Monday, June 29, 2009

Stashoholism Confessional: Goodwill Edition

So I am always reading about other people finding awesome vintage fabric and huge caches of amazing patterns at the Goodwill. The Goodwills in the greater DC area are a little too fancy. They go for a "boutique" concept, so the prices are a little higher and there is a LOT less merchandise on the floor, and nothing out of date. I check every time I drop stuff off, but I have never seen any patterns or fabric.

So when I read in the paper that the Goodwill was doing a traveling trunk show 11 blocks from my house and the paper specifically mentioned vintage fabric and buttons, I was so there!

Goodwill Trunk Show, 6/27/09

There wasn't much by way of fabric--this was actually the only large piece I saw. Tons and tons of old linens, doilies, tablecloths, placemats, etc, but I'm stocked up on those. I think the fabric would be cute as a shift dress. I don't have enough shank buttons so I chose all the cute shank buttons I could find. I also picked up a bag of ribbon. Unfortunately, they're fairly short lengths--not long enough to go around the hem, but sufficient for a waistband or belt. They're really gorgeous, though. I also got some elastic (not pictured) and an all-metal eyelet setter. I have a Dritz eyelet setter and it is pretty much crap, but seriously doubt the all-metal eyelet setter will be any kind of advantage. I think the issue is with the eyelets and not the setter.

I ended up waaaaay overpaying for this stuff. The girl ringing it up was very confused and didn't really pay attention to the pricing structure. Buttons were supposed to be 99 cents "per set" and beads $1.99. But I think she charged me $1.99 for the buttons, including the card that has only one button on it. The total came out to $46. But I didn't want to be that person who haggles with the Goodwill, ya know? The money goes to a good cause.

Goodwill Trunk Show, 6/27/09

To make myself feel better, I checked out eBay to see how much my nicer buttons would go for. I particularly love the glass flowers. They are probably pressed glass rather than cut glass, but they're really beautiful. I searched for "vintage czech glass buttons." eBay did not make me feel better because all the listings for similar buttons were $0.99! Oh well.


I other news, my Knip Mode arrived already! Postage was expensive because they don't have non-express mail as an option for overseas mail from the Netherlands anymore, but it got to me in just a few days. Thank you, Geertje!

Knip Mode 6-09Knip Mode 6-09

(click on the photos to enlarge)

Knip Mode was celebrating 40 years with 40 dresses in this issue! There aren't really 40 dresses as many are variations, but there are lots of cute dresses! In addition to the Martin Grant dress, I LOVE the other designer copy (#14, in yellow on the bottom row of the photo page) and the yoked raglan sleeve slightly trench-ish design (#7). I love a good trench dress, but I cannot wear any variation of khaki because of my coloring. Cidell and I were discussing this and she suggested navy. I don't wear a lot of navy, but I am kind of intrigued by the idea of a navy trench dress. But would the details show up at all? Anyway, that dress might be cute in navy.

Of course I have a million projects ahead of it! I need to do another project list, although I've only finished one from the most recent collage and have two remaining from the one before that. I keep going rogue and making things that aren't on the list. I've made three projects from my NYC fabric haul and this weekend was an unscheduled blouse of fabric purchased in March. But all of them were soooooo cute and so insistent that they be made RIGHT NOW that I had to do it. Fabric addiction is a demanding mistress.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Odds and Ends

First of all, thank you for all the helpful responses to my request for the June Knip Mode! Geertje is sending it to me and I should have it within the next couple weeks! I'm so excited.


Silk Jersey 6-09 So of all the fabric I *did* get in NYC of course I was lamenting what I didn't. I wanted some avocado jersey, and after working with some silk jersey was kicking myself for not getting anyone. That's when Elizabeth of eword10 said she had found silk jersey in avocado for $5.99/yd!!!!!! When she offered to pick some up and mail it to me, I couldn't say yes fast enough. It arrived yesterday. It is gorgeous. I've already made the dress I intended for avocado jersey out of the Spandex House print so now I've got to figure out what to do with it.... Thank you, Elizabeth!


There were a few questions on my Butterick 5320 puffy collar wrap dress:

Linda said...

I hope you don't mind, but I have to ask about your shoes. They look like a perfect match for the green. Will you share information about them. Green is my favorite color.

Unfortunately, I am no help with these shoes. I got them on eBay around three years ago, so I'm guessing they are no longer available. The brand is Bamboo, and if it's any consolation they're so poorly made I've actually never worn them out of the house for fear that they absolutely chew up my ankles and leave me bloody.

Rachel said...

