Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sewing for Other People: My Mom

ThumbnailWhen I went to visit my family over the holidays I brought two pairs of jeans and a bunch of tops. I'm working on traveling light (and my suitcase was full of gifts). One of the tops I brought was Knip Mode 4/08 #13, the fabulous gather front top. It is so fabulous that even my mom noticed it (she's not one for fashion) and asked for the pattern.

When I got home I called her for her measurements and started tracing out the pattern. But then I realized that she would never get around to making it for herself, so I better just make her one. I chose an aqua colored slinky from stash (I think I bought it from Fashion Fabrics Club 2 or 3 years ago). Then I realized that she probably didn't have anything to wear with the top so I found a coordinating wool plaid from The Carol Collection. Purple is her favorite color and she seems to like plaid skirts. I wanted a pattern that had only side seams to minimize plaid matching and with some pleats for roominess. BWOF 10-08-103 was perfect. Here it is!

Outfit for Mom

She is allegedly going to get my dad to take a picture of her in the outfit and email it to me, but they have to learn several technologies before this can happen and I didn't want to wait. The top is my only contribution to the stash contest so I wanted to go ahead and post it and do the review!

I made the top pretty much as before, which is basically right out of the envelope (or magazine, I suppose). Because slinky is heavy and prone to growth spurts I used twill tape on the shoulders. I also hand sewed the collar together for a couple inches at the front. My mom dresses quite conservatively and is self conscious about a scar at the base of her neck from having thyroid surgery while she was pregnant with me, so she doesn't like low necklines. As I recall, she doesn't like V necklines at all, but she had seen the shirt and knew it was a V so I figured it would be ok.

The skirt went together well and easily. The pleat arrows didn't really work for me. The front has two sets of pleats, one on either side of CF. Both sets are supposed to be arranged sort of as a center extroverted pleat (opposite of inverted, I'm not sure what the real name is) with a pleat on either side facing in toward it. It didn't really look right so I had all the front pleats facing toward the closest side. The back pleats are supposed to be the same extroverted pleat with other pleats radiating but it would have poofed over her rear end (we are pretty much the exact same shape, just in different sizes), so I changed that to an inverted pleat with overlapping side pleats facing toward CB, as you can see here.

Mark Waistband I really like BWOF's wide waistband for skirts. They have a nice contour, which is flattering. My tip is that where there are similar shaped waistband pieces, I mark them with chalk on the inside. In the photo you can see that I've written "FF" and "BF" for front facing and back facing. The back and front were marked with F and B. This saves a lot of unnecessary trouble.

Baste Half Zipper I'm pretty proud of how well I matched plaid at the zipper/side seam. To get the skirt/waistband seam to line up perfectly, I machine stitched one side of the zipper and then hand-basted the other side in. As you can see, I cut the waistband on the cross grain after seeing how bad it looked to have a plaid waistband cut on grain in BWOF 09-2007-116 (I've since ripped the waistband out and inserted one on the cross-grain, just haven't taken pictures)

I kept the outfit a secret so she didn't know what was coming when she got a package from me. She said she was so excited that she cried, and when I talked to my dad later that week he said that my mom was pulling out the outfit for anyone who would look at it and had already worn it. She assures me it fits but of course I have no idea as I haven't seen a picture! I will look for more projects to sew for her. She is right on the cusp of regular and plus Burda sizes, so I will have a chance to sew some of those great Burda plus patterns I am always so envious of in the magazine.

All photos of the top are here and the review is here. The skirt photos are here and the review is here, and here she is in the outfit!

Mom in her Outfit

So now apparently I do sew for other people. I have two more people to sew for as yesterday--Jet and Marvel are now big brother and sister to twin brothers Cash and Fox, born February 24!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Vintage Pattern Score

My friend Courtney told me a while back that her grandmother had given her a bunch of old patterns for me. It turned out to be an entire grocery bag of patterns mostly from the late 60s-early 80s. The beauty of it is that Courtney is around the same size as me; you can see us side by side at Mermaid Parade 2007. So most of the patterns are in my size! (I'm assuming she is about the same size as her mom and grandma as well.) Well, I should say, the tops are my size. The bottoms are for someone who is proportioned the same top and bottom, i.e. too small for me.

Here are a few of my favorites:


I LOVE the blouse on top. It has so many great elements: notched collar, yoke with soft front gathers, air hostess cuff detail. Also check out the shoes; they are 100% in fashion right now. It really does all come back around (although the collar of the blouse needs to be narrowed a touch). I can't wait to make it, though I find that despite rather large stash of fabric I never have what I want! Which right now is printed cottons. I have, I think, only one lightweight cotton print, and I'm not crazy about it. I want a bunch of dotted swiss and Liberty-style lawns. Or if we're wishing how about real Liberty lawns. But in real life I'd settle for good quality imitations. Even medium quality imitations.

The others also have great detail. The keyhole neckline. The yoke and tiny pleats (give it more of a scoopneck and change the sleeves just a little and it's got a similar feel to the Tracy Reese I blogged last week). The two-tone basic shift with cute little cut on collar. Love them.

There are lots of children's patterns in there too, for crazy complicated girls' dresses. I enjoyed my foray into children's sewing for my niece and nephew, but I'm not going to get all elaborate with it.

I will go through them and do some giveaways when I get the chance.


Sitemeter is fun. It's interesting to see what kind of searches lead to my blog. I had two amusing ones recently, a blogsearch for "HOT BABE BLOG" and a google search for "WELL SHAPED BUST." Apparently when looking for naughty pictures it is necessary to have the CAPS LOCK key on. I can only imagine the disappointment of the searchers who found sewing information where the only person who appears nude is a paper tape double.


And while I'm being random, does anyone else get this ad on gmail?

"Berina Sewing Machines - - 30-70% off Berina sewing machines. Entire order ships for just $2.95!"

