Tuesday, June 17, 2014

At it again- sewing a Solo Dress

It's time to tackle another H U G E sewing project and make another Irish Solo competition dress.
Teagan has designed her new desired dress, and I think it's a reasonable undertaking for me. I want to document the cost, so I can decide if making dresses to sell is worth my supply and time investment.

Materials cost
Vilene skirt under frame: left over yardage from Piper's dress. Using a size 11 pattern
rigilene boning- left over from Piper's dress
Inexpensive organza in 3 colors from ebay for underskirt (3 yards total- will have extra): $10.05
Crystal Satin for dress ordered from WhiteLodge Fabric in the UK. 2 yards Candy and 3 yards flourescent lipstiick- $63
Embroidery designs for bodice purchased from KnottyRose Designs on etsy- $6
Cotton fabric for dress lining-
2 yards Kona 100% cotton $11
tulle- 3 colors 1 yard each $4
polyester solid to cover vilene skirt frame $4.50


Monday, June 17, 2013

Evolution of a Solo dress

I sew enough to be dangerous. I can make a mean hair accessory and sew up award winning Halloween costumes (Cinderella Sisters circa 2005). I feel very proficient with my three machines: my grandma's Kenmore workhorse, my Singer Future CE-150 embroidery machine, and a Project Runway Brother basic sewing machine Santa brought for the girls a few years ago that has a permanent spot with all purpose thread for quick projects.

That all said, attempting an Irish dance Solo dress is WAY out of my league. But necessity IS the mother of invention and with two girls quickly advancing in the competitive Irish dancing world who each need their own Solo competition dresses sooner than later, well, here we are. Both girls qualified for Nationals in late July. I found a used dress that Teagan loves and bargained on the price, getting it for $325. It was $1200 new. It's an older style and was well loved (translation: many of the sequins have come off due to wear and I'll need to replace them. The damaged area are under the arm and on the side and do not show on stage, but I want to fix it up for Teagan, and for resale. Piper couldn't find anything she remotely liked in the $300 price range. So this journey began. And I'd like to have a dress made by mid July.

Teagan's dress!! She wanted neon orange. I love how the blue tones it down.

A $2,000 Gavin (BIG name designer) dress we liked. Notice the "soft" skirt which is the newer style versus the firm embroidered style in Teagan's dress.

I'm foolish to think I can accomplish this, but somehow, I believe that I am going to be successful. I have not written in this blog in over a year, but I wanted to record the costs and the process and this is as good of a place as any.

So far I have spent about 40 hours doing research. I have joined a dressmakers forum specifically for those who sew these dresses and I have learned a lot and taken pages upon pages of notes. The main thing I have learned is that there are no beginning to end patterns to follow. Irish dresses are subject to fashion trends, and the only pattern on the market is very "old school" and hopelessly outdated, rendering it pretty much useless. There was a Simplicity Halloween costume years ago that had "good bones" but it is out of print and very expensive if you can find one on eBay. There is feisdress pattern, again expensive and the skirt is not of the current style. They do sell the bodice separately now, and I might end up going that way if I can't come up with a bodice on my own. There are several commercial patterns that have the appropriate basics, but all of them need some modification. It should have a drop waist and princess seams are best. Suggested patterns were Burda 9761, Simplicity 2843, Vogue 8570, ad Kwik Sew 3110. Several of those I was unable to find, or were for adults, so I opted to go with the Burda pattern- a flower girl/communion style. The sleeves are very wrong, and the neckline needs to be raised and the armsyce apparently lowered. It's my starting point.

Piper had a design idea, I modified it to what I think I have a reasonable chance of executing. I'm sure it will evolve even more as I go along and ht my limitations in areas. For now, we are thinking a velvet bodice with a star theme embroidery. Probably a circle skirt in 2 layers made of twinkle satin. The cape on the back will be a repeat of the star embroidery. Piper is thinking turquoise blue as the main color with a bright lime green as the secondary color with silver highlights.

So pleased with the sample star applique I made!

