Sunday, April 29, 2018

Closet Orphan - Burda Scuba Paneled Top 11/2017 #119

I think I have made a sewist's version of a closet orphan. A garment you love, but that proves very difficult to pair with other items. It seldom gets worn because it doesn’t play nicely within the context of outfits.  

There are various way a closet orphan get into a non sewers closet. Purchased because it was such a bargain or for the fantasized version of a lifestyle, size or image. The sewer's version can be sewn  for the same fantasized items, but some other things, at least for me, can also contribute.   The first is being inspired by a garment pattern with an interesting style or detail that I want to try sewing, and the second is having the same or similar fabrics, used on the garment in the pattern photo, aging in my stash.    I  really need to think about  the questions below, and give myself  honest answers.

Is it a good style for my body?
Does it fit my lifestyle?  Reminder this is 70 %  office casual for work, 28% weekend, 2% special occasion
Appropriate fabrics in stash?
Are the fabrics in flattering colors. Another reminder, some fabrics are in your stash cause they are colors that are not flattering to you.
Wardrobe versatility  - will it play well with garment in my wardrobe now? Not ones I could sew in the future.

The color blocking  and seaming  of this top caught my attention. I thought the style was one that would work for me. Peplums are okay  and raglan sleeves are okay, but require alterations. Fabric, well because of my ginormous stash, I had the appropriate fabric. Wool jersey knit purchased because "it was such a bargain" (Fabric Mart,  I know there are others out there that bought at the same time, I remember the discussion board enabling). The colors tan, brown, and orange coordinate and used in the light to darker order in the top create a slimmer silhouette. Are they flattering colors for me? Not so sure. Well the beige is the best color to be near my face. Better  than the orange or the baby sh*t brown ( bad babysitting memory) or milk chocolate as I believe it is often called.

I sewed this top back in January. I  enjoyed the process  and seeing the top come together. There were lots of long narrow pattern pieces that tended to curl up because my tracing paper is stored on a roll and evidently has a shape memory.  Lots of seam edges to add 5/8 inch seams to. I altered the back bodice and raglan sleeves for upper back curvature.  I sewed the top together on the  sewing machine using 5/8 inch seams. And only after making sure it fit well and all alterations were done did I serge   the seams to remove extra fabric from the seam allowances.  Before sewing in the sleeves,  I  hand basted them to the garment to match all the points where the color bands meet.  I didn’t use the recommended exposed back zipper, instead opting for a small slit at the neckline with hook and eye closure.

I love the fit and comfort of this top, but the peplum is very flared and ends right at my body's widest area.  I am not real thrilled with the look worn with slim fitting trousers.   Maybe a skirt would look better. A pencil skirt in the beige or brown wool or an orange/ brown tweedy fabric. A skirt I don't have. So for now I will put this top in my closet and I will revisit  it in the fall. Spring sewing project are queueing up.

Furball Photo Bomber


Any sewn orphans in your closet?

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Burda 6456 Blouses - Stripes

I  purchased Endless Sea Embroidered Border Cotton Fabric 45"-Blue & White Stripe ( JOANN Fabrics) to make  a multipurpose tunic style garment for a recent warm weather vacation. Something that could be worn as a swim suit cover up or as a tunic over leggings for drinks /dinner.

 “CheapO” me had only purchase 1.5 yards, so I needed a fairly simple tunic pattern that used minimal fabric.  Burda 6456, with some modifications, met my requirements.   “These Misses' blouses feature a shoulder yoke and a stand collar and can do without a fastening, thanks to a slit in the center front seam! View A, the longer style, also has side slits and simple cuffed sleeves. Sleeveless View B is adorned with flounces in front.

For view A, the longer style, I had to make a couple pattern modifications to reduce fabric usage .

• Eliminated center front seam and made a facing for the slit area of the front neckline.
• Folded out tucks in sleeve head and added a bit of height to shoulder cap. Shortened sleeves to above elbow length.
• Trimmed the embroidered border on the sleeve. 

The finished garment worked beautifully for its intended purposes. Only complaint is the fabric is rather lightweight and when wearing with white leggings I needed to wear a white camisole to eliminate the easily seen  color difference between white legging and my skin at the waist.

Burda 6456 tunic

Burda 6456 - in cruise ship cabin

Here are other ideas for tops made out of similar fabric

 I also cut out and sewed  view B, the  sleeveless flounced version, out of some large scraps of striped menswear shirting. The center front seam is definitely needed for this style.  The bottoms of the flounces are sewn in the center front seam up to the point where the neckline opening starts. Then the flounce and garment front  SA’s are clipped to the seam line stopping point and totally flipped over before being sewn to finish the neckline slit. It is one of those sewing techniques that throws up a mental “proceed with caution” warning for me. One overzealous snip and you have an unfixable hole.

The pattern instructions have you hem the flounce by turning under the 5/8” seam allowance, zig zag stitch close the folded edge and trim off the excess seam allowance close to the stitching.  I prefer non raw edge hems, but thought “why not try it” especially since the fabric was high thread count cotton and the flounce hem edge is on the bias (non-fray). For now the  finish looks fine, but the true test will be how it looks after a few washes.

