Sunday, November 5, 2017

Hollyween Glamour

When you are the mother of male children, as I am, the Halloween costume requests are for superheroes , characters from video games, or  liquor brand mascots.  Sigh!  This year was delightfully different. DS#2 and his girlfriend N were invited to a Halloween murder mystery theme party. Each attendee was given a character with background and appropriate dress code.  DS was a successful, but arrogant and egotistical Hollywood movie directory and N was his glamorous, but insecure and jealous wife, who was planning on divorcing him.   They walked “the red carpet” to enter the party location and a local TV camera man filmed the proceedings ( his side job).  N was excited about the party.  DS was initially a big fuddy-duddy about the whole event, mumbling something about post high school drama club nerds. He did come around in the end and joined the role playing fun.

 N chose this dress from the inter web and I offered to make it. 

I was under a severe time crunch, with only a week of after work sewing time available.  So there are no in process photos.
For the dress I used the top of Vogue 1471, without the  sleeves and with a  self-drafted circle skirt.  I did use the pattern  dress lining pattern extended to floor length under the outer  chiffon skirt. 

 The dress was made of 8 yards of polyester chiffon from Walmart @ $2.85 per yard with a similar priced red poly knit underlining/ lining.  We used inexpensive fabric to try and keep the cost down. But I will say the amount of work in a garment is the same whether  it is made from cheap fabric or  high quality fabrics.
N is 21 years old, works out, and has a lovely figure, but it is very different from mine.   She is also very concerned with RTW sizes and measurements.  I chose to discretely determine her pattern size and her unique figure features by draping a fitted muslin sloper on her body using the Shingo Sato technique in this YouTube video.     Moulage-Draping by Shingo Sato-Alternative Moulage   Including using tape to hold the darts and seams, instead of pins, as shown in the video.  I made sure to prattle on about what I was doing the whole time to make her more comfortable, though my natural working mode is silent concentration with bitten lips and furrowed brow. It worked out well though I think she was a bit skeptical about the white muslin turning into her dream dress. Trying to relate this experience to something she was familiar with, I suggested she think of it as similar to  the first model fittings on  Project Runway. Quite often the  first  fittings are done with muslin mockups or bits and pieces of fabric that do not resemble the final garment.
I cut apart the muslin and transferred the shape and darts to paper.  I think this is called a sloper. I  compared that against the pattern pieces of the bodice, factoring in  ease,  to find that she was very close to a size 12 on top, tapering out to a size 14 in waist and hip.

The pattern is designed for a stretch knit. For the first muslin, I sewed the bodice out of the stable poly knit and we did a fitting of the bodice with bust pad inserts. The deep V on this dress is not bra friendly.  We also took a waist to floor measurement while she was wearing her party shoes, to determine the length of the skirt and where the slit would go.

The outer layer of the whole dress is chiffon. I underlined the chiffon of the bodice with the stable poly knit.  For the waist band the chiffon is cut on the bias and underlined with power mesh. I wanted to really be able to snug in the waist area.  A woven with a knit underlining is a bit odd and I wasn’t sure it would work, but for this dress it did.

I made my own circle skirt pattern using N’s waist measurement and the waist to floor measurements. She wanted the slit in the dress so I patterned the right front skirt (1/4th of the skirt) with the  slit as a cut edge.  I added 1.5 inch on both pieces at the slit edge,  so that they could be hemmed and then overlapped at the waist, a technique used by Daniela on this youTube video  How To Sew A Deep V-Neck Lace Tulle Gown

  I use the method shown for hemming floor length gowns in this youTube video.  How to Hem a Chiffon Evening Gown  And I used the rolled edge functionality on my serger for the first time to hem the bottom of the chiffon skirt. It worked beautifully.

When understitching the front neckline, I used a zigzag stitch and zigzagged over a length of elastic thread ( still laying on my sewing table from the previous project. And drew up the elastic just a little to let it hug the curves in the area of the body, but not look gathered.
 DS’s recommended attire was the stereotypical director caricature with beret, megaphone and clapper. We googled pictures of directors at recent award ceremonies and most were wearing black tuxedos.  DS had a tuxedo left over from his high school choral group, but I really wanted him to wear a thrift store treasure I had.  A custom tailored, shawl collar jacket, in a wool metallic pin stripe. It fit him perfectly.  He went along with it and I think he looked quite good. 

N was delighted with her dress, though there was a last minute catastrophe. When she was dressing for the party, the invisible zipper in the center back broke open with the zipper pull at the top.

