decreased by at least an inch after I washed it, which, in this case, was a good thing). This is by far my favorite version of the Moneta dress, with the bodice lining making the top incredibly comfortable and the large skirt acting like a tent that I can curl up inside.
Despite relative radio silence, we have been busy making things, some of them more useful than others.
1) One of my goals for this year has been to sew oven mitts to replace the foam-shedding ones we’ve literally worn to pieces. Peter makes a lot of bread that requires handling some 450+ degree enameled cast iron on a bi-weekly basis, and, like any sane person, he likes to wear protection. Unfortunately, my oven mitt prototype, while very comfy for a small-handed individual, is like a straight-jacket for Peter. The overall design seems sound though, with extra reinforcement for the areas that I’ve noticed get the most wear in our commercial oven mitts (like the sneaky area between the hand and thumb that has led to both Peter and I accidentally burning ourselves while wearing what we thought were trustworthy oven mitts). The outside is denim from an old pair of Peter’s jeans and the inside is many layers of cotton knit from one of Peter’s old t-shirts. The entire oven mitt was stitched by hand, mostly because I didn’t want to subject my sewing machine to sewing so many layers of fabric together. Now if only I can motivate myself to do it all again in a larger size, twice!
2) After making a hand bag inspired by the Colette Cooper pattern, I’ve been hankering to make a larger version that could actually be used to carry more than my laptop (amazingly enough, my first Cooper-inspired hand bag does indeed just fit my lap top; I clearly should have done some measurements first!). This new bag is grey corduroy on the outside and an awesome child astronaut cotton print on the inside. I tried to make the pockets deeper this time so that they would actually hold things, but otherwise just followed the instructions for squaring the bottom of the bag as shown on the Cooper Sewalong. It’s intended purpose is for carrying around small articles of clothing and other odds and ends related to the third item on this list…
3) Which brings me to a project that has taken a full nine months to complete:
You may remember that I have a slight, err, problem, when it comes to Colette Sorbettos. The truth of it is, I haven’t gone clothes shopping for more than shoes, socks, and tights since I started sewing over a year ago now. And as the only shirt style I have tried to sew and actually liked wearing is the sorbetto, they now take up considerable real estate in the closet. What with a return to sewing separates in a multitude of mabels, it occurred to me that I finally have a good excuse for making a similar number of tops. That, and I was gifted the most lovely astronomy-themed fabric by my sewing friend Alicia. Seriously, this fabric is out of this world! (ehem, sorry about that) I’ve seen quite a few space or galaxy themed fabrics floating around the sewing blogosphere, but nothing that compares to the real thing… until now.
Unfortunately (for viewing purposes), I decided to use the darkest sections of the fabric for my newest sorbetto experiment, but you can still see the splatter of stars in what reminds me of an image of our very own Galaxy. Since the fabric is so light, I decided to make a looser fit sorbetto, sewing the pleat only at the top. I have a black tank top that I wear underneath to keep things PG.
If scientists had uniforms based on their area of research, mine would involve a whole dress made out of this fabric (for example this beauty here). But before you get too excited about a Galaxy dress, I should tell you that it isn’t happening any time soon. You see, this fabric was tricky to work with and is so sheer that I would have to line it, a skill with which I am still unacquainted. I was actually so frustrated with this fabric that I ended up finishing the neck and arm holes by hand, just so I wouldn’t have to make and attach bias tape.
One final note: I’m not the only person obsessed with sorbettos, for example see this, that, or the other.
After trekking across a dormant volcano in an elastic-waisted skirt that is very sadly past its prime, I knew I needed to make a replacement. Thankfully I am no more scared of altering patterns than I am of deviating from recipes, so I decided to try the Colette Zinnia skirt pattern with an elastic waist. The alteration was easy really, I just ignored the waistband and added 1-inch elastic to the top of the skirt pieces. The end result is both comfy and practical, sporting the hidden pockets I’ve come to rely on for hiding keys and my phone while I’m at work. I actually made this skirt ages ago, around the time I made my first Zinnia, but perhaps because I didn’t wear my hiking Zinnia much at first, I never posted pictures. Well, it is now one of my most worn pieces of clothing, perfect in hot weather with its light layers of cotton whipping in the breeze and equally perfect for cold weather with either tights or a Colette Mabel skirt layered underneath. The only thing I would change next time is to make the skirt less full. I didn’t sew the skirt to the elastic anywhere but the middle of the back (which I could only identify easily once I’d added a “tag”), so the fullness tends to migrate towards the skirt front.
It has taken me three versions of Mabel to get it right, but oh how right it is! Version 1 entailed stretchy denim and is officially the most bootilicious piece of clothing I will ever own. I thought about modeling it for you, but since I won’t even wear it outside, such a feat would take one too many margaritas. For version 2 I overcompensated and used a stretchier black ponte knit and increased the size by one; the skirt almost doesn’t stay up, and I’m at a loss for how to fix it without adding absurd amounts of bulk to the waist (not, I imagine, a flattering look). To be honest, I didn’t even finish hemming the bottom, not that it matters with knits. Finally, for version 3 I used the original size of the stretchy denim version, flared the skirt pattern pieces, and added extra length; it is dreamy! Soft, fluttery, and stays up while remaining work-appropriate. I used a soft cotton-poly mix in a cream color. Now I just need one in every color, or at least a color that isn’t partially see-through… Maybe with version 4 I’ll finally get it right!
