Have you ever had the experience of thinking something looked awesome in person and when you saw a picture of it later, you said, “Hmmmmmmmm…that didn’t turn out like I expected.” This happened to me with our last post. I was all excited about finishing the post, I hit “publish” and went to bed. In the morning I looked at it again and went “Hmmmmmmm……” There were two reasons for this response. One, I wasn’t thrilled with the picture of the sweater dress. When I wrote the post the dress was right in front of me. I was totally in love with it. When I looked at the picture later, I thought it looked…not right. A little frumpy. By the way, this mature measured response I am currently writing is a total lie. What I really thought was “AHHHGG!!! Was I insane last night? Why did I post THAT picture?? It’s Uhhhhh-gly. I am never going to blog again!!!” I also had visions of you all rolling your eyes in disdain and snorting “She calls that cute??? Listen blogger-girl, don’t waste my time with your silly versions of cute” This, my dear friends, is what I really thought. However, the real version is embarrassing, overly-dramatic AND bordering on the edge of hysterical. It’s the part of oneself you can only share with your trusted friends. So, beyond our group, let’s pretend like it never happen, okay? Good.
The other reason I had Blogger’s remorse is no matter how many times I edit, I find errors later. On the first post I called Marcy Tilton “March Tilton”. On the last post I called the lapped collar a “napped” collar. These are slips of the fingers that auto-correct does not correct. When I was a principal I ALWAYS had someone in the office proof read my Principal Newsletters. Dana Sproul, Tracy Ware, Celeste Hamilton, Leti Newton and Deanna Faulkner were my lifesavers. Because nothing is worse than finding out that the person in charge of your child’s school can’t spell or punctuate. It provokes outraged responses—often with attached corrections written in red ink. Now, sadly, I am on my own. However, I think this problem could become a fun little game for us. We will call it the “Find Kristi’s Mistakes” game. Each post you and I know there are going to be mistakes. For sure one, possibly more. You can look for them!!!! Wont that be fun. 🙂
It’s my own fault, you know. I pick a “Word-of-The-Year” each January and this year the word is LEARN. What was I thinking??? Learning and mistakes are like best friends. They go everywhere together and are a package deal. We start to learn something, make mistakes, stumble, self-correct, stumble again, and repeat the process until we find our feet. After a while, we don’t stumble anymore–we dance!!! Then it gets easy, we get a little bored, we tackle something new and the process starts ALL OVER AGAIN. Whew, what a party.
I thought about writing “mistakes are our friends” but how true is that? We tend to like our friends. We don’t really like mistakes. We certainly don’t invite them to our Birthday parties. So what are they? Oh wait!!! I know!!! Mistakes are like our cousins, or maybe our second cousins. They are the relatives that are loud, obnoxious, totally inappropriate and who never wait for an invitation. They just show up, usually at the worst possible moments. They love you, humiliate you in public and are part of your life. That is what mistakes are.
Dinner and a Movie or the Silk-and-Velvet Transformer. Since our second date is in two parts, I thought it should be a “dinner and a movie” date. The first half, which was the Cozy-Comfy Sweater Dress Make was dinner. Now this second half has to be the movie. Hmmmm, what kind of movie is it? Well, it needs to be a movie that has been remade at least once and it should be one that got better with time. I’ve got it!! We are going to combine two great movies: The Great Gatsby AND the Transformers. Let me explain.
1920’s chic. I found this piece at a thriftstore. I think it was from the Salvation Army in Roseburg. It was a top by Chicos, size 3 and made out of rayon and silk velvet. The velvet is often referred to as burned out. “Burn out” is actually a process of treating fabric called “devore”. I love this term because is means ” to devour”. Chemicals are applied to the velvet and they dissolve parts of the cellulose fibers , leaving it transparent, semi-transparent and solid all in one design . Don’t you think it is tremendously “chic” of us to be wearing “devoured velvet”. Really fits with the Great Gatsby vibe. Also, the cut of the top reminds me of the Art Deco dresses from the 1920’s; loose, not much of a waist, swishy and fun to wear. Since we are entering the 2020’s I thought the whole Gatsby look would be a nice homage to our new decade.
The top is oversized so I wondered if it could be maneuvered around to do more than one thing. That takes us to our second movie. Did your kids ever play with Transformers? My boys had a slew of them. Transformers and Power Rangers ruled our home. Transformers where these hunks of plastic that could be turned and twisted into different shapes. One minute it was a semi truck rolling across the kitchen, next it was a flying robot called Optimus Prime who led a hardy band of Autobots against evil Decepticons who were up to no good. I wanted this outfit to do that. Transform itself into different shapes and fight against universal evil. It’s not too much to ask is it?