   I remember reading long ago, a rant from some younger blogger about the quality of invisible zippers when something similar happened to her. I had never had issues with invisible zippers on tight fitting garments and the blogger didn’t have much sewing “cred” with me so I dismissed it.  It came back to me while I unsewed the  lining from the  tape of the broken zipper and  ripped the zipper out. The only red, non invisible zipper that I could find in my stash between the panic call for help and their arrival at the house was a separating zipper with gold teeth.  I inserted it as an exposed zipper,  reattached the lining to the center back seam, and in twenty minutes she was good to go.  The exposed zipper actually looked quite nice.

Walking the red carpet

Red Carpet interview

They had a lot of fun  at the party. Someone was "murdered". The perpetrator was revealed.  I learned a lot from  sewing for and fitting someone other than myself.   Next year I think I will make myself an amazing  costume and find  a party to attend.  It would be more fun than what I did this year on Halloween,  hanging  with these  guys and  handing out candy.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Shirred Blouse - Burdastyle 09/2017 #104

This Burdastyle blouse caught my eye because it had some interesting bohemian style features, but with relatively simple sewing; rectangular sleeves sewn on dropped shoulder,  decorative ties at the shoulder seam and wrists and a shirred neckline.  It is available as a download.  Shirred Blouse

The blouse is shown in a metallic pin stripe chiffon print.  I had a  silk burgundy paisley print with metallic pin stripes in my stash, which was very similar. (Source:

To make the chiffon easier to sew, I stiffened several fabric pieces with a product called Terial Arts Magic Fabric Spray.

I had received a sample spray bottle  of this product at a recent sewing guild meeting. It is a product that is applied to the fabric and when dry gives the fabric a paper-like texture. The firmer texture makes the fabric stiff enough to do embroidery, cutting by machine or feed through the printer, without any additional stabilizer or backing. It can be rinsed out of the fabric to restore the original hand.    I used it on the collar piece to make it easier to doing the shirring, and the bottom edge of the sleeve pieces to facilitate sewing the vent openings. It worked great.

The stand up collar is shirred, a term which means to gather (an area of fabric or part of a garment) by means of drawn or elasticized threads in parallel rows.


There are two common methods to do shirring by machine. The first uses regular thread in the needle and elastic thread in the bobbin.  The disadvantage of this method is that it is difficult to control the amount of shirring so that the finished piece is a specific width. It is often used when the garment is going to be stretched over a body so the shirring just needs to be snug on the body when worn. The second method is the one used on this blouse.  You zigzag over thin elastic thread forming a casing, and pull the elastic thread to the desired finished measurement. The purpose of the zigzag stitch is to hold the elastic in place but still permit it to be pulled tighter to gather the fabric to a specific length.

Shirring elastic or elastic thread typically comes in black or white.  Just an FYI, an interesting source of other colors is the kid's craft area of Hobby Lobby or Michael’s in the bracelet making supplies ( package on far left).

I used black from a huge cone purchased at a factory outlet store long ago ( like the red one above).  To shirr the collar, the instructions have you zigzag over unstretched elastic thread on the wrong side of the collar, on the fold line.

Draw the elastic to the recommended measurement and tie off.  Sew collar back seam.  Then fold the collar in half along the fold line (where you sewed the first line of elastic) with wrong sides together and zigzag over  elastic in parallel lines ½ inch from the folded edge, on the inside of the collar. I fed my elastic through one hole in the 7 cord presser foot which kept it aligned so the needle  did not pierce it  at all during the zigzagging.

The blouse is a fun addition to my wardrobe. Since the fabric is a bit sheer, I wear a color coordinated tank top under it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


My local sewing group had several fall sewing challenges. The Richmond ASG group had a One Yard Challenge with a deadline of late Sept.  Rules: take a  one  yard piece of 45” wide white cotton fabric and use your creativity to color it, embellish it, and  make something from it. No other fabric could be used.  The ASG Fashion Focus Neighborhood Group has an  Art to Wear Challenge due in Nov.   I tend to like challenges. Put a objective and deadline in front of me and I begin to plan and focus.  Unlike my personal sewing when I can spend days being indecisive about my next project because of too many pattern and fabric choices. 

I decided to combine the objectives for both challenges and make an art to wear garment from one yard of fabric.

 A 45" wide piece of fabric will fit around my bust with lots of ease or my hips with not a lot of ease.  So the garments choices were limited to a sleeveless top, vest or a tight straight skirt.  I decided to try and use as many  fabric dying and  embellishment techniques as possible from recently purchased Craftsy classes, to ease my buyer's guilt

I chose Vogue pattern 1515, the Sandra Betzina “pop top”   for the garment.