Irish Solo dresses have a very defined silhouette where the skirt sticks out (and stays out). The BNDM (an acronynm I finally figured out on the forums: Big Name Dress Makers) keep the construction secret. It's big business, these dresses. New BNDM dresses cost $1200-$2000+. Dresses from independent smaller dress makers run at least $600, usually much closer to $800-$1000. Used "old style" dresses we were looking at- around $400. I found a very helpful dress maker in Ireland who, after altering many BNMD dresses and being able to closely inspect their construction, was able to create a pattern for the frame the dress rests on. She offered her frame pattern and a sample mock up (a very helpful surprise in the package!) for 25 British pounds. Money well spent, and my first purchase.

What have I spent so far:
(*= a coupon was used. I have tried to use a 40% off coupon at Joann or Hobby Lobby when I can)
$40 skirt frame pattern
$10.80* 3 yards Pellon 70 Ultra Firm (I totally guessed on needed yardage- think I have much more than I'll need)
$14.40* 3 yards of braided sequin trim
$7.17 Burda pattern
$5* 4 yards of cotton muslin for the mock-up
$3.50* package of two gemstone buttons
$6.50 small and large star embroidery pattern (may need to go back and purchase the medium as well)
$5.09 5yds Rigilene Polyester Boning
$2.70 stiff white netting
$9 Fabric samples from SY fabrics. Fabrics in Motion and Stretch House sent them for free.
$1 shirt to make body double dress form (could have used and old one, but Piper didn't have any she wanted to sacrifice)
$3.50 fiberfill for dress form
$0 Duct tape for dress form (already had on hand)
$4.50* white ruffle trim
$8.50 1 yard turquoise crystal satin from ebay
$40 3 yards florescent lime twinkle satin from WhiteLodge fabrics in the UK
$33.16 2 yrds sparkle teal/turquoise velvet from Fabrics in Motion
Tonight we'll tape up Piper. I'll put her in the $1 clearance T shirt and duct tape her torso to make a body double. Then I'll cut it off, like a jacket and tape it back up. I'll put a sturdy hanger in the top, stuff it with fiber fill and seal it up- voila! Instant (and cheap) dress form.

I need to look at the skirt frame pattern size choices (they seem UK sized and I can't just go by number, so I'll have to measure Pip and then pick a size I think is best). Then I can cut out the Pellon and boning and make the frame.

My task for tomorrow is to look at the Burda pattern and see if I can begin to make a muslin mock up of a bodice with the appropriate adjustments using the homemade dress form (and the actual kid too!).

We loved one of the fabric samples that came today. It's the front runner by far for the bodice. It's a sparkle velvet where the sparkle is woven in (so nothing flakes off like in many of the other samples). I have no idea what yardage I'll need. I have to have my muslin bodice pattern figured out first. The skirt will likely be 3-5 fabrics + the netting and spandex that will cover the completed frame. I know I need a poly/cotton to line each of the bodice pieces since I think we'll be selecting a stretch velvet and we don't want it to stretch. I'll be able to get that with a 40% off coupon. I also need stabilizer for the embroidery. I have some on hand, but not yet sure exactly what kinds and what yardage.

And we're off..... Photobucket

Sunday, May 13, 2012

It's 2 PM and...

I'm still in my comfortable jammies!

Happy Mother's Day!

We should have gone to church this morning, but we all were just plain beat. This past week the girls and I had dress rehearsals for two dance recitals that had us out until 9PM on Tuesday, Wednesday and until 9:45 on Thursday. Yesterday was the "big day" with two Gala shows. We were at the first show from 10:30-3, had a pizza delivered to the house for a lunch/dinner meal (isn't that called supper?) and were out the door at 5 to go to the second Gala show. It wrapped up a little after 9. We stopped at Sweet Frog to celebrate with some frozen yogurt on the way home and pulled in, exhausted right after 10. It took a full hour to take out the spiral curl wigs from Irish and the heavily sprayed and pinned buns underneath and completely wash out two little heads full of spray and gel. The girls only had three dances this year, but that entailed a total of just about six hours sitting in theaters viewing dance. Paul was a good sport!

