Commercially Alternative: July 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

10 Good Sewing Practices

1.      Measure twice (or thrice!) and cut once
·         Always a good practice
2.      Cover your sewing machine when not in use
·         Dust is your sewing machine’s enemy
3.      Clean your sewing machine after each project.
·         Open up the bobbin case, following your instruction manual, and clear out the dust using the brush provided with your sewing machine.
·         Vacuuming the inside is a good idea too.
4.      Change your needle after each project
·         I don’t do this, but this is what my sewing instructor said. Therefore, it’s probably a good idea if you plan to sell your clothes.
·         In other words, don’t use a dull needle.
5.      Don’t use your mom’s 30-year-old thread you found in her sewing basket.
·         The thread will break, fray, and, in general, gunk up your machine.
6.      Use paper towels when using fusible interfacing
·         Put paper towels between your fabric and the ironing board and between your fabric and the iron.
·         Accidents happen and you don’t want interfacing permanently fused to your board or, worse, your iron.
7.      Hang up fabric pieces that have not been used yet
·         This will save you from ironing every piece multiple times.
8.      Use distilled water in your iron
·         This will extend the life of your iron.
·         Tap water leaves calcium deposits that will gunk up your iron and get on your clothes.
9.      Iron pattern pieces before you lay them out and cut
·         This makes it easier to lay and pin pattern pieces.
·         It also decreases inaccuracies caused by folds and bumps.
·         Set your iron to low heat with no steam and iron out bumps, wrinkles, and folds.
10.  Baste everything!
·         Seriously
·         Especially hems
·         Everything except completely flat edges that line up perfectly. It may take some time, but it will save you a lot of trouble.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tools of the Trade

Sewing requires a huge arsenal of tools besides the obvious sewing machine. However, there are many options when you go to the store. Which are necessary and which are not? Here’s a list of supplies that I use for almost every sewing project.

  • A good iron
    • Here’s a tip: use bought distilled water in your iron. This will extend the life of your iron, as tap water will leave crusty calcium deposits that clog up your iron and get on your clothes.
  • Glass headed pins
    • Only get pins that say they have glass heads. This way you can pin something such as a narrow hem to your ironing board and you can iron right over the pins. If they are plastic they will melt onto your clothes.
  • Large scissors (I use Fiskars)
    • Do not use these scissors on paper! These are for fabric only. Paper will dull your scissors and make them useless.
  • Small scissors with a sharp point (again, I use Fiskars)
  • Hand needles
  • Bright neon thread for basting
    • This one is a personal opinion, but I love basting with my neon pink thread. It makes it easier to see what you are doing and what you have done. Moreover, it’s easier to take out since it (probably) won’t blend in with your fabric.
  • Pincushion or Pin magnet
    • Don’t put unthreaded hand needles into your tomato pincushion. I put one in and dropped the pincushion. Now there is a needle in the middle of that thing for all eternity. xD
  • Tailors chalk in white and blue
  • Marking pen
    •  While marking pens are very nice to use, I use mine sparingly. My projects tend to take a few weeks. As such, if I use a marking pen the ink will disappear the next time I pick up my project. In addition, it will even disappear by the end of the day if it’s humid out.
  • Measuring tape
  • A small seam ripper
    • Those big ones are just plain useless.
  • Tracing paper and wheel
    • I don’t use these as much as the chalk and pen, but it’s still useful every once in a while
  • Pinking shears
    • Another optional purchase, but I love them. This is how I finish all my seams, unless the garment is thin or transparent and the pinking will show through.
    • This is the method to use to finish seams on bias skirts. A zigzag stitch tends have bad results on a bias cut in my experience.
  • Cardboard fold out
    • I always use this. You can buy them at Joann’s for $20 or cheaper if there’s a sale. It turns my floor into an extra large workspace and folds away when I’m done.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dream Lolita Dresses/Skirts and Stories to Match

I still have a little ways to go on my next lolita sewing project. Therefore, I thought I would do what Zeruda did and share nine of my dream loli dresses/skirts. These are some of my favorite brand items. Clearly, Mary Magdalene, Victorian Maiden and Innocent World have a window into my soul.

I adore the simplicity of these garments. There are no bears riding unicorns around mountains of ice cream and happy feelings. There are no bows stuck in every crevice possible. Some don’t have a single bow to their name. Lace is even a scarce sight. They lack so many of the elements that come to mind as instantly lolita and yet they are gorgeous. There’s a mature elegance in their line, color, and shape. They inspire dreamy fantasies of graceful young maidens in charming settings. For fun, I decided to write little excerpts of what I see the girls in some of these dresses doing.

Mary Magdalene's High Waist Skirt (top middle)
The small street cafĂ© was noisy with the hustle and bustle of the crowd passing by. The girl adjusted her newly bought beret. It was exactly the same color as her skirt and she had to have it the moment she saw it. She giggled as she thought of how it probably made it obvious that she was a tourist. However, her map and a constant need to ask for directions probably didn’t help matters anyway. A tall waiter, handsome and about her age, brought her order of coffee and a pastry. The girl thanked him and gave her most charming smile. However, the boy did not see and had already moved on to the other patrons. Off put, she bit angrily into the pastry, but all was forgotten when the flakey morsel practically melted in her mouth. With renewed purpose, she whipped out her map once more and planned her day of art museums and shopping.