Since you posted that Laundry dress on your June 19 post, I have become obsessed with finding a pattern for it. A nice person at Stitcher's guild found one really close and I wanted to share it with you:

Well, obviously I have consistent taste, because I made Vogue 2787 a couple years ago (pattern review)! I brought it with me to Vietnam for dressy events. Here I'm wearing it in the Mekong Delta:

Trena Stilt Houses


And now I will abuse some scrapbooking supplies. My sister is an avid and talented papercrafter and I always like to see what she's got going on when I visit. Papercrafters have a lot of nifty tools, including a stylus-type hole punch you can use to make holes anywhere on the page. I thought this was brilliant and immediately bought one (with Joann coupon, of course) for making small holes for earrings in cardstock. It was only a few dollars and I have gotten a ton of use out of it.

Belts are always a problem. I buy most of mine at Ross, which isn't big on selection, so they rarely have my size. Even when belts are my size, they have for many years been designed to wear closer to the hip with low rise pants than at natural waist, and so I almost always have to add a few more holes. Once I figured this out it made everything easier. Perfect skinny patent leather belt for $3.99, but only available in
XXL? No problem! Just put in some new holes and cut off the excess. I wanted a gold belt and found one on Bluefly that reverses from gold to red. Perfect, because I've been wanting a red patent belt as well. It arrived and needed a few more holes. So I pulled out my trusty papercrafting hole punch and got to work.

Adding Holes to Your Belt

Look for this belt accessorizing an upcoming project!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Butterick 5320, Elizabethan Collar Wrap Dress

Another of the Four Projects in Four Days! Ok, so the collar is not technically Elizabethan, but it's got a lot more volume than you normally see.

B5320 Thumbnail

For a long time I never managed to get my schedule to match up with the Butterick sales at Joann, so I didn't buy any Buttericks for probably a year. Then I finally managed to catch a sale, and stocked up! Among my haul were the Maggy London B5243knit dress I wrote about last week and this one, B5320 also from the Maggy London line, designed by Suzi Chin. I like wrap dresses, and this one had a lot of great features with the flat front and gathered side and back skirts, princess seams in front, and what I thought was a ruffled collar.

The fabric for this dress Ikea sheet! It's the Gaspa sheet and I was completely taken with the color, the weight, the sheen, the hand, everything. These are great for sewing! I bought this last year and washed it when I got home so I don't recall what size it was. I *think* a queen ($14), though possibly a king ($15). I remember being annoyed that they didn't have any twins or fulls, but in the end it turned out to be very fortuitous. This dress takes a huge amount of fabric, and I barely managed to squeeze it out. After making this dress, I bought the pink color the last time I was at Ikea. Unfortunately, they don't have the dark gray at my Ikea because it would be perfect for my kimono dress.

As I said, when I picked up the pattern I thought the collar was just a ruffle. But when I was cutting out the pattern pieces I was confused until I realized that it's a sort of a puffy bubble arrangement. The pattern photo really does not illustrate the drama potential of this collar! I didn't interface the outer collar, and now I wish I had to ensure that it will always remain puffy, as I did with my orchid collar big shirt.

Low Original NecklineNormally I would shorten a wrap dress between the waist and the shoulder for an SBA but I had no idea how to correspondingly alter the collar so I just had to make it and see what happened. It turned out quite low, but not gapey thank goodness! It's an easy fix to keep it in professional territory, just a hook and eye sewn in place where I wanted the crossover to be.

Ribbon Trim at PocketBecause of my limited fabric, and how giant the pockets are, I had to cut the inner pockets out of batiste. To ensure that the flash of white would never show and the reinforce the pocket to keep it from bagging out I stitched ribbon over the pocket opening edge before sewing in place.

Ribbon FacingI got this ribbon from Joann several years ago and I'd never found the right project for it. I loved the way it looked in this dress so much that I used it to finish the front opening edge. The dress is designed to be fully lined, but my thick fabric didn't need it. I had thought to use bias strips, perhaps, but would have had to use a contrast fabric. The ribbon was so cute I had to use it. I got a little slapdash here because the ribbon doesn't really shape with an iron, and I had to stitch it down on the inside edge as well as the outside and there is a little bit of puckering in places, but I don't mind it one bit.

BackThe only thing I don't like about this design is the back bodice. It has you gather the lower edge of the bodice and the skirt and sew them together with a stay.
Size 8 = 14 3/4 inch
Size 10 = 15 1/4 inch
Size 12 = 16 inch
Size 14 = 16 1/2 inch
I don't hate the blousy look here, but if I were to make it again I would definitely convert those back bodice gathers to darts for a sleeker look in the back.

The collar. It is a wrangle. The undercollar is a spiral, the upper collar is a giant rectangle with tapered ends (worm shape?). There are 28 pleats in the upper collar. While I cut the upper collar out with a sawtooth for each marked pleat, in the end I ended up sort of guesstimating so that the upper- and under-collars ended up the same length. I tucked each pleat downward, radiating from center back; you can sort of a little bit see how they change direction in this shot of the back. The upper collar is wider than the under collar so although I followed their instructions to understitch the outer edge seam allowance to the undercollar I don't know that it was necessary, and pressing that seam was terrible. I really felt like I was wrestling with the fabric for the collar, so I don't recommend it for early beginners, who I think will find it too exhausting and frustrating.