Here is the finished top.
Jungle Dusk Front

Jungle Dusk Back

 How did I do it?

I looked through my fabric dyes for inspiring colors.  I decided to go the easy route and use some bottled Rit dye rather than my other dyes which require mixing and chemical additives.

• Dyed 1 yard Kona cotton fabric with Rit Cobalt Blue,
• Dip dyed one edge of fabric with Rit Black dye. 

• Checked that the front, back and neck pattern pieces would fit on the fabric. No room for hem or armhole facings pattern pieces – would need to think about solutions for that later.

The colors of the fabric inspired a Jungle at Dusk theme and got me thinking about how the plants and jungle creatures would look at night in moonlight.

• Made leaf shaped  stamps of varied sizes and orientations from foam meat packaging trays.  They were easy to cut out with scissors. I glued them to scrap wooden blocks from DH’s wood stash. (wood stashes are not near as exciting as fabric stashes)

• Printed leaf shapes over dark border of fabric using metallic black and pewter acrylic craft paint.

• Backed border area with Floriani Tacky ...Water Soluble Stabilizer which would provide  firmness while  embellishing, but it would wash out later. 

• Sewed phragmites type grass between the printed leaves, using blue cotton quilting thread and fringe  pressure foot.  How To Use A Fringe / Looper Foot

• Made cloud shapes in sky area using different blue shades of Decolourant Plus,  a non bleach color remover that replaces the removed color with another color.  I used long skinny shapes torn from soft open cell packing material, from my new laptop, for my cloud stamp.

• Created pink color under clouds using magenta Sharpie and isopropyl alcohol, which makes the Sharpie ink spread. See youTube for Sharpie ink related fabric crafts.  Sharpie Dyed Fabric

• Created flight paths for flying creatures using machine stitching with metallic thread. Sewed glass and wing shaped beads to end of flight paths to create the flying bugs.

• Backed collar piece with Tacky ...Water Soluble Stabilizer. Used decorative machine stiches and variegated thread to embellish collar.    Hand sewed star shaped beads and bead groupings to collar piece.

• Created vines using two different cords; blue tubular yarn and gray and white parachute cording.  Intertwined them by hand and hand stitched in place.

• Hanging flowers on vines were created with  thread bundles of pink metallic cotton embroidery floss and 1” circles cut from thin leather.  The pink thread bundles were machine tacked to leather circle using a wide zig zag with 0 length (used to sew on buttons by machine). Grey rayon thread was looped over vine. Bottom ends of loop were sewn to leather circle. The front of the leather circle was folded over the loop cord and fiber bundle to hide all the attachment threads,  and secured by leather adhesive.

• Assembled the top. Finished the armholes with bias binding cut and pieced from remaining scraps. Faced the back hem (because it hangs longer than front and can be seen) also pieced from scraps.  Turned up 5/8" hem on the front.


Some techniques, like sewing beads on fabric by machine,  require practice to be successful, and I need more practice. Great book. All Beaded Up by Machine .
I  need a stronger eyeglass prescription if I am going to hand bead at night.
I really need to  explore all the decorative stitches on my machine.
Decorative threads are expensive. 
Keep fabric backed with water soluble stabilizer away from the  glass of iced tea, covered in condensation, sitting next to your sewing machine. What a ooy gooy mess.

Overall I had a lot of fun and the top turned out to be very wearable.

And as a added bonus, it won first prize in the challenge.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Blossom Blouse - Vogue 1387

This Vogue  Rebecca Taylor pattern is very popular, and there are many makes of both views to be seen on the Internet.

I made view B from red silk crepe printed with cherry blossoms.

The fabric was purchased from an Etsy vendor. I had already picked out the pattern with I googled “cherry blossom print silk” on a whim and found this picture of a ready to wear blouse in the exact same fabric. And look, a great styling idea. Worn over red leather shorts!  Ha ha!

This blouse was also  a popular blouse in the wardrobe dept. of several TV shows. Parks and Rec and a Soap opera.

 I love the print, but silk crepe can be a challenge to work with because it likes to move and shift at the slightest breath of air. This particular blouse pattern has a ¼ inch bias cut strip inserted between the front yoke and bodice pieces.  Maybe cut from a shirting fabric, the bias strip would have stayed the same width while sewing it to the yoke and bodice. But cut from silk crepe, it changed width at  the slightest touch.

