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Animal print is all over the place now, and as you know, The Selfish Seamstress has a bit of a weakness for the stuff.  Python is hot, leopard is a ubiquitous classic, snow leopard is waiting in the wings. Admittedly zebra and tiger have yet to pique my interest.  But what I have really wanted for the longest time is a giraffe print wrap dress.

A suitable giraffe print stretch fabric is surprisingly hard to come by.  Giraffe shows up frequently in decor fabric and quilting fabric, on velboa, and on minky. (ARGH do NOT get me started on minky and why it is that certain online fabric stores that previously sold Vera Wang and Ralph Lauren fashion fabrics at great prices appear to have switched to an all minky + cutesy cotton flannel format.  WHO is keeping the minky business afloat?  WHO is buying that much minky?  Don’t say it’s the unselfish seamstresses who sew for kids (ARGH do NOT get me started on sewing for kids…) – even if you have kids and you ugh sew for them, can you really be putting that much minky in their wardrobes?  Do they really need a whole lot of minky garments? Do your kids wear jammies all the time? Seriously?  Minky?) Umm. So, as I was saying, it took me a long time to find the right giraffe print fabric. The thing about grown-up-appropriate giraffe stretch fabric is that when you do find it, often much of the giraffiness has been abstracted away, sort of like these:

Now, there’s nothing wrong with these fabrics.  They’re perfectly lovely prints.  But this was not the effect I was going for, not the wrap dress that had been simmering in my head for more than a year.  No, I wanted something a little bit more naturalistic and detailed, something that looked as it if had been ripped right off the soft, warm neck of an innocent, adorable baby giraffe, like this one:

Or this one:

Or even this one:

You know, all the animal-y goodness with none of the cruelty. After much searching I found a suitably realistic (now sold out?) ITY jersey in shades of giraffey brown, tan, and beige at Spandex House:

I basically sat on this project for a while because I’m not fond of sewing knits. I graded the pattern down to 32, traced it, cut most of the fabric pieces and then put it aside out of a lack of desire to deal with it. And then this past weekend, a new love showed up at my door:

It was my new Babylock Evolution!  And so I replaced Dan with the new serger. And then Dan had to go out of town for a 2-day offsite at which point the Evolution, the giraffe fabric, the 9/2006 issue of Burda and I found ourselves with a few hours alone together.

(Yes, I am standing by a window in our living room that houses a small collection of carnivorous plants.  Did you expect that Selfish wouldn’t take joy in watching the helpless insects who venture into her home being viciously trapped or slowly drowned by hungry plants, leaving nothing but slowly decomposing exoskeletons?)

I have to confess that I had never used a serger before, nor watched anyone use one, so I was kind of winging it.  But the Evolution is so easy to thread and you don’t have to worry about tension adjustments that within an hour of pulling the German language manual out of the box, I was four-thread overlocking in glee:

The machine only came with black and white serging thread, so I used the black for the seams, and then used a twin stretch needle with brown thread on my Husqvarna Platinum (I still love you, sweetheart) to finish all the hems and openings.

I made some small changes to the pattern, such as making the ties narrower, removing a lot of ease from the sleeves, and omitting the facings (who does facings in jersey?) Instead I turned under the edge and used twin stitching to finish. I also shortened at the hem by four inches for an above-the-knee length.

The back could have benefited from a pinch taken out for swayback, but with this kind of lightweight stretchy fabric, I really don’t mind having a little bit of extra creasing in the lower back.

The one think that’s bugging me about this dress is that the shoulder sticks up a bit if I don’t have my arms hanging down by my sides, as you can see above. The sleeves are serged into the armscyes, so it’s not a matter of trimming seam allowance. Anyone have suggestions?  Did I need to shorten the neck-to-shoulder length a little bit? The seam doesn’t stick up if I have my arms down:

Oh, and one other thing- although I don’t *have* to pin the neck closed, I am doing it anyway, as otherwise the neck is very deep and threatens to do a little sliding door action.  The neck doesn’t gape (thanks to a SBA that I did on the pattern, and which I am thinking about rebranding as a DBA – Dainty Bust Adjustment) but it is a risky cut when not pinned, and one that I definitely couldn’t get away with wearing to work if my bust were any less dainty than it is. I’ll probably stitch a snap on.