Our first Gala was for our new ballet/lyrical studio. It is it's second year in operation, but WOW!! The elite dancers (middle and high school kids) were the very best I have ever seen, and I've been to a whole lot of dancin'. Many of the HS girls go to the performing arts magnet school and desire to go to college for dance. Their training is evident and it was amazing to watch them. I know my girlies will be viewing the DVD we ordered of the show many times over.

We had a few issues with our class there this year. The class was too big, and there were several problem students that caused a lot of disruption and wasted instruction time. I'm not usually one to complain, but I did. The artistic director and the business director were wonderful to talk to. They agreed that my girls should have gotten moved to a class with serious, not recreational "my mom is just making me and I don't care" students. To make up for lost instruction, the artistic director will be giving them a private lesson in a few weeks to assess exactly where they are and what they know and then we have been offered free summer session ballet to catch up their foundational skills. I'm so glad I said something!

Our second Gala in the evening was for their Irish dance. It too is a new studio for us. We had outgrown what was available at our last studio (where we had been for 4 years) and the quality of the Irish they had taken there was ridiculous compared to the level with Miss Amy. I toured several programs before making my decision and I have been so pleased. Amy is incredible in her knowledge and her methodology of instruction. The girls learned a soft shoe and a hard shoe piece this year, both with very complex choreography. Neither girlie was keen on the hard shoe- it was just well...hard! They loved the soft shoe piece. We will be taking Amy's intensive class over the summer and then they both plan on auditioning for the new mini troupe. Currently Amy had a junior and senior group that does community service and performs in demonstrations, parades, senior citizen homes, schools and festivals. She has decided to add an age 8-12 group beginning in the fall and suggested the girlies use the summer class to sharpen their knowledge and skills and audition. Teagan is very interested. Piper goes back and forth. We'll see.

So it's been a lazy Mother's Day, since I'm wiped out!

Breakfast in bed (coffee and a banana- followed shortly by waffles and bacon and fresh pineapple) and a bag of goodies from Trader Joes.

When Paul asked what I wanted, I said that I'd like for him and the girls to get some flowers and plant them in the planters out back I can see from the kitchen. We had two wood mangers from past Christmas manger building events at Church that were rotting and I spray painted them red and we filled them with potting soil. They just need flowers! So now I have a bit of peace and quiet (there has been a lot of bickering today I know the girlies are running on empty still) while they are out picking out flowers. I need to pick a restaurant for dinner. There isn't a lot we all agree on food wise and I'm trying to think cheap and not crazy crowded. Hmmm?

So I'll just keep snuggling up with my two kitty boys in bed, browse around on line and ponder dinner- while the house is silent for maybe another hour.

Happy Mother's Day!!


Friday, May 4, 2012

Brings back memories

I signed on to do another consignment sale. I did pretty well at the spring sale- my take was just over $350. Some of it was recent outgrown items, more of it was smaller sizes I've been storing for the daughter I dream of bringing home. But there is just so much. I had really well dressed girlies! I am whittling down the "save" bins to just my absolute favorites and slowly selling off the rest.

 The sale I have the most success at just added a summer sale. So decided to try to sell what didn't go at the spring sale and I had a lot more after the girls did the closet change over and added a lot to the "it still fits by my tastes have changed since last year" pile. I also found a bin in the garage of what didn't sell at last year's sale. I have to have all the items entered into the computer by tomorrow night. Nothing like the last minute.

Going through the clothes is bringing up a lot of memories. What is bittersweet about this process is that beside my sale bin are two large bags that will go into school with me. I have been outfitting a little girl in my class this year. At least 75% of her wardrobe are items I have given her, usually a few outfits at a time. The rest of her clothes are old, stained 2T dresses she wears as tops, or other ill fitting garments. She and her family are refugees from Africa- and she has become my little buddy this year. Oh how I'll miss her next year when she goes off to kindergarten! And I worry about what she'll wear, and what elementary kids who are not as innocent will say to her. So I have a few big bags of clothes that are too big now, but should be fine by the fall/winter. I have Piper's old winter coat for her for the winter (she wore Teagan's old coat this year). I hope I can take a piece of the burden of buying clothes off her family. She is one of five kids.