It bothered me for the longest time. I couldn't figure out if it was a typo for "Bernina" or if a shady sewing machine company is engaging in trademark confusion by producing "Berina" sewing machines. This is a big problem in Asia with motorbikes. Honda is the best, most trusted brand, but you have to be careful you're not buying a "Honoda" or a "Handa" instead. Anyway, I finally went to Overstock and searched "Berina" and "Bernina" and came up with nothing for either, so the ad makes no sense whatsoever. Annoying. I refuse to click on it to find out what it leads to.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sewing for Other People: Baby Steps (literally)

When asked, I always flatly state, "I don't sew for other people." The end.

However, when contemplating holiday gifts for my family I was sort of at a loss. I usually make at least some token item for most people (though male personages are nearly impossible to make anything for unless you have Karen's shirt tailoring skills)--one year I made everyone fleece hats--but mostly buy gifts according to what everyone wants.

I am very blessed to be an aunt many times over. My sister has three boys (3, 8, and 10) and my brother has a son (3) and my only niece (2)...and will have two more little boys any day now!!!!! My sister's boys are old enough that homemade=bad in their minds; for them I have to wait a couple of decades and then homemade will be good again. At least that's the way it worked for me. I used to think we were SO PUT UPON that my mom made all our bread and we didn't get pre-sliced loaves from the store, and of course nowadays I make all my own bread.

Anyway, my brother's kids are still young enough to appreciate whatever gift you give them. My niece absolutely loves girly dresses. When they first watched Cinderella they almost had to turn off the movie because she got hysterically sad when the ugly stepsister's ruin Cinderalla's dress. They had to tell her that she gets a new one. For my niece's gift they made her a little dance stage with mirror and ballet barre in the playroom. My nephew is into kings and castles and so for his gift they turned the closet under the stairs into a castle.

Both of these are perfect for sewn gifts! I asked my sister-in-law (trivia: when I moved from Texas to DC my sil rode with me because she wanted to see some of the country; we had so much fun on our road trip!) for their measurements and then started brainstorming.

Pink ButterfliesFor Marvel (my niece), I decided on a girly peasant top and matching skirt, a tutu, and a scarf/boa out of a funky faux fur. She's too small for BWOF's kid's patterns. I don't want to hurry her up, but I'll be excited when she gets into their size range!

Peasant Blouse PatternSince I didn't have any patterns for her I drafted a simple peasant top with cut-on sleeves based on her measurements. I added a neck binding/elastic casing and elastic casing bands around the sleeves about three inches from the hem in the skirt fabric. I loved being able to use these crazy fabrics from my stash. The skirt fabric is leftover from one of my perennial favorite skirts that I made years and years ago while I was still in law school (I graduated in '01, if we're counting). I used the sequined butterfly fabric for my Carnaval costume several years ago. I think they look so cute together. You can see that I put a little rick rack bow on the front of the blouse so it would be easy to tell which side is front and which is back (I cut the neckline slightly lower in the front for wearing comfort). I don't have any photos of the tutu--it was just a couple layers of tulle sewn around an elastic waistband.

King Robe and CrownFor my nephew I wanted to make a dress up item and a clothes item. For dress up, he had to have a king robe to wear in his castle! This was the only fabric I had to buy; everything else for both of them was from deep stash (at least two years old). I used a purple moleskin from Joann and trimmed it with leftover faux fur from my Down With Love project. I based it on Simplicity 2738, a pajama pattern. I cut it a couple sizes too large, and cut the front on the fold, adding some ease. It has slits on the sides for walking ease and a big "J" for "Jet." Plane tickets were so expensive when I was buying for the holidays that I ended up with a long layover; I sewed all the trims onto Jet's king robe by hand during the layover. I also made the crown out of tissue lame, with plastic needlepoint canvas for the headband (I passed my plastic needlepoint canvas tip on to Cidell for her Weekender bag; I've been using it for purse bottoms for years).

Spiderman ShirtFor his regular clothes, I was inspired by the other thing besides kings and castles that he loves: Spiderman. I bought some netting spiderweb on Joann's clearance after Halloween several years ago with the idea of maybe making some simple Halloween costumes to sell on eBay, but never got around to doing so. I realized that I could combine it with a red silky poly remnant wrapped around my exchange gift at PR Weekend 2006 for a really awesome Spiderman shirt. I used the same Simplicity 2738 pajama pattern; instead of using a facing I used self-bias tape at the neck. You can't see all the details in the action shot (taken in Marvel's "dance studio"); here's a photo of the shirt flat.

All of my photos are here. My sister-in-law's set of photos has more shots.

Making kids' clothes turns out to be pretty easy and fun. They're little so they take less time, and they don't need all the details adult clothes need. Plus, I could just finish all the hems with the serger!

So I have added a caveat to "I don't sew for other people."

I will sew for other people (1) whom I love dearly and (2) who will wear whatever is put in front of them. That pretty much limits it to young children who are related to me and my mom. More on the latter later this week!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Stashoholism Confessional and Notes on Paper Tape Doubles

2-14-09 G Street Fabrics

Although I am concentrating on sewing projects I love from stash, I am still allowed to buy six yards per month. I picked up 1.5 yards of each of these knit prints from the $2.97/yd table at G Street over the weekend. I kind of wish I'd gotten more of the awesome 70s-ish print on the left so I could make a dress and a top. Now I have a tough choice to make. The choice is made more difficult because the fabric is pretty low quality and probably nylon? It's thin and really isn't suitable for a dress, but I am loving it for BWOF 10-2008-115

Several people were curious about my paper tape double introduced earlier in the week.

Cindy: I am desperate need for a dressform-- would you recommend a dress form padded or the tape version? The taping looks tough!

The taping is actually not hard at all. The person taping you has to be dedicated to your curves, but it takes under an hour for sure; probably closer to 35 minutes. I should have timed it. I used paper tape from Staples. Cut it into shorter lengths (maybe 14 inches), wet with a sponge, and stick on. Repeat. If the person wrapping you is not a sewist who understands the importance of catching all the curves, you may have to do a practice one first. And read up on the X wrapping technique for the bust.

As for what I recommend between making one from scratch and padding a ready-made form, it totally depends on your size. A dressform with small enough boobs for me (and shoulders and neck, but the bust is the biggie since that's one of my biggest fitting challenges) is simply not manufactured, at least that I can find. I am an AA cup and dress forms have the standard B cup. Believe me, there's a big difference between an AA and a B. I have no choice but to make my own (or have one custom made, which I would totally consider if I could find anyplace that did it). If you are pretty close to a standard size, you will probably get better results--and certainly prettier ones--with padding out a pre-made form.