Now that you have the overall concept, let me break the remaking down into stages. First I added lace. This was pretty straightforward. Lace around the bottom, lace around the sleeves and lace around the collar. I used a medium zigzag stitch because I thought it would hold better and because I am in love with zigzag. But I’ll save that for a later post.
After applying the lace I put the piece on my mannequin and stared at it for a while. The sweater dress make (dinner) had been pretty straight forward so I wanted to frou-frou this piece up a little (you know, get extra butter on the popcorn.) What to do?
Maybe something cool on the back? I pulled out some patches and appliques I had left from a trip to New York with my Sewing Sister. (Yep, we went to the New York Fabric district. It was AWESOME!!! Next time I go I promise to take you with me!) I placed the pieces individually, in pairs and in whatever combination I could think of on the back of the Transformer. Meh. Nothing struck me as “quite right.” And then I had an epiphany.
Rekindling an old Affair. Remember when I was trying to decide what kind of fabric to use in the sweater dress pockets? (By the way, the pockets get softer and silkier every time I wash them!). Remember how I callously disregarded the black stretch velvet? It looked PERFECT against this piece. I knew I was going to use it. I stuck it in the project basket for later.
Once I knew what to do on the back I turned to the front. How did I want to wear it? I thought for a while, put it on, walked around the house, stood on a stool in front of the living room mirror, pet the Blog Dogs and then I knew. You could wear this piece three ways. First, open as a jacket or duster,. Second, closed as a tunic or shirt dress (with or without a belt). Third, if you pulled the middle over to the side seam, it could be a faux wrap dress. Eureeka! It was a 3-in-one-transformer!!!
Options. I had a few decisions to make. First, did I want pockets? I thought seriously about pockets but I decided they would get in the way of the wrap dress. Also, I was a little burned out after the all-day-pockets episode from the sweater dress. Second, did I want to keep the buttons? The existing buttons were little black nothings. I couldn’t just get rid of them because you needed buttons to pull off the shirt-dress/tunic look. Time to go to the button stash. I dug though my stash and chose some cute little silver buttons that I bought at a yard sale. They were vintage (the new word for “old) and just the right size. I didn’t have enough buttons for the sleeves so I went back to the stash and found some fake silver buttons with faux pearls. Perfect! The hardest thing I did on this whole remake was sew the buttons on by hand. And that was kind of soothing. Double the thread, just like my mom taught me. Stitch, pull, stitch pull. Stitch twice as much as you think you need to and tie two or three knots. The dress might disintegrate with age but the buttons will hold.
I added an extra button close to one of the side seams so that you could pull the front side (with button holes) over and button it to make a wrap effect. I wish I had some spiffy directions for you but I don’t. I used a safety pin though the button-hole to figure out how tight to pull the dress and where to space the button so that it wasn’t too high or low. I thought about measuring the placement but I didn’t. I pinned, looked in the mirror and adjusted until I liked the look. Then I marked it with another pin and sewed.
Back to the Back. It was time to return to the back side of the piece and add some appliques. I decided to go with hearts because I love them and they are easy to cut and sew around. Again, I don’t have really spiffy directions for you. But I will spend a little time talking about making and applying your own appliques.
Appliques are pieces of fabric that you put on your fabric to make it look extra-awesome. I am a big fan of them. In this blog I’ll share 3 ways to make and apply appliques. The first way is to line them. I think lined appliques are the most tailored and polished looking of the three. It’s neat, tidy and all of the edges are covered. However, you will want to work with a simple shape that doesn’t lose it’s punch when you stitch and turn it inside out. To line , cut 2 identical copies of your applique. One side will show, the other will be against the fabric. Your bottom piece doesn’t have to be the same kind of fabric as your top. It just depends on what you want and how much fabric you have. Place the pieces right sides together and stitch, but not all of the way around. Leave about 2-3 inches open/unstitched. Then flip the fabric inside out and pull it through the open hole. Now it should look like how you planned. Press the applique so that it lies flat and you are ready to attach it to your fabric. You can use any stitch to affix the applique. Long stitches, short stitches, straight or decorative. You can even hand stitch it from the back if you want the stitches to be invisible (and for people to think you are magic!) A person could even attach it with glue but I personally like to stitch because I think it holds better. However, you are the boss of your sewing and you get to decide.