I was going to put sleeves on, but as I got close to that step I thought they might compete with the collar too much, and the collar covers a bit of the shoulder so the style is still office appropriate.

Front with Pockets I LOVE this dress. It is so much fun to wear, and gets a lot of compliments when I do. As you can see, I wore it to the Smithsonian National Zoo on Sunday and had lots of fun. The cotton is very cool and comfortable to wear. It wrinkles as cotton does but not unduly. The color is sensational, and I don't feel drab wearing a solid as I often do. You know how much I love me some prints, so a solid is always a risk. I'm glad I took it with this dress!

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Call for June Knip Mode

So, several people mentioned in response to my RTW Inspiration post that there is a dress in the June issue of Knip Mode that is similar to this Martin Grant:

Martin Grant, Spring 2009

I would LOVE to have this issue! I have been thinking about that dress for months and would really appreciate the opportunity to see how the pattern goes together. If it is still on newstands, is somebody in Europe (or elsewhere it's available) willing to pick this up and send it to me? I will of course pay for the issue and shipping! You can email me at t r e n a [dot] b at g m a i l [dot] c o m (taking out the spaces).

Thank you!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ready-to-Wear Inspiration

So when I was researching images for the Weekend Designer ruffle sleeve blouse to make out of the silk georgette I ordered from FFC, I went to the Bloomingdale's website to grab the Lauren pics. While I was there I decided to browse around.

You all know my love for knit dresses, and on the Bloomingdale's website you can sort the dresses by fabric category, including jersey. Score! I found a lot to inspire me. You can click on any of the photos to see them full size.

Susana Monaco Open Back Dress I like that this is demure and Audrey Hepburn in the front with the exposed back. I'm not necessarily wild about the plain wide straps--I think I'd prefer a U or a V back situation. One of my friends wore a low-back dress to happy hour a while back and it was so sexy. Now that my back is cleared up (cross fingers it stays!) after a round of dermatological antibiotics I am interested in incorporating the open back into a project.

Susana Monaco Gathered Strap Dress

Ditto the open back on this. I love how it looks like a regular sun dress from the front, and then the back is strappy and fun. It might be a tad too young/trashy for me, although the model looks fairly elegant in it, considering. Alas, I am not a model.

Cynthia Steffe Paige Dress Paige Detail

This one is probably my favorite of the bunch, partly because I can't figure it out! Looking at the closeup, you can see that the belt is in two pieces, the end of the front crossover sewn to one end and the belt that crosses the back sewn to the other. Unfortunately, there is no side view of this. I'm wondering if it is just a regular mock wrap, and the belt attached to the side of the bodice that crosses under passes through an opening in the side seam. Or perhaps it's just sewn into the side seam? That doesn't account for the drape on the outer front crossover piece, though, which doesn't appear to have a seam. I just got word from Elizabeth that she found me some avocado silk jersey for a STEAL. I'm thinking I may need to try this dress, using Simplicity 3503 as a starting point.

Ladera Ashley Dress

This Ladera Ashley has a similar sort of drapey cut on sleeve situation going on, but with a much simpler (aka easier) design. I like that the gathering is concentrated at CF and CB, rather than distributed over the hips.

LOVE this Laundry by Shelli Segal dress:

Laundry by Shelli Segal Pleat Dress Laundry Pleat Dress Detail
Martin Grant, Spring 2009I imagine the photo quality isn't good in this post (even Bloomingdale's ain't great at photographing details in navy), but if you click on the detail, you can see there are radiating diagonal pleats. Based on the closeup of the back, where the belt is in a slightly different position, it appears that there is no waist seam, which makes the pleats even more amazing because it means they are in some sort of chevron arrangement. It's got a bit of the flavor of the Martin Grant dress that amazed me so much last season.

DVF Epana Dress As soon as I saw who had designed this one, I understood why I loved it so much. DVF is the queen of taking advantage of the gorgeous drape you get with jersey. Again, the black hides the details but if you look at the front closeup you see how the skirt drape is gathered on the side opposite the one shoulder, then dips down, then there is a smaller gather under the one shoulder. Amazing, but I would need a lot more experience draping to figure this out.

I don't generally go to clothing websites because, well, I make my own. But maybe I'll do it more often for inspiration! You can see all the looks that caught my eye here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Butterick 5243, Maggy London Knit Dress

On to the next Four Projects in Four Days! You got a peek at this one in my NYC photos and Cidell took the most fantastic photo of it at the Garment District button, so I figured I should share.

But first, several people asked in comments to the S2724 Project Runway Shirtdress whether I had done prep work like tracing and altering patterns before the Four Projects in Four Days. I always pre-wash my fabric as soon as I get it home so that it's available the instant inspiration strikes, but other than that--nope. I would get up in the morning, trace or cut out the pattern, do any alterations needed, cut, and sew. Some of the projects (like the shirtdress) were long days, others I was able to squeeze in a social event as well. The only exception is that I did not necessarily finish all the hand sewing on the day I made the dress. I think I did the hand-sewing on this one the day of, but I know I didn't finish the hand-sewing on the lace dress (yet to be unveiled) until the next day.