The only commercial form I've considered (other than my vintage Acme Jr.) is the Uniquely You form, made of compressable foam over which you stretch a fully-fitted sloper made of canvas. However, I finally concluded it would be too much trouble for me given the difference between my bust and hips (four sizes)--I would have the buy the smallest size, which is "petite," to accommodate my bust and ribcage (I've heard of people cutting off the boobs; Sherril did this) and then add a lot of padding at the hips, belly, and booty. The hips on the petite only go up to 34" and my hips are 37 to 38 inches. Also, I fear the shoulders would be too wide, since I apparently have freakishly small shoulders. They are relatively inexpensive; two sources have it for $139 right now. It comes in five sizes, which I think is a generous size range. Geez, I need to stop thinking about this one because I feel like I'm talking myself into it! I don't need another failed dress form! There are mixed reviews on this one. Some people have gotten a perfect match, others say they can never compress the foam quite right.

Sarah made a duct tape double: BTW - I found that the form is a bit bigger than me (which is obvious I guess since it was made stuck to a t-shirt which I was wearing). But I was surprised that it's actually a noticeable difference.

Did you find that with yours?

Slide bottom in placeYep, the form is bigger than me, not really because I was wearing a t-shirt--I fitted it skin tight--but because I was breathing while being wrapped. That's why when I taped the back up I overlapped the edges quite a bit, as you can see in the photo at right. I overlapped the edges until the measurements matched mine and then taped it up. The shape is therefore not perfect--I think it's a little more conical than I actually am--but it's better than a commercial form.

LaKaribane: Mine was duct tape but it needs structure. I read somewhere online, a Esp blog, about adding papier mache layers inside to rigidify. Do you think the paper tape is tough enough?

Will you cover it with thin batting and a jersey layer, so you can somewhat pin?

I saw the adding of papier mache inside a dress form too, though I can't recall who did it either. I do think the paper tape is sturdy enough, which is why I chose it over duct tape. I think I'd like to try duct tape eventually *because* it's more malleable and would deal with the conical shape you get from overlapping the cut edges, but stuffing it out seems like a really delicate operation, as it seems very easy to distort.

I will probably eventually add a thin jersey cover to my form, but probably not batting since she's already at the outer limits of my size.

Sally: I took a class from Jan Bones on how to make the brown tape form. She stated the form was fairly sturdy on its own and did not need to be filled. In fact, I have found that with the one I made.

She suggested hanging your form on a hanger. Then you can hang it high or low to fit or hem, etc.

The form does keep its shape on its own, but it would have needed several more layers of tape not to need any stuffing at all. I would have had to add the layers from the inside to avoid adding bulk. I found it easier to fill it with the insulation foam and not worry about it collapsing as I push and prod at a garment.

One thing I will say is that I should have had my friend tape further down my legs. I had her go to the crease under my butt to make sure we had captured the widest part of my body. The problem is that the base is as wide as the widest part of my body and it is impossible to pull a close-fitting skirt with a straight or pencil line over the base. It's the same size as me--but the actual me is squishy. So that takes away some of the utility of the form because I can't use it to fit those skirts, or with narrow-skirted dresses I can't fit them below the waist because I can't pull the skirt all the way down. I actually shredded the lining in a skirt trying to pull it over the form; the lining seams just gave way.

Despite the limitations of the form, I am happy to finally have a serviceable iteration! I haven't made a great deal of use of it yet, but it was really handy for marking the buttons on a blouse, which I've normally had to do on myself in the mirror, which is not easy or ideal. I'm looking forward to easier and better fitting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Look 6429: How can this be?


I've had my eye on New Look 6429 for years. There are 46 reviews of it on PR and it looks good on everyone, no matter their figure. So I figured it would be perfect to use on one of my cute FFC knits to make a low-stress, quickie addition to my wardrobe for Germany (yes, we're going back to October again).

I did my usual SBA for a wrap style, shortening the wrap line to prevent gape and merrily cut an 8, which is allegedly for a 31.5 inch bust.

This sucker came out HUGE. Ugh. I hate the Big 3 and their stupid ease. Who wants to look like that, especially in a knit? And while I love the princess side panel design of this dress, it means that there is no bodice side seam and therefore no way to alter the dress after it's cut out and put together. Normally I just tweak the fit at the side seams, but here there was nothing to be done.

I also felt like the left side underlap was too short.

Action ShotI do like the cuffs and collar, so that's something.

I was completely disappointed in how this pattern came out on me. Although I shortened the neckline it is still way too wide and I had to do that hideous thing where you tack it in the middle *not* at the natural place that it overlaps so the line is distorted. I feel like the skirt is more A-line than represented. I didn't use the neck facing and it looks horrible, but that's all on me. Luckily(?), this fabric was low quality so although the print is cute I didn't feel like I wasted it.

I still like the design elements of this pattern, but I'm not sure if it would be worth the amount of effort it will take to alter it so it actually fits my body (further shorten wrap, narrow side princess panel and front princess seams, take skirt in at waist, narrow skirt width). Since I'm already at the smallest size on the pattern, I'd have to grade it down 2-3 sizes and that is so much trouble. I'm not ready to junk it yet, but it's definitely on the back burner.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Naked Truth

I was very productive over my four day weekend (!!!) but unfortunately am now too busy to blog about it, LOL. But new projects are upcoming.

In other news, I finally finished up my second try at a paper tape dress form. I met a sewing friend at Fashion Sewing Club. She is about to go out of the country for about 6 months so we figured we'd try paper tape doubles before she left town.

Bloated FormYou may recall that Cidell and I first attempted this a year and a half ago. We got almost to the end and then we overfilled our dress forms with expandable insulation form and they exploded. Well, it would have more spectacular had they actually exploded. Really they just bloated. It looked like New Year's Day after a particularly good party, as you can see.

