Join me in my adventures as I write romance novels and sew vintage and contemporary fashion.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

30’s Dress ~ Chapter Four

The Sewing

The dress is progressing nicely, which makes me think that some disaster lurks on the horizon…but I’ll take smooth sewing for now.

According to the pattern primer, I’m supposed to make a narrow hem along the edges of the sleeves and the ties. My fabric is printed, so the back is much lighter than the front and since I happen to be the world’s worst bow-tier, I’m pretty certain a lot of rolled hem and lighter fabric is going to show. Therefore I decided to line the yoke using light weight black fabric. This gives the tie and the sleeves a more finished look when the underside flashes into view.

The plus side of this construction method is that it gives more structure to the yoke, and the backs of the ties look classier. The down side is that the sleeves also have more body, so they don’t exactly droop over the shoulders, but instead jut out at a perky angle. I've never been one for fussy sleeves, which made dressing during the 80s a challenge, but I think the trade off is worth it.

The bottom of the sleeve opening is finished with bias tape cut from the fashion fabric. (Obviously this photo was taken before I attached the sleeve-yoke-tie piece to the bodice.)

The pattern didn't offer the option of inserting a slide fastener (zipper) into the side opening. Instead bias tape is used to make an inner placket and then snaps and hooks are used as the closure. 

The only problem here is that I have a snap block. It’s similar to writer’s block. When I have to sew on a snap, I put it off, hoping someone else in the house will have mercy on me and sew it on for me. I don’t know why, but I believe it has something to do with vague memories—probably repressed—of me sewing on snaps with wads of thread when I was nine or ten. I believe I used so much thread that the snaps wouldn't close properly and I found this quite frustrating. I also tend to shoot snaps across the room when I’m trying to place them on the fabric. All in all, I'm not good with snaps, however...

I persevered and managed to sew snaps onto the placket. I put a hook at the waist and made my own thread catch, which I prefer to the metal loops.

As soon as the dress is hemmed, I’m done and it’s on to the 1940's suit. My fabric is supposed to be here next Tuesday—I gave in and ordered some linen rayon blend and I’m going to color block!

The Writing

After dealing with snaps, it's a pleasure to write, even if I've written everything that I know is going to happen and I'm still about 40,000 words short. Now I have two choices: 1) go back now and add all the stuff I've figured out, or 2) write brief scenes that will occur between where I am and the end of the book. I think I’m going with choice 2. Last time I did this, I ended up with a book that was so long that I had to cut 5,000 words during revisions. But I need to get this plot nailed down before going back and tweaking, or I’m not going to make deadline.  Deadlines move like speeding locomotives sometimes.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

We Interrupt This Dress…

The Sewing
I'm not finished with the 30's dress, but I'm quite excited to have joined a 1940s themed sew along with Lucky Lucille. This is my first ever sew along and the only requirement is that the project involve fashion from the1940s. The theme is Sew for Victory, so I'm taking this to mean that the project should reflect the war years. 

I have three 1940s patterns. I tend to gravitate more to the 30s and 50s--although I'm currently collecting 1970s coat patterns and 1960s A-line dress and matching coat patterns. Don't tell my husband. He thinks I'm staying off eBay. Anyway, of my three 1940s patterns, only one fits me. That would be the one on the far left, which is from 1947--after the war years and sewing for victory.

The center pattern is from 1945 and I believe that dress pattern on the right is from 1944.
I'm going to start with the suit on the left. It's hard to see, but the suit on the right is color blocked, and that seems like a lot of fun, but I happen to have fabric for the suit on the left. (Please forgive the glare on the photo--the pattern envelope is in rough shape and I'm leaving it in the sleeve until I start sewing.) The deadline to finish the project is March 31st, so I should be done in plenty of time.

The Writing
The writing went well today! I wrote 3,000 words and I'm not done yet. Finally on a roll. Here's what the outline of the next part of my story looks like on five 3x5 cards. I'm hoping to get 10K out of these plot points.
Hurray for note cards and actually knowing where I'm going with this bad boy!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

30’s Dress ~ Chapter Three

The Writing
I just received the cover of my June book, a cowboy romance set in Montana. It's the first of three connected books about a roping family in the Dillon/Butte area. The guy on this cover is the half brother of the guy I'm writing about now.

Getting a cover is one of the big thrills after turning in a book and having all the edits approved. My books are generally released 6-7 months after I finish the last official proofreading and during those months there are two things to look forward to: the cover reveal and the RT Book Review review. So here's the cover reveal:

The Sewing

I chose a black and white rayon challis for this project because I thought it looked appropriate to the period. I can see someone with marcel waves in her hair wearing it. That someone will not be me, because I once marceled my hair during high school, and it's a bit more work than I want to take on. I'm really bad with the curling iron. 

I knew I’d be matching patterns when I chose the fabric, but I hadn't expected it to be such a challenge. You see, rayon challis tends to do what it wants when it wants, shifting willy-nilly whenever  it gets the chance.  I love to wear challis, kind of hate working with it. You can imagine how much I like really slippery fabrics.

I trued up the fabric and cut my first bodice front (first, mind you—good thing I bought too much fabric) on the fold as I always do, but when I unfolded the piece I found that the while the vertical lines were true, the horizontal lines angled badly in a southerly direction.  