So, here it is!

B5243 Thumbnail

Butterick 5243 is one of the many Big 3 patterns (Vogue is not so bad on this) that suffers from a terrible pattern illustration. That muddy purple-brown doesn't show any of the fantastic details that are easily evident on the line drawing, aside from just not being an interesting color. And the animal print for the long sleeves is looking a little dated, in my opinion. After seeing the RTW version of the (in)famous Maggy London twist dress, B4789 on a friend (complete with horrible wad of fabric under the twist) I realized the fabric on the pattern photo is what was used in the RTW version. It would be a shame if she produced the RTW version of this dress only in that ugly purple!

The fabric for this project is another of the ITY polyester prints I got from Fashion Fabrics Club last June for $4.75/yd. I absolutely love it--the colors, the Pucci-esque print, and the drape. I ordered five of these prints; I've used four of them. I would say I wish I ordered more, but I'm pretty sure I did order all the ones I liked and they had already sold out of several of them. However, you can see that the knit print I bought from Kashi has replenished my stash with this style to sew next year.

SBAThis was a straightforward project to sew. I don't have trouble with the Big 4 armscye in knits, so I didn't have to worry about that. The only alteration I made was an SBA, narrowing the width of the bodice to reduce the amount of gathering.

To prevent gape of the surplice neckline, I twin-needled over clear elastic, slightly easing the fabric into the elastic. But in the end I think I could have left it out. The neckline distance is fairly short and I don't think there would be a danger of sag or gape. But I had so much rather be safe than sorry!

I narrowed the width of the sleeves to accommodate my somewhat limited fabric, but they still have plenty of flow. I ended up taking about 2 inches out of the width. To get a nice hem in the sleeves, I fused strips of (non-stretch) interfacing around the edge and then turned under and twin needled. I didn't have any trouble with skipped stitches or tunneling. I did not fuse the hem, but had no trouble with skipped stitches or tunneling in it, either. I've had mixed results with this ITY; on my pink dress there are skipped stitches galore in the hem. (also, I think my twin needle needs to be replaced).

I also shortened skirt 1.5 inches in cutting, and this turned out to be pretty much perfect.

Faux piping closeupI feared that the yoke situation would get lost in my busy print, so I wanted to do something to emphasize it. I wasn't entirely sold on piping the seam, so I didn't want to sew it in and commit. Instead, I made a tube of the fabric (leftover slinky from my mom's outfit). I slipped the ends into the stich-in-the-ditch at the yoke (holding the yoke facing in place) while sewing by machine, and then hand-stitched it in place along the seam. I like it, and definitely like that it emphasizes the yoke seam, but I'm glad that I can remove it if I get sick of it.

This is yet another great knit dress for travel. I think from now on I will travel only with knit dresses. You can toss them in a suitcase any which way, they look great, and you can wash them in the sink with shampoo or bar soap and they dry overnight. Perfect!

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

My experience with the B4789 twist dress notwithstanding, I am a big fan of the Maggy London patterns. I love my blue silk burnout velvet B4657, which I wore in pretty much the best photo ever taken of me, and I made another Maggy London as one of the Four Projects in Four Days that is TDF. I'm going to pay more attention to her label in the pattern books.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Stashoholism Confessional: Garment District Edition

Cidell and I spent alllll day Friday loading up on fabrics in the Garment District. I pulled in quite a haul. But first, a thank you to Myra for some fantastic vintage patterns!

Vintage Patterns from Myra

She won my vintage children's patterns giveaway. When she received the package, she said she had some adult vintage patterns in my size and asked if I would want them. Yes, please! They are so cute. I especially love the 1940s shirtdress on the right side of the middle row. It is just sensational. I looked for the perfect fabric for it while I was in NYC, but alas didn't find anything quite right. I will be keeping my eye out for cotton prints until I succeed.


I am often asked by non-sewists whether I choose a project and then buy fabric for it, or if I find fabric and then figure out a project to use it in. Sewists rarely ask this question because I think for most of us it is a combination. I am more on the "buy fabric first, ask questions later" side; I'd say at least 80% of fabric I buy because I like it, and only 20% for planned projects (if that much). But given the size of my stash, I do have a guideline ("rule" is too strong a word) that I need to be able to envision a project for the fabric before I can buy it. I don't necessarily have to stick with that project in the end, but it least has to conceptually fit into my sewing style and wardrobe.

We first headed to Paron, but we hadn't yet had breakfast and it was past 11 so we didn't buy anything yet. I do not make smart decisions when my brain has inadequate fuel.

Hanging Out in the Garment DistrictInstead we met up with Elizabeth of eword10 for lunch at Garment District Chinese restaurant Ginger's. The decor is nice and their plates are gorgeous. I do not recommend the Shanghai Tofu.