Before trying again, I re-read the Threads Magazine article, which is invaluable and available free on the internet. You need to start with a very fitted t-shirt (I had to make darts in the back to get swayback definition), with a good bra underneath. Be sure to tape over the bra in the back using packing tape so it doesn't get cut when you slice the dummy up the back.

The friend I did it with is also small of chest so she was sensitive to the need of differentiating between boobs and not-boobs, which was good. We took a lot of time on the whole X-wrapping of the chest and used narrower tape there. The boobs are still not super differentiated, but that has more to do with the model than the skill of the wrapper.

Violet is too big in the shoulders!My brilliant idea was just to slip my paper tape double over Violet, my vintage Acme Junior dress form, and stuff the booty and belly. So easy! Well, it turns out I have really freaking narrow shoulders and a pencil neck because Violet was just too big in the shoulders and the neck. I couldn't pull the paper tape form shut over her shoulders. So much for bright ideas! I don't understand this at all as I feel like my shoulders are wide, but that's a whole other post. So I had to go back to square one in terms of coming up with a stand.

Shoulder T I happen to have two dress forms. A friend's (now ex) boyfriend gave me his grandmother's old form from the 50s; with her C cup bullet bra breasts there's no way I could ever match her but her stand is awesome. I also have Violet. So I swept the Bullet Bra Babe off her stand and slid a length of PVC pipe over it, as you can see here. The stand is feet with a rod coming up the center so no modification was necessary. I believe sources recommend using a floor lamp to the same effect. It's great because it swivels easily. I used a T connector to add shoulders to my skeleton. I should have measured better because I had to go in and shove lengths of cardboard tubing into the pipes to fine-tune the shoulder width, but it works.

Slide bottom in place Close up your form to about the waist, checking your measurements. The form will be bigger than you because you are breathing while it's made (I hope), so your cut edges will probably need to be overlapped. Make sure the bottom edge of the dress form is even and set it up on top of a piece of foam core board, used for science projects and presentations. Trace around it, cut it out, mark the center, and a make a hole in the center for the pipe. It will look something like this. The slide the bottom over the pole and in place at the bottom of the form, and use paper tape to seal it off.

Despite the bad experience Cidell and I had with the insulation foam, it really does seem the best thing for filling a dress form, both lightweight and rigid. Fabric scraps are too heavy, packing peanuts too textured. If you have a whole load of plastic grocery bags they might be a good filler. I used Great Stuff Big Gap Filler (I have no affiliation with the company).

I think there were two issues with the problems Cidell and I had. First, I think air temperature greatly affects how much the insulation foam expands. As I recall, Cidell and I used about three cans each in our forms and it was way too much. We were filling them outside during July, so it was quite hot. I did this indoors during winter, so it was in the low 70s in my house. Four cans barely filled her up to her waist. Second, the foam continues to expand for 24 hours so patience is key. You have to let the last can fully expand before adding the next one. Because I know myself well enough to know I am too impatient for this, I actually made myself stop at the hardware store on the way home from work and buy one can each night. Hopefully you don't have to go to this extreme measure!

Once she was filled up to the waist with insulation foam, I stuffed the rest with fabric scraps, rather than risk overfilling.

The end result is useful, and much more realistic than idealized Violet with her flat stomach and no booty, as you can see here; all the photos are here.

So here it is, the naked truth. This is what I'm working with. Flat chest, belly larger than chest, swayback, rounded shoulders, small waist, and absolutely enormous booty. I like my booty in real life, but I'm seriously going to have to throw a sheet over my dress form (she needs a name!) because every time I glance over I have to say, "OMG I have a giant ass." No matter how many times I remark upon it I am still taken by surprise every time!

The Naked Truth


In other news, I was voted second place in the Reconstruction/Recycling contest for my sweater hat! I have entered many PR contests over the years and was nominated for a PR Award (Best Fashion Photography), but I've never won. It's very exciting. Thank you to all who voted for me!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Spring is Coming Early (and Fashion Collections)

I am planning a big conference for March 16-17 and I have some travel comp time that has to be used before the end of March so I figured I would just take the week after the conference off. My sister and I are going to Miami!!!!! I'm so excited. I've always wanted to go to Miami; without ever having been there it's on the very short list of places I would move from DC.

And now I get to start Spring sewing! I turned to the runways for some inspiration.

Wow, you'd think we were in a recession or something what with the all-black Spring collections (with a little taupe thrown in for variety). I had a hard time finding anything I liked and many of the looks were decidedly un-Springlike.

There were Marc Jacobs' muddy metallic plaids (????).

It seemed like Miuccia's heart wasn't in it what with the unimaginative silhouettes, taupes, grays, and aprons at Miu Miu.

Even my beloved Sonia Rykiel didn't have anything for me, unless I was looking for a coat made of human hair...harvested during the 80s.

Carolina Herrera at least tried to be cheerful; although I like the hem flounces like this one, there was nothing I had to have.

Betsey Johnson's Little Circus on the Prairie (with pirates! and mimes! one night only!) was at least chaotic and crazy, even if there was nothing I loved. I like the cut of this jacket, but I don't want to make jackets for Spring.

I managed to find a few looks to inspire me.

Derek Lam, Spring 2009

I hadn't even thought to look at the runway shows until BWOF published this Derek Lam in the February 2009 issue. I love the pale but rich color (not too lemony, not too orangey) and the draping at the neckline. Usually I have some kind of concept of how things were done, if not the ability to replicate it but the fashion origami of this one stumps me. I'm guessing it has something to do with the lining? I can't tell if it has a waist seam or not. If not, I am even more in awe. This one is pure eye candy to me more than inspiration, but what eye candy it is! Also check out this sculpture from Marchesa.

Chloe, Spring 2009
Chloe was enjoyable. I liked the relaxed and flow-y vibe she had going on because it avoided slouchy and oversized. Generally a relaxed fit means boho or hippie style, but her looks were sort of updated 40s and aggressively feminine. I enjoyed the oversized trim that looked a bit like giant rick rack, as on this skirt--love the high waist and self-fabric belt too. The dress at right is fabulous. Dial it down by 1/3--less volume in the sleeves, smaller armscye, higher neckline, narrower skirt--and it is 100% wearable. I obviously have a thing for that elasticized tulip hem because I put this Tuleh dress in my inspiration folder in 2007. I'll have to figure out how to work it into my wardrobe.

