Monday, May 28, 2012

Silhouettes Classic Blouse

can't believe I'll be leaving for Uganda in just over a week!  I've been trying to get some sewing done so that I have something to wear on my trip!!  For that reason, I chose the Classic Blouse by Peggy Sagers because I knew it was fast and easy to make.  I'm pretty much a tank-top girl myself in the summer, but in the villages of Uganda, the women do not bare their shoulders or upper arms very often.  In fact, pretty much never!  So, I decided I needed some short sleeved shirts.  Also, in the city, you rarely see the women wearing T-shirts.  Usually they wear dresses, two piece dresses or suits.  Yes, I know that sounds surprising, but the one thing that always stuns me is how well they dress. Their clothes may be old and used, and "out of date" according to US standards, but in the cities you always see their clothes to be very clean (surprisingly white with all that red dirt) and neatly pressed.  The men wear long sleeved button shirts and slacks and the women usually wear fancy dresses.  And by fancy, I mean - think "prom"!  THis cracked me up the first time I went there.  Some women were wearing regular street clothes, most were wearing skirts or dresses, and some (many) wore the kind of dresses that we would only wear to an event.  We're talking sparkles, beads, satin fabric, lace, etc.  First of all, this shocks me because it is so HOT there and I can't believe these women would want to have all of these tight-fitting, long sleeved, heavy clothes on.  The other thing that is surprising is that out in the villages, the traditional dress for the women is something called a "Gomez"  This is a dress made with yards and yards of fabric wrapped multiple times around the body.  The typical fabric for this dress?  Polyester charmeuse!!!  Could we pick a hotter, non-breathable fabric?  It's amazing.  Many of the younger women wear a dress style called a Kitenge (not sure of the spelling)  These are more like a fitted two piece dress made from a wax print cotton fabric.  Of course, they are lined with broadcloth, so they aren't' a whole lot cooler to wear, but at least cotton breathes.  This dress style is more "modern" and I believe it comes from Kenya - but I've heard different stories on that too.
Well, I won't be wearing any Gomez's or Kitenge's (even though I have one) on this trip.  I will be wearing long dresses, long skirts, and short sleeved blouses or tank tops with a blouse over the top.  I picked a poly/cotto broadcloth because it is light weight and should pack easily.  Hopefully it won't need to be ironed.

I have made this blouse before, but knew I needed to adjust the size.  I cut a 1 at the shoulders and 2 at the bust.  I used the "D" cup pattern.  On the blue blouse, which was my second version, I lowered the point of the bust dart by 1/2" and raised (lengthened) the vertical darts in the back.  
This blouse does not have a cuff, but you fold the sleeve, make a button hole, and then fold the buttonhole over to the button.  I had to take this out the first time because the button ended up under my wrist.  If you want to make the long sleeved version of this blouse, I would suggest that you pin that out first before you make any buttonholes.  

The collar on this blouse is one piece, meaning there is not a separate stand. At first I did not like this, but now it does not bother me, and it certainly is faster to make this way.
I will probably make more versions of this blouse this summer.  I have some silk I'd like to try for this.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Africa Dress

Here it is - McCalls 3129.  In the last few years that I've gone to Uganda, I have taught the women how to make skirts and bags.  Last year I worked with three women in particular, Kathy, Florence and Phoebe, and taught them how to make children's, shorts, shirts, and a simple shift for girls.  I asked them what they wanted to learn next.  Well, they said "pants", but I think I would start an uprising in the village if I started the women wearing pants.  I don't even wear pants when I go there!  So, they said they would like to learn to make dresses.  I decided to find a pattern that would be very basic, could be made long, and would have princess seams or darts.  I found this.

I also wanted to make a long dress to take to Uganda this summer, as I usually wear skirts and tops.  A dress is just easier.  I had a few patterns picked out, but then I thought, "I better make the dress I am planning on teaching them to make!"  I had this fabric that I bought last year in Kayunga District and decided to use it.  I also decided to make it exactly how I will have them make it.  Well, I didn't use my treadle, but I did only use straight stitches and no serging!  I did, however, press as I sewed, which probably won't happen there.  The iron's in Uganda have to be filled with hot coals from the fire - well, at least in the villages.

This year I will also be teaching my friend Betty.  She lives in the city of Kampala.  I will be buying her a sewing machine when I get there.  Thank you for those of you who have donated to support this trip.  It is so greatly appreciated.  It is because of your donations that I can buy Betty and machine and fabric.   I still have a way to go to get all of my support, so if you would like to help, check out this post.  For the villages, we always use treadle machines.  Betty may want a treadle or electric.  I will find out when I get there.  But, either way, I still tried to make my dress as simply as I could.

I just turned facings under and stitched, and did a hand picked zipper. Most of the treadle machines have only one foot, so it's not much extra time to put in the zipper by hand - and much faster by hand if you end up having to rip out the machine zip and do it over!  I have a few princess dress patterns, but I like the neckline on this one.  The women there do not wear anything low cut, and this dress is high enough to be modest, but not so close that you feel like you are choking.  I chose to make the dress with sleeves since most of the women in the villages do NOT go sleeveless.  It is different in the cities though.

Surprisingly, this dress went together pretty quickly.  I did a FBA and lowered the shoulder a bit.  I probably need to lower the bust curve a bit (darn gravity!) and maybe add about 1/2" to the bust circumference.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Summer Top

It seems to go from Winter to Summer in just a couple of weeks here.  It's been in the 90s all week and looks like more of the same next week!  I'm not complaining though, I'm one of the rare ones around here that would rather have the heat than cold.  Even though I don't have the arms I did even 10 years ago, I still love sleeveless tops!  I need to make a lot of sleeveless and short sleeved tops since our hot weather lasts well into September and even October.  This is Simplicity 1806.  I was drawn to this pattern for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I really wanted to find tops to make out of wovens.  My favorite summer time fabric is cotton lawn, so this will be perfect for that.  I also like the princess seams.

While making this top, I realized that the "princess seams" are not quite that.  It is more like a center panel.  However, the FBA is still done the same way, and I really prefer doing a FBA with princess seams rather than having to deal with super big darts.

In this method, you slash the side front about 1-2" down from the armhole seam from the front edge just to the seam line.  You spread the front edge apart at the seam line 1/2" for each cup size above a B.   So, for a D cup, you would spread it one inch.  This creates a greater curve at the front edge.  Next, slash the Center front piece across the same spot and spread the same amount.  Because I have narrow shoulders and a large bust, I just trace my size at the shoulder (determined by upper bust measurement) and then continue the armhole out to my bust size at the side seam.  I have tried other methods for doing the armhole, but this one works best for me - of course, it depends on the pattern.

Right now I'm trying to make sure that I have all of the pieces I will need to take with me to Uganda.  Since I will mostly be wearing long skirts, and most of them are printed patterns, I need some solid colored tops.    I looked through my stash finding all kinds of prints that I wanted to use to make this top, but eventually fell upon a piece of embroidered lawn that I had left over from a shirt I made a couple of years ago.  I thought this would be a good one to try out the pattern.

This pattern is pretty easy to make.  The ruffle is cut as a flounce and is easy to insert.  The neck edge has a facing on this view, but binding on one of the other views.  I did use the facing, but cut it out of a lining fabric as I thought it would be too heavy with all the embroidery.  Next time I would probably just bind the neckline.  I'm not normally a fan of facings unless they are stitched down.  This pattern also has you bind the armholes, but I just serged them and turned them under.
I need to do a little tweaking on this pattern, but all in all, I think it's a keeper!