Mary Magdalene's Burgundy JSK (top left)
The room was silent except for the occasional crack from a log in the fireplace. The tinsel on the Christmas tree in the corner reflected the light from the blaze. The specks of light danced about the room like fireflies on a warm summer’s night. Her parents had long since taken her sleeping brother to bed. She smiled as she remembered how he still tightly held onto his new toy soldier despite being fast asleep. The party that evening had drained him completely. The girl sipped slowly at the last of her cup of eggnog. Like her brother, she wanted to hold on to the memories and feelings of the day. She lifted her cup to her lips, but realized that it was empty. Reluctantly, she stood up from the floor and put the cushion she was using back on the couch. The girl made her way upstairs, running her fingers along the garland and poinsettias that decorated the banister. Her parents met for her at the top of the stairs, kissed her goodnight, and wished her one last merry Christmas for the year.

Mary Magdalene’s Strawberry OP (top right)
The strawberry oozed slightly as she bit into it. She had to lean over quickly to avoid getting the juice on her creamed colored dress. Despite the almost tragic mishap, the strawberry was delicious and she went back for more. She heard her name and looked up, almost losing her loosely tied straw bonnet in the process. One of her friends stood at the top of the hill. The friend yelled for the girl to stop snacking and hurry up. It was almost midday and time for the picnic. A red-checkered picnic blanket was laid out beneath the shadow of a large tree. Her scattered friends gathered beneath the tree with strawberry filled baskets in hand. They had all brought in a fair amount of berries, having learned their lesson in younger years not to eat the fruit as they picked them or risk an upset stomach. Although, everyone still snuck a few now and again. The plump red strawberries were too much of a temptation to resist for long. Once everyone was settled, various sandwiches and snacks were laid out. The little group spent the rest of the warm afternoon laughing, eating, and playing.

I just noticed that all three involve food. Ha-ha, I guess I’m a little hungry.

What do you think of when you see your favorite lolita dress or skirt? I would love to hear some stories matched with the particular garment.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My First Petticoat

I began my handmade lolita journey with the very foundation of a lolita’s ensemble, the petticoat. In love with classic lolita, I decided on an A-line petti. After searching many tutorials and even buying Simplicity’s current pattern for a petti, I chose to use Sugardale’s amazingly in-depth tutorial here. The tutorial was very easy to understand with many pictures to guide one every step of the way. Unfortunately, petticoats take an extremely long time, at least for my novice skill.

            I initially made the petticoat exactly like the tutorial. I used 4 yards of ivory colored sparkle organza from Hobby Lobby and matching organza ribbon from Hobby Lobby. If you use organza instead of tulle, Frey Check is EXTREMELY important! Do NOT skip this step! However, I was unsatisfied with the results. I wasn’t fond of the shape and size of the poof and I wasn’t happy with the organza being right against my skin. Though not as bad as tulle, I still wanted something like a satin. Therefore, I drew some inspiration from Victorian Maiden’s A line organdy panie and altered it a bit. I’m sure this will be a common trend throughout this blog.

Here are the changes:
  • Used the yoke pattern pieces from previously purchased Simplicity pattern 5006 shortened to match the petticoat length I wanted. I bought a half a yard of Ivory Satin from Hobby Lobby. This way I could have an elastic waistband instead of the hook and eye closure of Sugardale’s tutorial.
  • Made a matching middle and bottom tier from Sugardale’s tutorial using 2 more yards of the same fabric and sewed them together. Therefore, the petticoat has two layers of the middle and bottom tier. I then sewed these two layers to the yoke.

Here is a picture of the finished petti. It took me a couple of months to complete, but that was with me attacking it on and off during the school semester. The finished length is a little over 21 inches long, which is perfect for me since I’m tall.

All the gathering was quite tedious and I wanted to burn the thing by the time I was done, but after putting it on and twirling, all my troubles and hatred for the garment melted away. I absolutely loved how it turned out. However, since I do not have a Lolita skirt or dress I cannot attest to its shape quite yet, but I am optimistic! It has now turned into a source of inspiration for me. If I’m ever feeling down, I just throw on this fluffy thing, take a spin and all is well in the world once again.

Tell me about your first petticoat! Did you buy it or make it? Have you ever made your own petticoat? I would love to hear about everyone’s experience.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Welcome to Commercially Alternative! I’m a classic lolita who doesn’t have an outfit yet. I learned how to sew over a year ago and now I’m going to enter this ruffle-y world by my own skills!

The ultimate goal of this blog will be to share with my fellow lolitas how to turn commercial patterns, such as Simplicity, McCalls, New Look, and so on, into lolita garments. This will be a learning experience for all of us as I’m quite the beginner. I hope that this won’t fizzle out and I can keep this up for an extended period. My short-term goals are to create my first complete lolita outfit and attend my first meet up. My long-term goals are to learn more about sewing and different sewing techniques, create a workable wardrobe, and make some lolita friends.

I hope this blog will inspire both you and me to create beautiful clothes. I also hope those more experienced than I can help me learn and improve.