Wunderkind, Spring 2009

I like the double layer of embellished fabric that Wunderkind has going on here, though not the proportions (I would show just a hint of the second layer) or the Oliver revival styling. I have in my collection a navy lace and a yellow eyelet; I'm not sure either is really suited to the double layer but it's something to keep in mind.

Tracy Reese, Spring 2009

Tracy Reese gave us a little color. Although I didn't love everything like I usually do she was big on sleeve details like at right. I like how she took a simple tee and made it a little more interesting but still a neutral piece that is not necessarily a whole look in itself. Appearances notwithstanding, I do try to have one focal piece and not a bunch of crazy elements. Well, usually. I also love the shape and print on that skirt. I can't quite tell what the shape of the hem is because of the model's hands in the pockets, but I like what I can see. It's a new shape for me--I'm familiar with skirts that are straight, asymmetric, and have a train or mermaid cut, but I don't think I've seen anything like that. This dress also has pretty sleeves, plus pintucking which was kind of my theme for last summer (Simplicity 4122 and BWOF 04-2008-108 in my Paris Mini Wardrobe).

And speaking of Tracy Reese, when I saw the two patterns she'd put out through Vogue I was a little disappointed because I'm not a huge fan of suits and although I like the dress I feel it's a little simple. When I went back through my designer inspirations, turns out I was certainly feeling that suit last year!

Martin Grant, Spring 2009

This Martin Grant is one of those dresses that is just a fascinating piece of engineering. It was so good of Martin to make this in a plaid so you can see (sort of) how it's put together. My current guess is a U-shaped half-circle. It is so cool. I don't know that I'll ever attempt it but it's something that will always be in the back of my mind. (Oh, and this one? Leanne should be proud. Though not of her annoying flash website.)

So what am I actually going to sew?

Projects 2-12-09
Three of these projects are carryovers from my 12 Step Program laid out in January, which will leave three orphans from that plan. I'm ok with that. None of these are actually influenced by the above looks as I had some of the projects planned Spring/Summer 2008. This includes Butterick 5209, first mentioned on June 19 last year. And yet, now that I look at it, it shares some characteristics with the Chloe dress. I wonder how it would look with an elasticized hem....

There are, of course, a million other things on my project list. A million!!!!! So who knows what gets done first. Right now my plan is to the above. It's not the color-coordinated thing I would usually do for a trip (there is already a problem with shoes, as in needing too many to go with those different outfits) so I may modify the plan or a do a few pieces and pull the rest from my closet. I don't have much time before Miami and am CRAZY busy at work planning the conference. As Bravo would say, Watch what happens.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Simplicity 3775 and the Magical Ruched Midriff

Artistic PoseSide

Before I made up Simplicity 3775 for Spring I was skeptical of the wide midriff. Although the under-bust seam goes along with the popular empire line right now, the midriff is much longer than the 3 or 4 inch bands that are mostly seen in ready to wear and I worried that it would look dowdy or just off.

BlueGreenSide When it made the Best Patterns of 2007, I decided to go ahead and give it a shot. I definitely wanted the surplice neckline style as the crew neck does not work for me (though I've seen modifications to be a boatneck or scoopneck that make it very cute). It was a smashing success! It's very flattering and easy to wear. The midriff ruching hides a multitude of sins.

This was one of the knit dresses I took with me to Vietnam. When I was staying in Da Nang the only other English-speaker in my hotel was a British travel writer, so we hung out a bit. One day when I was wearing this dress we went to a convenience store to see if I could find any yogurt. He was quite a bit older than me and the convenience store lady kind of tsked at me for having a boyfriend/husband so much older than me. I tried to explain "just friends" but that's a difficult concept to convey across a language barrier. Then she put her hands on either side of my waist and gave me the thumbs up. That means the same in any language! The midriff ruching is magical, I tell you.

I figured I should add a fall version to my wardrobe. When I got back from Paris in November I had to stay awake because I was meeting up with some fellow sewists in Philly at the weekend and I needed immediately to get back onto Eastern Standard Time. I chose this project to keep me awake. I used a plaid knit from the $2.97/yd table at G Street and the contrast bits are leftover from my Patrones Calvin Klein Dress.

-I cut the midriff overlay on the bias to get a cute effect.
-I piped (just a folded strip of fabric) above and below the midriff. I did a slapdash job of it and it's much narrower under the right boob than the left; I just haven't had the inclination to go in and fix it.
-I added a band an inch wide (2 inches with seam allowances) to the bottoms of the sleeves.
-Added sleeve puffs. I cut them 1 1/2 times as long as the sleeve opening and 10 inches wide. I put a stripe of tulle on the inside to help them keep their shape. I wish I has used the technique from BWOF 10-2008-117 of offsetting the inner hem (i.e., rather than folding directly in half, pin the corresponding mark on the inner hem one inch off from the corresponding mark on the outer hem) to give more of a twist and a bubble. The downside of serger construction is that just ain't going to happen. I have ripped out serged seams plenty of times, alas, but I don't relish it.

This pattern is still a keeper! All photos are here and the review is here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The People Have Spoken: Orchid Collar Big Shirt


The people have spoken! Team Circus Sideshow stuffed the ballot box as the polls were closing, but in the end 61% voted Luscious Lioness. This poll thing is fun! And because their will happens to agree with mine, so it shall be done. The collar stays poofy on BWOF 09-2008-110.

Side View

I didn't intend to go with the narrow unfitted hip band as designed in BWOF, though I was tempted when I saw Marita Kinnula's minidress version. This is super-cute as a minidress. Along with Daniel V's orchid neck blouse, what won me over was that the silhouette could be adapted to match that of Simplicity 4020, seen at left. This has been a favorite pattern on PR two years in a row mostly for the kimono top view (which I've made) but which also has a cool 80s-ish dolman sleeve top with a wide hip band. I love the top but don't wear it too often because the wide neckline is fussy to wear, so I wanted something that could sub into my wardrobe. In pulling the Simplicity 4020 top out to look at the length of the top and the hip band I hit upon a solution to fix the neck so this project was like two tops for the price of one!