Pros: the Mabel pattern is extremely forgiving. I’m too lazy to separately alter the front and back, so the pattern has exactly two pieces. Yes, it makes alterations (such as adding a full skirt) almost too easy. Next up might be a maxi length version for “winter” time.
Cons: for the love of all things sacred, why didn’t I add pockets? I realize that a mini skirt with hidden/invisible pockets doesn’t really work, but I was just being dense when I made the full skirted version without them. I am now reminded of my short sightedness every time I wear version 3 because I have nowhere to put my office keys during the day (this may not sound like such a hardship, but my office mates haven’t been in much lately, so the chance of locking myself out is distressingly high).
Next up, I will have to share my galaxy sorbetto, and yes, it is as awesome as it sounds!
I realize it’s been all sewing on the blog recently, but there’s a reason for that: in less than a week, Peter and I leave for Europe for work (me) and fun (mostly Peter), and as always happens when I’m about to leave for Europe, I realize that I desperately need more clothes. There’s nothing like the thought of wearing the same couple of outfits for a month (I tend to pack light and do laundry while traveling) to make one reevaluate whether your favorite pair of pants that’s starting to wear out will actually make it through the trip. Unfortunately I’m not yet enough of a sewing ninja to know how to make pants, so skirts and dresses it is.
After my first Moneta, I realized there were a couple important changes that needed to be made before I could feel truly comfortable wearing a Moneta out and about anywhere but laid-back California. First, the finishing work needed improvement so it didn’t look so, well, handmade. This was solved by my friend Alicia coming over for a sewing date this weekend and giving me a twin needle for my sewing machine. After a jaunt of googling, I was able to set up a second bobbin of thread in a cup and thread it through the machine like the top spool of thread. The result is two rows of evenly spaced stitches that are stretchy, since the bottom bobbin thread goes through both of them. It looks like the finishing you would get with a serger, and looks MUCH nicer than a zigzag stitch.
Second, I wanted to make a Moneta that was a bit more classy. This was solved by drafting a cowl neck onto the front bodice piece, based off of a shirt I already own with a front cowl neck. The effect is quite fetching, if I do say so myself. I tried it out with left-over brown knit fabric from the first Moneta and made a cowl neck tank top (the bottom panel on the back of the tank top was necessary because I didn’t have enough large pieces of fabric left!). After identifying a few mistakes with the cowl neck construction, I finally felt ready to cut into the super-soft organic cotton knit fabric I chose for my second Moneta.
As much as I have loved wearing my first Moneta, the second one wins in just about every category: it is more soft, drapes better, the cowl neck hangs perfectly all by itself (instead of me having to make sure the high neckline of my first Moneta hasn’t turned itself inside-out), the color goes better with my other clothes, and it looks so much more professionally done (not that there still aren’t problems, but most of them aren’t obvious to the casual observer). In fact, I like this second Moneta so much that I’m contemplating making a third one in a pretty pink/mauve color before my trip.
In other news, Peter and his dad bottled the syrah and zinfindel grape wines before I left for the East Coast, and Peter has started making sourdough bread using a different recipe and method that produces a perfectly crunchy golden crust.
Colette Patterns recently released two patterns for knit fabrics, the Moneta dress and the Mabel skirt. As I was on the East Coast and missing my sewing machine, I bought both of them. Let’s just say that sewing knits for the first time has been an interesting experience. While starting with the Mabel skirt would have probably been less traumatic, it calls for a stiffer knit fabric and all I had was the light and stretchy kind. So instead I dived head first into the madness of my first Moneta, learning some valuable lessons about taming stretchy fabric on the way. First the good parts. Oh my goodness knits are comfy! I have worn my
brown milk chocolate Moneta dress pretty much every other day since finishing it last weekend. The fit is also perfect because the fabric stretches, so there was absolutely no pattern-altering required. I did cut a medium at the bust and a large at the waist and hips, but that’s it!
Now for the not so good parts. I am a perfectionist when it comes to finishing edges nicely, even if no one but me will ever see them. Trying to do that without a serger seems to be nearly impossible, unless I roll over every edge, which is tricky to do on curved edges and adds questionable bulk to the bottom hem of the skirt. By pretending that this first Moneta would be a “wearable muslin”, I tried really hard not to care about ugly finished edges (e.g. see below for the horrid underside of the bottom seam). What actually bothered me even more though, was that I had to use a stitch that would stretch, so all the edges are finished with a zigzag stitch. If I had lined the top of the dress I could have gotten rid of all the zigzags on the top, but the bottom hem would have still bothered me. My friend Anna suggested using a figure 8 stitch and hemming the bottom of the dress by hand, but oh dear that sounds like it would take forever!
Things did improve once I realized that changing the size of zigzag stitch was crucial. The elastic I used to shir the skirt was almost ruined by using too small of a stitch, since it refused to fully contract again after sewing it to the skirt. I also learned the hard way that pulling the fabric while feeding it into the sewing machine resulted in stretched out edges, such as around the neck opening. However, pushing the fabric into the sewing machine resulted in bunched up seams, so there appears to be a narrow happy medium. This probably means I should follow the Colette instructions and get a twin needle or something sensible like that.
Despite the frustrations of sewing with knits on a standard sewing machine, I can’t help but love the result of a super-simple, soft and cozy dress that doesn’t take ages to fit or finish. In fact, my project this afternoon is to cut out fabric to sew another one!