Fortified, we were ready to do our shopping. First stop, Metro Textile, aka Kashi. He recognized me immediately as we were coming down the hall and remembered that the last time I was in New York it was for the Mermaid Parade. I was impressed! Clearly all that flattery swooned me into buying way too much fabric:

Metro Textiles 6-09

One of the few things that was actually on my list was red silk dupioni for another obi. This was the right color. Unfortunately, the minimum cut at Kashi's is one yard and I really only needed 1/4 yard. In the end, I decided it would be easier to get a full yard there than traipse around everywhere looking for the thing that was right in front of my face, so I will have plenty leftover for another project.

I am not a fan of sheers, but the yellow silk chiffon was so pretty I had to have it. The color is gorgeous and the quality is just amazing. It has the most incredible sheen. Kashi said it is Thai.

The purple knit print is to make a project for my mom, as purple is her favorite color. It wasn't until I got home that I realized it is almost identical to the fabric for my bubble sleeve dress. At least my taste is consistent. The blue is my color and my style (very similar to my pink empire waist dress) so I figured I needed it in stash.

The seersucker was actually on my list, and I am always wishing for swiss dot.


Next stop, Spandex House.

Spandex House 6-09

Cidell loves Spandex House but they just don't do much for me. Although they have hundreds of bolts of solid jersey, there are never any colors I like. There are lots of pinks, some blues but few in the turquoise family, pretty much no greens, and no yellows or oranges. It's amazing that the colors are so limited given the size of the inventory!

I was still bummed about missing out on the avocado bamboo jersey from Fabric Mart and hoped to find a replacement, but given their total lack of greens there was no chance. But then on the way out, we stopped downstairs to look at the prints by the stairs (the prints in the front of the store are an absolute horror, to my mind) and the print on the right jumped out at me. It has avocado in it, and I love the abstract style. I didn't think I wanted a print for Butterick 5130, but I think this will work.

The gingham is from the new room off to the right of the entrance and will be the CUTEST vintage style swimsuit ever.


From here, we were off to some trim stores.

Assorted Notions

The jewels are cheap quality, but also cheap price from Itrim, on LindsayT's recommendation after she got some for a top for her daughter. The black ones came in a bag of about 20 and were $3; the sparkly copperish ones were $6. The clear bra straps are also from there--$1.50/pair. I have sloping shoulders and wear a racerback bra whenever possible to avoid the annoyance of straps falling down. When I *have* to wear a bra with regular wide-set straps, I use clear straps because they stick in place. They are $6 from Joann ($3.60 with 40% off coupon). $1.50 per pair is a STEAL *and* they are better quality. The buckle was $2; assuming I can find some grosgrain ribbon I like someday it will be for a ribbon belt like Cidell's. The store also had lots of feathers for millinery.

From SIL Thread came the fold-over elastic ($2/yd) and the bias tape maker ($7). I've always made bias tape freehand without too much trouble, but the tape maker was so cute I impulsively threw it in. There was no price marked on it; had I known it was $7 I might not have gotten it. Now I need to find a project that uses bias tape.

The chalks are from Greenberg & Hammer. I got several colors when I was there at PR Weekend 2007. The white I have disappears under an iron which is AWESOME (though sometimes I forget and then have to re-mark everything), while my colors do not. I asked if they had any colors that disappear under the iron. Apparently, you have to choose wax for that and I guess the ones I have are clay. I haven't yet tested to see what happens, but if the colors do disappear under the iron I will be so pleased.

And finally, the trim! It is from Pacific Trimmings. At $9/yd the price is much higher than I would usually spend. Normally I can live without things that ar $9/yd. But having just bought my swiss dot (and how much do you love the selvage of it?) I really HAD to have it. See how RTW I am? Check out the Kaylee top by Cynthia Steffe at for a somewhat similar look with trim.

Swiss Dot and Rose TrimCynthia Steffe Kaylee Top

I am considering McCall 5708. I am picturing it with my thin black patent leather belt and my white pencil skirt and thinking it is very sexy secretary.


We were pretty beat by this point, but I wanted to go back to Paron and pick up the fabrics I had chosen when I we did our preview.

Paron 6-09

Obviously, I was in a green mood. The green silk/cotton twill is the only fabric that breaks my rule of "at least have a vague project idea to justify the purchase." I only bought two yards given the price and my lack of vision, and it is only 45" wide. I was thinking a pencil skirt and possibly a shrug. I know it's perfect for a jacket (the weight is fairly heavy) but I just don't like making jackets.

Dye Test SwatchThe lighting in Paron is far from natural so I wasn't sure how the yellow embroidered fabric would look on me. When I got it home I saw it was just way too pale. I tested a swatch in a "dye" bath of turmeric. Though the slight contrast tone of the embroidery was lost, I vastly preferred the brighter color so yesterday during my pre-treat mode I dyed the whole piece deeper yellow.