Collar InterfacingSo, in planning the top I was certain I wanted the collar to be very poofy, so I did some samples and decided to use a knit interfacing purchased at Jomar. I wish I'd bought more interfacing while I was there. A bus ride to Philly is pretty cheap... I also added a layer of tulle, which I have found to be a great way to add body without bulk. The photo at right shows the tulle basted in with the gathering stitch.

This project was the sewing course for BWOF's 09/2008 issue, so I thought it would be no sweat. I am generally aggrieved by their selection of projects for the sewing course. It seems that they usually choose the most ridiculously easy project in the entire magazine as the sewing course. This project was intended to include single welt pockets so that qualifies as a difficult design element, but the rest of the project is an easy peasy unfitted knit top.

And THEN, after all that, they don't show or discuss the only difficult construction step (other than the aforementioned pockets): sewing the gathered edge of the collar in place. BWOF's order of construction is to sew the smaller ungathered edge of the collar right sides together with the neck, then gather the larger edge, and then "[f]old collar half to inside and pin in place over joining seam. Work from the right side of the garment to stitch exactly in line of collar joining seam, catching inside half." There is no illustration. It's not that I don't get it--I understand exactly what they're saying--it just seems needlessly hard. Why sew the easy half of the collar in place using the easy method? And then try to mess with a bunch of gathering out of your line of sight while you're trying to be exact in your seam? And after all that end up with a mess of gathering and raw edges inside your neckline where it's likely to flip out and show at any second? No thank you.

Neck Stay Hand Sew Outer Neck Edge

My method of collar construction:
-Cut out a neck stay, just the first inch of the collar pattern on the narrow ungathered side.
-Sew the center seam of the stay.
-Gather the neckline to the stay, and then sew the stay in place, right side to right side.
-Gather the wider edge of the collar (including tulle) and sew in place on the inside (right side of collar to wrong side of shirt).
-Fold the collar over (fold the narrow edge over to the outside of the shirt), push up the stay, fold the seam allowances inward (I didn't interface them so this would be easier), and hand-stitch the narrow edge (as seen in the photo above right) of the collar to the stay right next to the stay seamline.
The collar flops down and hides the hand finishing and there is a clean finish on the inside.

To get the length and hem band look that I wanted I cut about 7 inches off the bottom of most of the shirt, cutting into a gentle bell curve at the center front with a maximum of 11 inches. I concentrated the gathering at center front and center back to avoid giving myself a muffin top, and the CF had to be cut a lot shorter to keep the shirt from billowing too much at the gathers.

I cut the hip band 10 inches wide for a finished (doubled) width of 4 1/2 inches. I tapered it at the sides; the upper edges (plural because it's doubled) are an inch narrower than the lower edge.

I had also intended to do simple sleeve bands as in Simplicity 4020, but in seeing it made up by others I actually liked BWOF's needlessly complicated sleeve cuffs. To scale to my frame I had to cut 2 1/2 inches off the bottoms of the sleeves and use a shorter length of elastic in the casing--11 inches versus 12 3/4.

AccessorizedI am actually really loving this shirt now that it's done. I feel like it's very different from my usual Retro-Fantasy Ultra-Femme Rainbow-and-Unicorn-Stickers-Level-Girly style--more rocker chick than fairy sprite. I tried to convey this in the photos. I am loving it accessorized with a tough black belt. Trivia: I actually inherited the belt from my grandfather. It was in his closet when he passed away. It is a totally tough (or "tuff" as the hipsteremo kids would say) rocker belt and I can't imagine him ever wearing it, but I love that I have something of his that I can wear.

Oh, and as another aside, I was intrigued by the comments that called this a bold color. In my wardrobe hot pink is practically a neutral. In fact, anything that's not a print is a neutral. It never even occurred to me that the color could be considered bold and therefore a design element in itself! I suppose that tells you something about my (lack of) taste.

The review is here.


I can't remember who suggested widening blog columns last week and can't find the post, but whoever did, thank you! Please let me know if the newly widened main post column does not work on your screen. How comfortably it fits on the screen appears to vary by computer and I don't want the text to run off the edges!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Circus Sideshow or Luscious Lioness?

Apparently I enjoy posing dilemmas using alliteration.

So I'm working on the BWOF 09-2008-110 big shirt. When I first saw it in the magazine I just skipped right over it because I thought it was ridiculous. Somehow it wriggled into my brain, though, and I found myself drawn to the idea of making it. When I bought the hot pink knit for my mom and then decided the color wouldn't suit her, I had to make it into *something* to justify the purchase so I thought, well, why not the crazy big shirt.

Daniel V's Orchid Blouse What had inclined me more toward the pattern was remembering Daniel Vosovic's orchid blouse from Project Runway, Season 2, Episode 8; you can see more photos courtesy of the fabulous boys of Project Rungay. It's a very fashion-y silhouette, but I think the blouse is (just barely) wearable by a real person. BWOF's knit version takes it down a notch to make it even a little more wearable than that. Although you may find this hard to believe, I really don't have any casual but chic--as opposed to cute--winter tops to wear with jeans to meet up with friends on the weekends, so this was added to the project queue. (Winter tops are my nemesis, as you know.)

Being inspired by Daniel V's orchid blouse and looking at the photo in BWOF, in which it appears to be almost a sweatshirt knit to get the collar so poofy, I wanted to make sure my collar had enough body, so I interfaced it and underlined with tulle. Taking another look at BWOF's photo, however, and comparing it to the versions that have been made on PR I think that, in fact, their's is just a regular knit and they didn't do anything to add body to the collar, and I like the way the collar lays on the versions bbgrilla and Marita Kinnula made.

I first put it together on Wednesday and immediately dismissed it as clownish and/or Shakespearean and was about to cut out the tulle and rip off the interfacing, but knew I had to give it at least a day to get used to it. When I put it back on last night it had kind of grown on me. There's a fine line between edgey and ridiculous. While I sometimes intentionally step over that line, here I am hoping to stay more on the interesting-but-cool side.