As I dig through the summer stuff to sell, I look at items through a different lens- is it worth the $2 profit I'll make if it sells, or would Nelia like it? I find the pink top and leggings Piper wore on the first day of preschool when she was 3 1/2. Nelia looks beautiful in pink and she's tiny so it should fit. Into her bag it goes. I secretly hope she wears it soon. I get such pleasure of seeing her wearing my girlies old favorites. I put in a pair of pajamas, but then think better and take it out. Her mom has not understood pajamas in the past and sent her to school in nightgowns as dresses. She pulled it off OK, but the fitted style of a pj top and shorts would not be good at school. Better be safe and not include it.

Oh the ice cream set! I loved Teagan in this. I imagine Nelia pretending to eat the ice cream cones off the shirt just like Teaggie did. Into the bag. Smile.
Hard to believe how big the girls have gotten. I'm glad that another sweet girlie will make memories in some well loved clothes.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Glorious Friday

It's official. I stink as a blogger. Really just using my blogroll these days to check in on those I follow. Spring is a time of rebirth. I'm attempting to give a new breath of fresh air back into my journal...

Today has been glorious.

Paul surprised me at work with a beautiful (and huge) bouquet of flowers "just because." My class was intrigued. I introduced him as Mr. Paul, my husband. But throughout the day the kept referring to him as "the dad."

My art class was a success this afternoon. I have been teaching an after school art class to 3-5 year olds every Friday. They sign up by the month. I have 13 kids for March. Never quite sure how my projects will evolve. I think my often lofty endeavors have my assistant nervous most Fridays. Today's project of painting bunnies (one shape to know- all ovals!) and then using chalk pastels to create a background of Easter eggs with dried glue resist that the bunnies got mounted on top of looked beautiful, and it filled the time perfectly. I never know how quickly they will speed through, or if I'm attempting something too complex. I often set the bar high, and they really rise to meet my expectations. Sometimes, I have to "dumb it down" a bit, but not today. It was a good one!

It's a balmy 90 outside. A bit too hot for March for me, but I do prefer warm temperatures and love seeing all the cherry trees in bloom. Lovely!

The girls have been home for almost two hours and have been fight/argument/bicker free. They are doing a play with neighbors and are fully engrossed. I helped cut up a cardboard box and gave them large paper for the backdrop. They wrote the script on notebook paper and highlighted everybody's parts in different colors. They are having so much fun and I love them being outside and using their imaginations.

We hired a neighbor to pain our mailbox post. She cost less than buying the smallest size of the specialty paint color required by our HOA! She showed up today and it looks lovely. A fresh coat of paint makes a world of difference.

It's quiet inside (did I mention the girls are playing wonderfully outside and not asking me every second to settle a squabble?) and I'm relaxing, not thinking at all about the mounds of housework that need to be accomplished this weekend.

Today has been glorious. I needed that.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Is it really almost February?

Been a long time since I wrote anything.

Haven't been much in the mood.

Wish no news always equaled good news, but that isn't always the case.

Still smack dab in the middle of the storm, and just when the winds appear to be settling down, storm clouds larger than before blow in. It's exhausting- mentally and emotionally, which ends up meaning physically as well.

Clinging to the knowledge that God is right here with us and none of this is a surprise to Him. I live to bring all praises and glory to His name, and if walking this path will ultimately glorify His name, bring it on! He'll sustain me. My God is big enough.

Loving the promises in Isaiah 41:10 right now.
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

On a happy note...

I am looking forward to this weekend. Every February I get together with my sorority family from college. Me and my littles! I am the oldest and then it's my little Bridget, her little Becca, her little Mary, her little Erin and her little Kelly. Even though I had graduated by the time Erin and Kelly entered the family they are still that... my sisters. Kelly can't join us from TX this year- she is a new mommy, but the other 5 of us will be there. We decided to meet up in a central location to make travel easier on Bridget who is 8 months pregnant with #3. So Washington, D.C. it is! We'll arrive Friday night and depart Sunday afternoon. Becca, who lives the closest has made all the arrangements. She just messaged me that she has booked us for afternoon tea Saturday at the Mandarin Oriental Empress Lounge. It's supposed to be amazing! The menu looks so good! I have been saving for several months to afford this trip and am really excited about catching up with dear friends and getting away. I need this!