I also got the charcoal gray cotton I needed for my kimono dress from a little store near Paron for $5/yd, but I could not get an interesting picture of it and didn't want to be too boring (too late!, given the length of this post).


Are you tired yet? We were! All we had strength for was an ice cream appetizer at Baskin Robbins (we could not find a local ice cream shop!), dinner at Cookshop, and cupcakes from Billy's Bakery for dessert.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Fashion Show

So, is anybody else watching Bravo's spite-knockoff of Project Runway, "The Fashion Show"? I am guessing that a lot of the aesthetic look of Project Runway is owned by Bravo, such as the time lapse shots of New York, the "_ Hours Until Runway Show" graphics, and the music. This makes me very curious to see what Project Runway will look like in its new home. I'm guessing if the look and feel, if not the actual content and stars, of Project Runway are the intellectual property of Bravo they're going to have to tweak, if not the format, at least the superficial look of the show. The parties have shown themselves extremely willing to engage in litigation so Weinstein shouldn't take any risks.

/lawyer geek.

So, I don't have cable. In a way this is good because to watch Project Runway I have to bum off a friend and invite myself over. Which means that I don't watch it alone. I didn't realize how much having a friend to gossip with increased the enjoyment of watching the show, but watching The Fashion Show online (I won't link because it's probably not legal but you can find it easily enough) by myself is not quite the same.

Nor is the show.

Kelly Rowland: Wha? I mean, I loved Destiny's Child back in the day, but seriously, what is this woman's cultural relevance? And she doesn't overcome it with her wooden presence and complete lack of understanding that the definition of "fashion" is not "stuff I would wear."

Isaac Mizrahi: A funny, genuine person. But he's not warm enough to be Tim Gunn or bitchy enough to be Duchess Michael Kors. Also, he appears comfortable on film, but not remotely natural. He keeps doing the Michael Scott thing where his eyes cut over to the camera.

Fern Mallis: Why don't they use her more? She really could give Tim Gunn a run for his money. She is sweet and encouraging and knows everything about fashion, especially its marketability. An internship with Fern Mallis should be every aspiring designer's dream. I think that should be the prize, and that she should replace Kelly Rowland in the workroom visits. But she's probably too busy with her real job. Of which Kelly doesn't have one.

There is the usual mix of silly, unwarranted divas and a few people who keep their heads down and let their talent shine through. Actually, I'm not sure there are any of those, but there is some genuine talent.

As in Project Runway, there's a lot of harping on the finishing of garments.

One of the contestants got very pissy about being called out for poor sewing, saying repeatedly, "I didn't know this was a contest for America's Best Home Sewer" (a line, might I add, that he ripped off from Tim Gunn, who said it about all the people who came to Project Runway auditions with portfolios of garments sewn from commercial patterns although I can't find the source for this).

Isaac--who has publicly emphasized the importance of sewing to designing in the past--said, "You can't write recipes without knowing how to cook."

I totally agree. I am not a designer, as I am continually telling people who say, when they find out I sew, "You should go on Project Runway!" I have drafted a few simple projects, but in the end I have neither the skills nor the vision to be a designer. So I am not saying this from a place of thinking that I'm better than anyone.

But to me there are two components to fashion design. The first is artistic. But the second is engineering. If you can conceive of a garment but cannot carry it out into wearable execution (and production sewing is yet another ball of wax), your work is art but it is not fashion design. And that was the issue with this designer. He created a bodice that would not stay up without duct tape. If he doesn't know enough about sewing and construction to understand that two jersey triangles without straps, boning, or structure will not stay up over a woman's breasts, he is not a designer. He is an artist, perhaps. But not a designer.

I would quibble with the judges on finishing techniques. You don't have to know finishing techniques to be a designer. That is something you can leave to skilled workers once you're successful enough to hire them. I think I'm even ok with safety pins, assuming they're standing in for viable seams. But garments that do not function as garments? That is not successful fashion design. Unless you're Viktor & Rolf, as demonstrated at right.

Overall, the show is going well, but hasn't quite decided what it is. I love the emphasis on saleability, and that the weekly prize is production and sale of the winning garment (with well-executed details and surprisingly affordable price points) and the final prize is an entire line sold on However, the judges seem conflicted about this. At one point, when the guest judge likes the losing design because it's something his clients would buy "without even thinking about it" (because it is flattering, innocuous, and easy to wear), Isaac says, "This isn't the salesman show." actually *is* the salesman show. Notwithstanding that mandate, the judges often choose the garment that will be the most difficult and expensive to produce, with the most fashionified silhouette suitable only for fashion insiders with model figures. I'm not sure how--if ever--this tension will be resolved. It doesn't necessarily have to be for the show to be enjoyable, but the home sewist/armchair dreaming designer would love to know which it is.