Collar Dilemma

Thoughts? Opinions? Suggestions? (With the usual caveat that advice often helps me make up my helping me realize I want to do the exact opposite of what is being advised.)

**EDIT to say** LindsayT very reasonably asks why I'm just showing the top half here. Simple answer: It's not done! I still have to put on the sleeve cuffs and hip band. I will finish it up before making the final decision on the collar (which is still pinned) but I wanted to get input before people unplugged from the computer for the weekend.

And, in honor of LindsayT who is excellent about posting interesting polls, I've added my first poll on this burning issue!


In the "You know you have a problem when..." category, last night I dreamed about buying fabric. It hasn't even been a month since I last bought fabric, and I don't usually buy fabric more than once a month. So the very idea of buying 6 yards a month is giving me nightmares already! This is bad.


If you like food blogs you must check out Ipso Fatto. She is one of my work colleagues and holy cow is her baking good. She made the cupcakes for another colleague's wedding party. This was a week ago today and I am still fantasizing about them. I should have snuck one into my purse and kept it in the freezer for emergencies. We had a going away party with a New York theme yesterday for a higher up and she made black and white cookies for it. I got there just in time to see the last one snatched off the plate. I considered fighting for it, but figured I should gracefully let it go. I guess it keeps fantasizing room in my head for the red velvet cupcakes!


Speaking of blogs: the Kreative Blogger Award! Thank you to all who have nominated me for this award! I am so honored that so many people singled out my blog: Linda, dyeabolical, Nancy (nanflan), sew4fun, Sherril, Barbara, MarySews, Alexandra, Laura, and E (and I hope I've not missed too many people). I am going to break the rules, though, and refer to Carolyn's post about passing the award along. I spent the first half of my life being...not unpopular, because that would indicate people took enough notice of me to make me affirmatively unpopular. More like invisible. Somehow in college I found myself popular on campus. Not in the sense of being the homecoming queen (though I was actually nominated for the court, which is crazy) or popular with the boys, just in that people knew who I was and respected me. It was pretty great. And I think it's a self-perpetuating thing--it gave me enough confidence to carry it over into law school and my professional life.

But I think you never really get over that junior high feeling, no matter how much it is rectified afterward. I don't want anyone to feel overlooked or invisible, because that feeling is still surprisingly fresh in me. If you are on my blog roll, I read you and love you and try to comment on your blog as often as possible. If I don't know who you are yet, speak out! I'd love to get to know you.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Inauguration Coat: The Final Analysis


Now that I'm finally here I don't know what more I have to say!

I love my coat. It is warm and cute. I don't normally go around proactively telling people I've made what I'm wearing, but I just can't stop bragging about this coat!

New Techniques:

Extensively fusing the pieces with interfacing was new for me and I like the body it gives to the coat. Given how floppy my fabric is I should have fused the entire sleeve instead of just the top half.

Clip DartsPressing was an issue with this much bulk. I don't have a clapper per se, but I have a rubber mallet so I used that to pound things flat. It really does make a difference. To get nice-looking darts, I cut them open as far as I could (zigzagging the edges to finish), pressed open, and rolled the points toward the center.


Hanging LoopI am pleased with all my little touches, like the lining pockets and the hanging loop (another thing copied from Melissa!), although frankly I'm afraid the coat is too heavy to be hung by the loop and I don't plan to use it except in case of emergency. But I like the way it looks back there, especially as contrasted with the navy facing.

Contrast navy hem extensions.

Faux welt pockets.

Fleece interlining. Immediately when I put it on the interlining starts trapping my body heat. It is so toasty inside the coat (but not sweaty). The interlining also helps block the wind. And I am inordinately proud of the fleece cuffs.


Although I love raglan sleeves on coats during the sewing process because there is no painful easing in or sleeve heads or any of that jazz, I'm not sure I love the style when completed. The shoulder area is kind of shapeless. I had trouble with the pattern anyway because the shoulder was about 8 inches out from my real shoulder. So I kept having to take in the upper sleeve seam to get rid of the shoulder nipple problem. I should have fixed that in prep.

Based on the line drawing (the coat is unbuttoned in the editorial photo) I expected this to have more of a wide funnel neck going on. The neck is, in fact, pretty close fitting. Although it disappoints me as a style matter, it's better for warmth.

When I was still wearing it with the shameful basted hem I thought I regretted doing vertical buttonholes instead of horizontal, because I couldn't get the waist seams to stay put and lined up. But moving all the buttons down 1/4 inch fixed that. (I should also say, I never remember in reviews to mention that I pay zero attention to button and buttonhole markings on patterns. I place them according to my body and personal preference.) Someday I'll want to try bound buttonholes, but this was not the project.

The lining pulls the hem on the right side. I don't know why only on that side, and I'm lucky it doesn't pull both sides because I didn't shorten the lining at the waist as I had the fashion fabric so the lower circumference is slightly smaller.

I cut the front interlining on the facing line, figuring that the coat plus facings plus overlap would make four layers of wool, which would be plenty warm and the interlining might make it too bulky. I only feel the lack of interlining when it is very cold (mid 20s or below) and windy, but if I were to do it over I would cut the interlining to the full width at the left front and leave it at the facing line for the right front. That way the interlining wouldn't bulk up the buttonholes, but it would still be there. But as I've only noticed the issue twice in the several weeks I've been wearing the coat, this wasn't a huge error.

I don't think the list of dislikes is bad for how quickly I put this together!

You can see all the photos of the coat here, the pattern review is here, and all the posts here.

Previous posts:
Inauguration day
Sewing timeline
Keeping warm

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Inauguration Coat: Aesthetics

Line Drawing Patrones in general has great editorial photos--they are model-y and artistic but still actually show the clothes. BWOF take note! This coat was an exception, unfortunately. Admittedly, my photo-of-a-photo at left is dark and shows no details, but it is really not much better than the original. They even chose this shot for the cover, which is a puzzling choice as it (1) shows little of the coat, and (2) what they show isn't interesting. There are about 25 other projects that would have made a more striking cover image, in my opinion. So I paid no attention to it in reading through the magazine until I got to the line drawing. Loved the line drawing with that darted funnel neck, princess shape, and slim line.