Method Two: The next technique is to interface the applique. The advantage to interfacing is it keeps your applique crisp and straight. Like a little applique soldier. It also works really well if you are planning on putting some extra trim around your applique. The interfacing keeps everything stable and in place while you fiddle with the trim. Finally, if you use double sided interfacing you can iron the applique exactly where you want it and nothing will slide around when you sew. Cut 2 pieces of your design, one out of interfacing and one out of your applique fabric. Iron the interfacing on to the bottom side of your applique. If it doesn’t fit perfect, don’t worry. Trim off any interfacing that sticks out or bugs you. Pin it to your fabric and stitch it down. Because the edges show on this applique think for a minute about the the stitch you want you use. If you think the edges will fray you might want to do more than a straight stitch. Of course you know that I am a HUGE supporter of the zigzag, but if your machine does decorative stitches and you know how to use them, go for it! Be a fancy-pants show off and send me a picture. I would love it!!
Method Three: The final technique is the easiest (guess which one I used!!!). It is the cut and sew method. Cut the applique out, slap it on to your fabric with some pins and stitch. Done. This method is probably the most free-form of the three. Your edges show, the applique doesn’t necessarily lay nice and flat, and if you don’t use enough pins the fabric can shift around when you sew. This suits me just fine, and I think it is a good style for a remake. However, I appreciate all of the techniques and I suggest you play around and land on the one that makes you the happiest.
Preparing to Sew. When I stitched the hearts I spent a little bit of time setting myself up for success. First, I knew I was stitching velvet to velvet and velvet fabric is officially classified as a BEAST (even harder than a BEAR). That’s right, I am not babying you in this blog with easy-to-sew quilter’s cotton. You can tackle a BEAST and be fine!!
Where was I????? Oh, yes. I asked Google “What kind of needle should I use with stretch velvet?” She told me to use a universal needle or a sharp. I had a micro-tex needle sitting in the needle drawer so I chose that. Google also told me to use cotton thread or silk. This is because velvet tends to shred polyester thread like its a baby gazelle in the mouth of a lion. Not good. However, I was out of cotton thread and I am not yet fancy enough to have silk. So, I dug around and found some nylon thread. Hmmmmmm???? It was way heavier than I needed but I figured nothing was going to shred it. I decided to give it a try and it worked just dandy. I used a few extra pins because velvet likes to slip around and then I stitched around the hearts. I apply appliques a lot like buttons. I don’t want them to EVER come off so I go around them twice. I’m pretty sure you can guess what stitch I used……..ZIGZAG! I set it a little smaller than usual, 3.0 because the thread was so heavy. I didn’t want it to overpower the applique.
Now, I have just one caution for you from this sew. If you are using tricky fabric pay extra attention to the sound of your machine. On the third heart my machine started making a ka-chunking sound and my mind was somewhere else so I ignored it (I know, story of my life….). Anyway, a little bit later I realized I was almost out of bobbin thread and it had been going through my machine wonky. As a result, the underside stitching was all wobbly and weird. The problem with wobbly and weird stitches is?/are? they tend to come apart on you. So, I had to Tear Out the Stitches, Refill the Bobbin, and then Restitch all over again. A slight pain.
A Final Look. And that brings us to the end of our Silk-and-Velvet-Transformer movie. I even have some adorable pictures of a friend of mine modeling the transformer. This is Diana Roberts. She is a stunning woman that I first met back when I was a special education teacher. She provided services for students with Orthopedic Impairments at our local ESD (Educational Services District) and was smart, gifted, full of grace and compassion. Oh, and she is Super Funny!! I love her. Anyway, as you can see, Diana is tall and has legs for days so the transformer piece works perfectly on her as a tunic. However, a shorter woman (like myself) could “style” it as a dress. I would probably add tights and boots. Especially since it is winter. Diana, you look gorgeous. Thank you for helping us out. By the way, I had a third shot of Diana modeling the jacket version, but right before I hit “publish” I realized her eyes were closed. I took it out. I am not that kind of friend.
Before I leave, let’s recap. First, Don’t Play Small!!! Play big and play full out. Who cares if you make mistakes. Get out there and swing at the ball! Even if you strike out, you’ll get more exercise than you would have gotten if you just stood there. Also, there is a great chance you will learn something. Second, I think we had a delightful second half to our second date, don’t you?. We learned how to transform an oversized top into a jacket/duster, a shirt dress/tunic (really think about using a belt!) and a faux wrap. We added a touch of vintage with our buttons and learned how to make and apply your own appliques. You also learned a fancy-schmancy term for burned out velvet. Devore. Well Done!! You are amazing.
Time to go. The next time we get together it will be our All-Important Third Date. Can’t wait!!!