The Fashion Show airs on Thursdays on Bravo.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Simplicity 2724, Ruffled Project Runway Shirtdress


I loved Simplicity 2724 as soon as it came out, and the cute versions that have been made since then (such as Story of E and Danville Girl). Meanwhile, back when I received the amazing Carol Collection I fell in love with these two fabrics together. I'm not really sure why they were so adamant in being used together; while the blouse fabric is the same color family as the skirt obviously they are many shades apart. But I really wanted them together in some sort of shirtdress arrangement. When I thought of cutting the ruffles out of the striped fabric on the bias, I had to use this pattern.

SBAThe first thing, of course, was to alter for a small bust. I narrowed the bust dart, but decided to leave the lower pleat alone. It is not very wide and seemed suited to my bust size. After sewing up the dress, I had to shorten the bust dart by about an inch and a half, as it was overshooting my bust. I don't do many horizontal bust darts (or many bust darts period!) so I don't know if that should be part of my standard SBA or is a quirk of this particular pattern.

Ruffle MethodNow it was on to construction. The instructions for the ruffles are needlessly complicated, though they will spare you a visible line of stitching (I think). You are supposed to first press in your fold lines. Then sew one gathering stitch through both the ruffle and the turned under allowance, and one gather stitch just through the ruffle. You're the supposed to sew the single layered gathering long edge of the ruffle down right sides together, then turn it right side up and topstitch the other long edge (as far as I can tell). With a lot of gathering plus a bias cut ruffle this was just not going to work for me. I just ran the rows of gathering stitches through both thicknesses on both long edges of the ruffle and topstitched both sides in place. I don't feel like I lost anything by having two rows of stitching, though I it does change the look a bit from the way it was drafted (which Story of E and Danville Girl faithfully followed).

When I read through the directions a while back, I was very confused. I had in my head that this was a shirtdress, and it was having you do all this finishing at the neckline and I was wondering how in the world you were going to put in the button loops after you'd already applied the facing.

When I sat down to actually make the dress, I realized that it wasn't designed as a shirtdress, it only has the look of it. The bodice center front is sewn to the neckline, and the facing is short and goes only to the center front seam line. I had my heart set on this being a shirtdress, so I lengthened the facing to extend all the way to the bottom of the blouse portion and sewed button loops to the right side and sandwiched them between the facing and the fashion fabric.

UnderlapAfter I completed the dress I saw that I needed an underlap as my skin was showing between the buttons. Very tacky! So I just cut a rectangle of fabric, sewed the top edges, turned, and serged the long edge. LOVE my serger for this. If I didn't have it, I would have to have turned in that long edge, which would have created bulk. However, serging raw edges is a very RTW technique so it doesn't look homemade (I think) this way. I topstiched it in place by sewing over the inner row of stitching on the ruffle, so there is no visible stitching line. Had I thought about it before applying the ruffle, I could have hidden the stitching line underneath.

SleeveI intended to make this sleevless, but when I was getting close to finishing I thought sleeves would make it a little more professional for the office. Although the pattern offers several options for sleeves, they were not enough for me! I have been curious recently about what kind of sleeve a half-ellipse would make. Using an Ikea sheet as muslin, I cut out the shape on the fold (so it's actually a full ellipse, with the fold serving as the sleeve hem). I pinned it in place and found it cute, but trying it on I saw that even a sleeve like this benefits from more fullness in front and less in back. If you click on the photo to enlarge, you see that while the muslin is symmetrical, the actual sleeve is narrower at the back and fuller at the front.

Side When I installed the final sleeve, it was sticking straight out a little too much for my taste, so I folded out and sewed down some inverted pleats to tame the futuristic look. I finished the armhole edges by running bias tape all the way around the armscye.

Making this pattern, I realized that the Big 4 armscye does not fit me at all. The past several projects I've made it is just SO TIGHT and I have to lower by about half and inch and scoop out from the front and back. What I need to do is start narrowing the shoulders (which I think would be the same thing as scooping out from the front and back) and lowering the armscye as a matter of course. Cidell keeps getting on my case to make a sloper, and after this I definitely see the value in having a reliable armscye that I can slap on top of any project and trace out.

This was the most time consuming of my Four Projects in Four Days. I wasn't sure I was going to make it and I probably sewed a little later than I should have (I have instituted a strict "pencils down" rule at midnight), but I got it done and was ready to do the next project the next day!

I am really loving the result. It's cute, but because it has traditional blouse shaping at the top is completely appropriate for the office. I feel like it's a less formal, more everyday wearable version of the BWOF 11-2007-106 shirtdress, which I wear for meetings with opposing counsel and visiting dignitaries.

All photos are here and the review is here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Stashoholism Confessional: Internet Edition


I have resisted the lure of online fabric shopping for half the year. However, when I found myself without the right fabric in my stash for the BWOF 06-2009-110 kimono dress and had to do the muslin out of the grody polyester crepe, I decided that once I finished the muslin, if I liked the dress I could go online to order some charcoal cotton for the real version.