So there you go, my first serger project and long-desired giraffe wrap dress. I must say, using the serger feels almost like cheating. The whole thing (minus pattern grading and tracing) took maybe 2 hours. I didn’t even pin most of the seams before I stitched them, and now there’s no finishing on the inside on which I am procrastinating. Just instant gratification.

And that’s right up Selfish’s alley.

UPDATE: Since there have been a couple of comments about the shoes, I thought I’d mention that they’re “Barbara” in shade rust, from Plenty by Tracy Reese. I got them over the summer and they’re fantastic- definitely some of the coolest shoes I own, and I can feel the envious stares of other women as I walk along the train platform in them. They also come in an awesome “calcium” shade, which I ruled out on account of already having another pair of wedge sandals in that color. Anyway, I just checked and they’re on sale at Endless for less than $70, which is a pretty good deal.

The Selfish Seamstress has been in a culling and cleaning frenzy as of late, but has still managed to find a few minutes here and there to finish The Last Dress for Now.  Admittedly, the inside finishing job on this one is a bit on the weak side. But it’s either that or pile yet another unfinished object into the big box of unfinished objects!

I used Simplicity 9482, which I had had for probably some 7 or 8 years.  It’s one of those “2 Hour” pattersn, but I think two hours is a bit of a lowball if you want to do a decent job.  I changed the shape of the skirt to flare a little bit more (the pattern is really a little more tunic-like than dress-like) and took it in quite a bit as it’s not really that fitted. I also widened the sash and used the collar, which is not part of the dress view.

The fabric is a ponte di roma I got from Fabric Mart.  It claims to be 100% nylon, which I normally wouldn’t go for, but I was seduced by the print, and at $1.99 a yard, it seemed silly to pass up and it was selling quickly. Fortunately it feels like any other rayon and poly blend ponte knit so it’s not gross against my skin and it doesn’t look too bandage-y.

This pattern has no center back seam or waist seam, so the back is just one big slab with a bit of shaping to it.  As a result, there’s a little pooling in the back above the sash. I don’t think it’ll keep me from wearing it though:

And that’s it for now. No more new sewing projects until after the move.  Until then, just finishing unfinished stuff if I have time. Or maybe making something new if I can’t resist :)

The Selfish Seamstress is officially unemployed. Surprisingly, this is not because she was dismissed on account of her attitude problem and inability to get along with others. No, nerdy little Selfish decided to change universities, abandon the igloo in which she currently lives, and head back to Europe where she can alienate and irritate a whole new set of academics. She is now in between the two jobs and in the stressful throes of culling and organizing, neither of which she is any good at. Selfish’s delightful mancessory Dan also has found exciting employment in their soon-to-be place of residence as well, and Sasa is blissfully unaware that she will be shoved into a bag and transported within the next few weeks.

As you can imagine, sewing time is going to slow to a drip, if not disappear altogether for a while. At the moment I’m working on what I’m referring to as “The Last Dress… for Now.” Made from the graphic print black and white ponte di roma that my parents hauled up to me last week using a very modified version of the Simplicity 9482 wrap dress (probably out of print, as I’ve had this pattern for about 7 years and it’s kind of not that great). Here it is in its half-finished state, looking a bit sad and droopy on its hanger:

I was going to use my beloved modified Vogue 8379 pattern, but after playing around with the fabric, I decided that the double pleats in the the Vogue bodice would detract from the strong, straight, diagonal elements of the print. I really wanted to minimize the details to keep the print as uninterrupted as possible. So I dug out the old Simplicity pattern, which is so minimalist it’s practically a bathrobe pattern. Although I graded it down to a 4, the dress has some largeness issues at the moment that have to be fixed. But other than that, I think it’s working out decently well and I’m pretty sure that this is the dress that this print was destined for.