With patience,  the help of lightweight fusible interfacing, and lots of hand basting, I was able to insert the band at the proper width. But for any future versions of this top,  I will cut the front yoke using the yoke lining pattern, which includes the width of the ¼ “ strip,  and  omit the strip itself.  I went ahead with the recommended snap fasteners on the front placket and cuffs to avoid making buttonholes in the light weight fabric. I personally hate to sew on snaps. They are awkward to hold in place while sewing, my thread always tangles, and my stitches are messy. I watched Sarah Veblen’s Youtube video   Sewing Snaps onto Garments where she provided tips to deal with the issues I have. She used a blanket stitch to securely sew the snaps to the fabric. I realized I had seen the same technique in a Claire Shaeffer book long ago.   Even though I have been sewing forever, techniques can be forgotten and refreshers are good. The phrase "You can teach an old dog new tricks" sprang to mind.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Mixed Stripes - Burda 6579, Burda 04 2015 123

My recent sewing projects all involve striped fabrics. I was wondering if the attraction to strong linear designs was because the rest of my life has been a bit chaotic .  Two sons moving apartments both with a time gap between moving out of the old apartment and being able to move into the new one. Not only did I get my lifting and climbing exercises (what is wrong with a first floor apartment?) but my house was the interim storage location for both sons’ furniture and household goods. I  had to cancel the cleaning service and my kitties had a field day with their new playground of boxes and furniture.  And we are moving my 81 year old mother  out of the house she shared with my Dad, who passed last year,  to a smaller home closer to one of my  siblings.   My mother has grown feisty with age and says whatever she likes with no thought to the appropriateness of the situation or to whom she is speaking.  It can be funny, if you are not on the receiving end.  Moving my mom has been a very emotional and physical  activity for her, her animal menagerie and my brother and sisters.  But it will be worth it to me to know she will be in a home she can manage and a couple blocks from my sister. Ah, my poor brother in law, who is her landlord.  He is a saint. Criticisms of the house ( "You can tell it was renovated by a man. No cabinets in the bathroom for my beauty creams and potions.") and special requests: "Pave the backyard  so I drive up to back door, Dig me  some flower beds."   No wonder we siblings  drink when we get together.  Her fabric stash filled 40 large garbage bags. Lovely dressmaking fabrics from the 70’s and 80’s; wool blend plaids, rayon prints and poly knits.  We donated them to the local thrift shop, but we were told they go right to the shredder / chemical coating applicator to emerge as insulation.  Horribly depressing when I think of the size of my stash and the amount of potentially outdated fabric it contains. We are still dealing with the quilting and cross-stitch kits and tools, multiple sewing machines and sergers, boxes of buttons, zippers, and threads.

Anyway back to sewing.   First top is Burda 6579 envelope pattern.

Described by Burda as a patchwork V neck blouse. It is designed for woven fabrics and has seaming in the front which can be used for color blocking or patchwork. I used two coordinating striped fabrics, soft cotton twill weave from

Burda 6579 mixed stripes

 I used the wide stripe for the main front piece and the narrow stripe for the back and front color blocked sections.  This is an easy to sew top, with neckline and sleeve openings finished by turning under and stitching. The perfect top and fabric for wearing in hot humid weather.

The second top is Burdastyle 04/2015 #123A

It features an squarish  neckline, raglan sleeves, front darts and a boxy silhouette. The sleeves are cut in one with the back.  I was concerned about the boxy fit and the sleeve length so I made a wearable muslin out of a cotton poly seersucker stripe, also from Denver Fabrics.

 In my normal  Burda size 42, it was very loose, the neck was too wide and the sleeves too long. I ended up shortening the sleeves to just above elbow length and going down a size to get a fit I  liked.

This top is shown in two fabrics in the magazine, one solid and one striped. The Extra Tip   on the picture of the striped version said "You can also experiment with coulour here. This top looks great with the front and back in different colours, also because the sleeves are cut on at the back." This triggered a memory of a  double sided striped fabric in my stash.  Part of a silk stripe bundle (men’s tie fabric) purchased from Fabric Mart  Fabrics years ago.  And I was actually able to find it buried deep in the stash.

Double sided silk stripe
This fabric was 36 inches wide and I had a two yard length. This made pattern layout an advanced exercise in stripe matching. I did it by adding a center back seam and  piecing the lower back, which I made a feature by using the reverse of the fabric.

I like the silk version. It is bright and comfortable and not too boxy for my style comfort zone. I originally thought the “bat sleeve “description used by Burda for this top referred to sleeves that are attached to the fabric of the shirt or dress as one,  and resemble the wings of the nocturnal flying creatures. But now I think the term is referring more to baseball “bat” sleeves because they are tubular and stick out from the shoulder.