Well, I liked the dress.

So I checked out my usual suspects,, Fashion Fabrics Club, and Fabric Mart. I found a dark gray poplin at FFC and put it in the cart. There's no point in ordering just one fabric, so I tossed in some solid rayon knits in turquoise and red, and then I found a silk georgette and added that. Here's what I got:

Fashion Fabrics Club 6/09

Of course, the downside of fabric shopping online is that you don't always end up with what you think you're getting. The poplin was described as "dark gray" and the photo looked like a charcoal. In real life, it is on the olive side. So the whole justification for this order is kind of a fail. I don't hate the olive color, it's just not at all what I had in mind. While it works with the obi I've made, it would not work with a planned black and red obi. So I still need a charcoal cotton.

The turquoise rayon has a crinkle texture that was *not* disclosed on the website and is a bit of a disappointment as well. I love the color, but the texture is really not my style. I bought Simplicity 3536 a while back for the view with the ruched sides and center band. I'm not really sure I'm feeling the style of it anymore, but it's an option for a crinkle jersey. Suggestions are welcome!

I've been wanting to make a red dress for months, after a thread on Pattern Review linked to an article that said men find women in red more attractive than any other color. This is the perfect shade (though it hasn't yet gone through the wash; hopefully it keeps its color). I had it in mind for 06-2009-101, the pleat front dress. However, Dawn made it in a lightweight knit like this rayon and it didn't work for her. I'm going to experiment with fusing the bodice and midriff with stretch interfacing and see if that gives it enough texture to stand up to the pattern.

Abaete Lauren Top A while back Cidell sent me a link to Weekend Designer, whose blog I had somehow not yet come across. I scrolled through his archives and fell in love with this ruffle sleeve blouse; he featured the Lauren top by Abaete as an example (available at Bloomingdale's for $118).
**edited to fix incorrect gender pronouns--thanks LaKaribane!

I didn't have anything in stash that was quite right for the project, so I splurged on some silk georgette. The print is a little bit like those "paint with water" books I had as a kid (do they still make this?) with ink dots that smear when you wet them.

FFC Silk Georgette How lucky was I to find this vintage pattern in my stash? View 2 is the perfect starting point for this look. I'm going to have to grade it out at the waist and hips because I want a pull-on top with a single loop and button at the neck; this is designed with a full back button placket. To me, that style is just bragging that you're married and there is someone to button you up on the mornings. I'm not and there isn't. I may end up putting a zip at one of the side panel seams. We'll see.


Then I got an email from Fabric Mart about bamboo knits. I absolutely fell in love with the avocado color, but there were only 10 yards left. Even though I placed my order very shortly after receiving the email, I feared I would miss out on the avocado, so I told them to sub in coral if it was out.

Fabric Mart 6/09

I lost out on the avocado. I have a bit of buyer's remorse about the coral. The only solid color jersey I have in stash is pink, and I have a couple colors of it. I was really, really looking forward to avocado and had it in mind for the Butterick 5130, the dress with all the ruching and elastic casings. But I don't like pink for it. Then I thought maybe a maxi length sundress and experiment with ombre dyeing in orange at the hem, and if it's awful then cut it off at the knee. But I don't have any need for a maxi-length sundress. It's not suitable for work (I just can't see it with wide straps or sleeves), you can't wear a long dress inside a bar, and I don't live near the beach. After I washed the coral and hung it up to dry I warmed a bit more to the color; it has a fair amount of orange in it which makes it more interesting than a pink in the same color value. I still don't know what to make it into, though.

I threw in the hot pink knit print because it was a good price and I never pass up a knit print. No specific idea on that, either.

The black is a silk linen-weave, very nice. I don't have a go-to little black dress. I made one many years ago; it was great in my 20s but is a little vampy for my 34 year old self. I'll make it into Butterick 5321. Vogue 1025, an Anne Klein designer pattern, is almost identical to the Butterick. I haven't checked out the envelope, only the online, but I think ultimately I like the Butterick better. The Vogue might have a more sophisticated pleat in the bodice front, which is a point in its favor. However, I like the unusual diagonal darts in the back of the Butterick, and I like that it has set-in rather than cut-on sleeves. I think they're a little more formal and timeless. Of course, all its exciting details means I'll have to muslin.

Fabric Mart Blue Dots I got the blue print broadcloth because it was on sale and I am often wishing I had some cute lightweight cotton prints. I feel like this would look great in a vintage look. Unfortunately, most of my vintage patterns are from the late 60s and 70s and this really needs something from the 50s or early 60s. The Vogue 8446 is at the top of the list right now, although Simplicity 2601 entered the running when I saw the dress KatieN made on Pattern Review. The rounded collar struck me as ick on the illustration, but on her dress it has total 40s retro appeal.


Of course, all this was before I decided to head to NYC next weekend for some shopping. There's a slight chance I won't be able to get out of work, but my bus ticket is purchased and fingers are crossed!