Altered Back Pattern

Actually, I wasn't quite sold on the slim line--volume is more my instinct--but I wanted to make a coat to last me many years. DC has a much longer winter than I care for but a limited very cold season (which I define as 30s or below) so I'll only wear it for a month or two each year. While empire lines and volume are all the rage right now, a slim-cut coat never goes out of style. However, I was concerned about walking ease. I didn't want to have a back slit because that would let wind in, so I decided on an inverted pleat at the center back. This meant adding a CB seam and re-drafting the pattern piece a bit, as shown at right.

Put in Inverted PleatI wanted a nice looking inverted pleat in the back. I interfaced the pleat itself with heavy interfacing, and then used lighter-weight interfacing all the way down the fold line, as seen here. Then I marked down the fold line; I should have marked the fold line even with the seam line, rather than with the edge of the pleat extension. To sew it up, first sew the CB seam from neck and then down 1 inch past the pleat extension, and then the CB seam of the pleat extension. Pin your marked fold line together and center your CB seams, so that the pleat is flattened.

Topstitch PleatsTo keep the pleat in place, topstitch in a triangle shape with the lower edge even with the bottom of the sewn pleat. To get the apex I measured 1 inch up from the bottom and drew chalk lines; I chose the 1 inch randomly, just based on aesthetics, not any kind of scientific reasoning. Then press and press and press that sucker in place. The pleat is holding up very well on the coat as I've been wearing it the past couple weeks. The folds have held their nice sharp edge.

Edgestitch Pleat in LiningI repeated the process for the lining, with the added step of edge-stitching the folds, both the outside and the inside folds. I considered doing this for the body of the coat, but decided that the wool was too heavy and the edge-stitching would look clunky. On the other hand, my rayon lining was so slippery and unstable that it wouldn't hold a press very well even with the interfacing reinforcement.

Original Shape So I finished up the outer shell of the coat, and...ick. So incredibly blah. Patrones has limited sizes; this one comes in 40-44-48. I am a 34 on top. I have become pretty proficient in sizing down patterns as BWOF seldom publishes tops in a 34 (36 is usually the smallest size). I sized this coat down to a 36 to allow for plenty of ease for bulky clothing (not that I wear a lot of bulky clothing). So I will take part of the blame for not sizing down all the way to a 34, but really I think Patrones was a little misleading about the shape here. Or should I say the shapeless here. Not only that, but the pockets were too low to comfortably put my hands into and the inverted pleat started too low for my taste. Both of these are entirely my fault; I should have checked Patrones's pocket placement and I basically added the pleat extension in a random place.

Let's recall that I was doing this project in four days and I finished the outer shell on day 3. I really didn't know what to do. The purpose of the coat was to be warm. So can I live with a warm but unflattering coat? No. I really can't. I couldn't fall asleep until I'd figured out what to do. My choices were to take in the seams, which wouldn't help the pocket and pleat placement issues, or to cut it off somewhere between the bust and the waist and raise up the lower half. I decided on the latter.

Adding Shape with Pleats and Darts
I had intentionally not chosen a coat with an empire line so I didn't want to cut too high, but I had to cut it up high enough above the pockets that I could still lose some length, so I measured up one inch from the pockets, marked the line all around, took a deep breath, and chopped. Then I cut three inches off the (now) bodice. Next step was to take in the front and back princess seams, and add darts in the front (as the princess seams are very far to the side). Then I pinned the skirt back onto the bodice and marked the depth and location (back princess seams and front darts) of the new pleats. I fretted about the pleats a bit because my large inverted walking pleat in the back was about three inches down the skirt. I didn't want to add the pleats directly at the waist seam because I thought it would look weird to have pleats in two different places. Luckily, Cidell was visiting me and suggested that I sew the pleats down to the length of the large inverted pleat. A simple and perfect solution! I interfaced the pleats, though not all the way down to the hem as the were too shallow to press that far, sewed down three inches, and topstitched with triangles as I had the large inverted pleat. Stitched the pleats three inches down turned out really well, and fortuitously my pleats ended up being the same length as the darts I'd added on the front and the mirror images look quite nice. A stroke of luck!

Scraps I got this from the wool remnants table at Jomar in Philly, so I was limited to however much they had, which was a little over two yards. When I went to lay out the pattern, I realized I did not have enough fabric. Argh!!!! I could have looked for another pattern, but I didn't see how I was going to fit any knee-length coat onto what I had and I really had my heart set on the Patrones pattern. I was able to fit all the coat body pieces on, but with absolutely nothing left for the facings, even if they were pieced (you can see my pitiful pile of scraps!).

So I thought about it. Went to my fabric stash. Looked through the amazing cache of wools I received in The Carol Collection. Considered the plaid I later used to make my mom's skirt (sneak peek) but the plaid is a pink-purple and my coat fabric was a blue-purple and they just didn't work. Wished I had some black wool. Decided on navy as my best bet. The combo has totally grown on me and now I think it looks much better than black would have--less expected and more interesting. Carol saves the day!

So I cut my facings out of the navy and tried to figure out how else I could tie it in. When I ended up shortening the coat to deal with its shapelessness, I decided to add the length back in as a hem extension, and to use the contrast as the sleeve extension as well (as I explained in the keeping warm post I wanted extra-long sleeves on this coat). I really love the little touch these contrast hems add. It makes the coat so much more interesting, but because the navy is a sober color it doesn't look garish or costumey.

Not only do the hems add an interesting touch, they also saved my button dilemma. Since I have a large stash of buttons from Fabric Mart I try to find something in stash rather than buy more. I really didn't have anything I liked for this coat; I have some gold buttons that would be great for a coat but I was not feeling gold with the purple. I was a little worried because my four day plan did not include time to go shop for buttons. Once I added the navy touches, I realized I had the perfect navy buttons in stash. Problem solved!

And that's how I made the coat pretty.

I promise I'm almost done prattling endlessly about this coat! Just one more post to come: the final analysis.

-Keeping Warm

All photos are here.