After The Last Dress… for Now though, my plan is to not start any new projects until after the move. If I do have sewing time, I’ll finish up stuff that I started a while ago and never completed.  (That’s the plan at least. But you never know with the capricious Selfish Seamstress. She could at any point decide that she needs a new coat RIGHT NOW.)

Even after the move, it will take a while before my machine, patterns, stash, tools, and notions arrive in Europe. That leaves me with the small matter of what to do in the meantime with the online bucket of whining that I call a blog during the coming hectic and sewing-impoverished weeks (possibly months). What do you think?  Go on a blogging hiatus? Switch to being a knitting and crochet blog for the time being? Rant about all things sewing-related without actually sewing? All haiku all the time? Get by on hand sewing? I feel like I should keep it up in some fashion, especially since I don’t have any Real Life friends so you’re the closest thing that I’ve got. So, what do you want to read? No promises, of course ;)

16 degrees Fahrenheit, winds gusting at 25 miles per hour, and the tiny white streaks you see are the snow.  Needless to say, this was the shortest outdoor photo shoot ever. And seriously, go make yourself a Vogue 8379 if you haven’t already.  If you have, make yourself another one.  This pattern rox my sox.

I’ve been gently chided from time to time by readers for always sewing in neutrals and dull colors, and it’s true. For color, I rely on crimson, violet, or leaf green sweaters that I’ve knitted or purchased, or basic knit tops of the H&M variety since I’m not so jazzed about sewing basic tops. When sewing, however, I stick mostly to black, white, grays, and browns, and also their good friends taupe, tan, charcoal, cream, and beige.  When I’m feeling a little crazy, I toss in some olive green or navy. Not to mention my penchant for solids, subtle stripes, and saner plaids, with frequent forays into herringbone. What can I say?  I try to sew what I know I’m going to wear a lot, and that means more brown than fuchsia. But, in light of some gentle and encouraging prods to incorporate more color and pattern into my sewing, I’ve decided that maybe I should heed your advice… later. When I feel like it.

For now, I want a solid black wrap dress.

And not just any black wrap dress, but the most austere, un-whimsical, and un-fun wrap dress you can imagine. The kind of sleek black wrap dress you accessorize with nothing more than high cheekbones, black wedge sandals, Prada sunglasses, and a frosty attitude. (I do not possess any of these, but I think I can probably cultivate the attitude with a little effort.) No cheerful print, no summery colors, no superfluous swing to the skirt, just enough fullness to keep it from looking like a bathrobe. Sort of like dress 114 from Burda 9.2006 (minus some of the details), which I unfortunately do not have:

Such a dress may seem like an unusual wish for someone who can make her own clothes and therefore can wander somewhat freely through the realm of creative possibilities. But I have the kind of figure that RTW wrap dresses NEVER fit.  It’s Gape City with a possible side trip to Safetypinville when it comes to me and wrap dresses. And I have wanted a black wrap dress for a long time.

I’m going to start with the ever popular Vogue 8379:

Hmm.  I am already skeptical of those pretty, friendly-looking pleats and fear that they might soften up the “don’t-talk-to-me” attitude of my dress. But ultimately I think they’ll be more shape flattering than a flat fronted dress on my already flat front. I’ve already started grading down to a 4 (this pattern starts in an 8, so twice the grading fun!) and done an SBA on the bodice front pattern.  I’m definitely going to take fullness out of the skirt by slashing and lapping, or maybe just taking it out of the sides. And the whole thing will be rendered in one of the current reigning queens of my stash – gorgeous super-soft solid black wool doubleknit. 

Those of you who are shaking your heads in sadness and disappointment over my very dull choices and lack of creativity can take heart:  I plan to muslin this (or at least the bodice and sleeves) in this hideous, very 2002 print knit which has been in my stash forever:

And for those of you who may be tempted to try to convince me to make a “production” level version of the dress in this print?


(Look!  I’m already cultivating the frosty attitude to go with the dress!  w00t!)

About this blog

The Selfish Seamstress loves to design and sew garments, but only if she gets to keep them. I'm Elaine, known in the online sewing world as elainemay, and welcome to my selfish sewing blog.

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