My solution was to do what my mom had taught me years ago (a procedure I thought a complete waste of time during my teen years) and cut out half of the bodice, keeping the center line directly on the center of the diamonds, and then carefully folding the cut piece over and matching it to the print on the other side. 

I also did this for the yoke and skirt pieces.  It took longer to cut out that garment than it did to iron and trace the pattern, but the lines are straight—nothing drifting south across the front of my bodice or skirt. Thanks, Mom.

To match the pattern of the yoke to the bodice, I folded and pinned down the seam allowance on the bodice and then matched it to the pattern on the fabric and placed pins to mark the location. 

Then I placed yoke pattern on the fabric, placing the bottom seam line along the pins. 
The scissors are pointing to the line of pins under the pattern tissue. 

The skirt inserts couldn't be matched to the skirt front because they hang on the bias, so I made the center seam true and let nature take its course. I hope it's a good course.

And that is my adventure in cutting. On to construction.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

30s Dress ~ Chapter Two

The Writing
This 30s flutter-sleeve dress is going together easier than I thought it would. Good thing, too, because I’ve been stalled out in my story, writing the same chapter over and over again. I know I should move on, but my gut is telling me that if I don’t set the relationship/conflict between the hero and heroine now—as opposed to going back and doctoring it—that it’ll cause me trouble later.

Every book is different and sometimes I’ve happily skipped huge chunks of the story to write a scene that defined the story. Not this story—probably because that scene has not yet fought its way into my brain. So I keep tapping away, hoping to key in on that magic bit of whatever that unlocks everything. I think I’m close.  The heroine, who is uber professional, just made a snarky comment to the hero, which has given both the hero and me something to think about.  Sometimes it just takes something like that to flesh a character out and make writing that character more intuitive. Hopefully when I wake up tomorrow and put fingers to keyboard, good things will happen.

The Sewing
Back to the dress.  The muslin went together well and it fits. Well, most of it fits. All right, the top fits. The skirt needs a bit of adjustment. 

(The top will be gathered before its attached to the skirt.)
You know...I remember when fitting a skirt wasn't quite so challenging.

I ripped out the side seams and gave myself ¼ inch on each side and now it fits. I have to remember to increase the center seam allowance of the inserts by an equal amount when I cut out the fashion fabric.

Several components of this dress are supposed to be top-stitched onto the underlying pieces. The skirt openings are top-stitched onto the inserts. Makes sense. 

The yoke is top-stitched onto the lower bodice.  Again, a logical approach. 

The bodice is gathered and then top-stitched to the skirt. I’m not doing that, because it sounds like a disaster in the making. I’m gathering the bodice and attaching it the way I always do—by putting right sides together and stitching.

So now that I know everything fits, I’m going to tackle cutting out the fashion fabric, which should prove interesting, because it’s a black and white geometric challis (stretchy bias, anyone?) and I’ll have to match the print. I can feel my OCD starting to kick into gear just thinking about it.

Stay tuned for the next chapter.

Monday, February 18, 2013

30s Dress ~ Chapter One

The Writing

I have a deadline. It’s five weeks away, but in that time I have to produce 75,000 usable words while teaching full time. Of course, this makes me want to sew.  Part of that desire is escapism, part is procrastination (I may as well be honest here) and part of it is needing to use another part of my brain while the story percolates.

When I was a newbie author, I thought writing would get easier after a few books, but it doesn't.  I’m working on book number sixteen and just hit a wall. Some people call this writer’s block. I call it “the deadline isn't close enough to panic my brain into breaking loose its secrets.”  Some may think, “But hey, you write romance. There's a formula, as in boy meets girl, etc…” Yes, but writing successful genre fiction is tricky because readers have set expectations and you have to meet them, while keeping the story fresh. Much, much easier said than done.  Sometimes it hurts my brain. That's when I start sewing. Then when I finish a tricky seam only to discover that I've sewn part of the facing into it, that's when I go back to the writing.

The Sewing

I've started my first 1930’s project using a pattern I bought on eBay for about $10--Simplicity 1690. The pattern envelope and directions are in bad shape. I’m nuts about saving old stuff, so I carefully unfolded the pattern pieces and ironed them  with a dry iron prior to tracing. I enjoy tracing the patterns. I do it freehand, even though I have all the required rulers and curves. I tidy things up later with the curves and straight edges if need be, but usually the lines are fine as drawn. I guess I've got a good eye and a steady hand.

The pattern tissue is in good shape considering the fact that it’s almost 80 years old. I encountered a couple of damaged pieces, but with the help of the pattern directions—or the Simplicity Primer, as it’s called—it was easy to figure out what the missing part looked like. One oddly shaped piece had been ripped in two, and the two pieces simply folded and put back in the envelope.  It makes me wonder about cellophane tape in the 1930s. It was during the Depression and things we take for granted, like cellophane tape,  may not have been so common. Or perhaps the seamstress had merely been out of tape. That's what I love about retro sewing—the history and the mystery.

My favorite part of this sewing adventure so far is the handmade newspaper pattern that was enclosed in the envelope. I think it was for a capelet of some kind. 

The newspaper gives me a general date—1936—a general locale—Sioux City, SD—and some interesting news headlines. For example, it was noted that DiMaggio had a bad day. My favorite part of this small glimpse of history is the ad for shoes…

I love the shoes. Especially the ones called “Women Educator Shoes”. I’m an educator by day, and these shoes would go beautifully with my new dress. Too bad I can’t get my hands on them.