Burda 6456 flounce hem

Burda 6456 flounce hem trimming

Burda provides the pattern for the bias trim strip but it has a 3/8 inch seam allowance. The sleeve opening has a 5/8 inch seam allowance.  The sleeve opening seam allowance must be trimmed down to 3/8” before sewing on the binding strip.  This is in the instructions, but I never read them until after I look at the seam binding width and say “what the…, this isn’t going to be wide enough to cover the trimmed seam neatly.”

My striped flounce top is a bit cropped because of the size of the fabric scraps I used to make it.  Until the weather settles down ( 70 degrees one day, snow the next) I'll wear it with a sweater. Though I couldn't resist pushing for spring dressing by pairing it with a pair of white corduroy pants.

Burda 6456

Burda 6456 View B

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Quick and Casual

 I am trying to bring my sewing project documentation up to date. Back in Jan, when it was cold and dreary... Oh wait it is still cold and dreary...I felt the desire for some  quick to sew, casual garments to up my weekend fashion "cred". Both sons  and their girlfriends come over for Sunday dinner ( and to use the washer and dryer). The girls always look super cute, shaming me into making more of an effort with my weekend wear.

I took See and Sew B6504 pattern  to the sewing retreat, but had no fabric.  On the giveaway table, I found a length of black and white knit for the top and some purple ribbed knit for contrast sleeves.  It is a quick to sew garment.  The circular seamed  sections seems like unnecessary sewing as they do not add any shaping or pockets like I thought they would. But in the original pattern, Butterick 6291, there is a color blocked version that makes use of this seaming. This top is very oversize . I made it in a size Small after checking that this size still provided plenty of wearing ease when compared to my body measurements.


Garments 2 & 3

Sometime I see the sample garment on a pattern envelope and just fall in love  with the fabric or color combination.  Yep, that how I felt about Butterick 6389.

I found the black and grey abstract print knit at Denver Fabrics. The green knit, used for the vest, was in my stash.  Another quick sew, especially when I left out the invisible zipper in the back of the top, My knit was stretchy enough to get over my head.

Butterick 6389

Only four more projects to blog about. Coming soon.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

BurdaStyle Folklore Jacket 1 2018 112

I finally got some "no plans" days at the end of my Dec. holiday to do some sewing.  This jacket in the Folklore Fashion section of the Burdastyle Jan 2018 issue grabbed my attention.  It was a short, slightly flared jacket with 3/4 length sleeves, stand up collar, hook and eye closure and pieced geometric panels. It was shown in solid colors of red, white and blue. I preferred a bit more subdued color blocking  and luckily I had some large wool scraps in my scrap bag that were perfect.

Burdastyle 1 2018 112

There were 5 pages of illustrated,  detailed instructions for this jacket included in the magazine.
I am glad I had  long stretches of uninterrupted sewing time.  This is not a project for “Sadie the Slapdash Sewist”.  Who is Sadie? Not a real person, but a sewing caricature in my mind who cuts and sews sloppily and then blames the pattern company for a crappy pattern. Anyway back on topic.  Careful pattern tracing, cutting, seam line marking and sewing are necessary on this project.  Those small triangles look very similar but they are not. There is some bust shaping built into the pieced area in the front, so the sides of the triangles are slightly different lengths, even the small ones that look like equilateral triangles.   The directions recommend marking the  pattern piece number, grain line arrow and seam lines, on each triangle piece. Even though I followed those directions and was very careful, I inserted one triangle sideways resulting in one front being shorter than the other.  I had to measure the sewn sides of each triangle until I found the culprit and ripped it out.   The precision quilter in me wished the pieced sections had been provided in a foundation piecing format.  A method of stitching fabric shapes to a paper foundation that facilitates precision piecing and sharp corners. The paper is removed after piecing. But that is an advanced quilting technique. Not one I would expect to see used in a Burda pattern. The pattern does include a separate front lining with no piecing. I  added a center back seam for the shaping I need  for an upper back curve.

It was a fun project and I like the finished jacket.  A bit distinctive, so not what I would call a wardrobe staple,  but a fun piece that other sewists would appreciate. And it used up some of my larger fabric remnants.

I am working from home today because of the weather. So I was able to get daylight pictures without having to wait for the weekend.  And since DH is now retired, I had a photographer.  Hooray for snow days!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Rick Rack and Retirement

In late November, after  32 years  of service, my husband decided to retire from his job as project manager with Dominion Resources.  When he started with the company it was called Virginia Power. He submitted the retirement papers at the last minute.  Not giving me much time to sew something new to wear to the retirement party.  The party was at the site of the project where he has been working for the last three years, in southern Maryland, a three hour drive from our home. It was a dinner in a very nice seafood restaurant on the Chesapeake Bay.  I was the only female, as his work team is all males.  I knew I would be a bit overdressed, but I wanted to sew a dress because I now have very few occasions to sew and wear dresses,  and  will likely have even  less opportunities to do so  in the future.   This pattern and fabric for this dress were chosen based  on what was on the top of the piles in my sewing room, using the Last in-First out method of inventory management.  The pattern was Vogue 8949 one of about 20 current, unused Vogue patterns my sister found for $1.99 at a thrift store.

and the fabric, a dark floral printed Italian wool crepe, recently purchased from Emma One Sock.  

I picked the sleeveless version of the dress. I would have like to have had a small sleeve on the dress but the combination of me buying the minimum yardage of an expensive fabric and the vendor cutting the fabric length on a  slight angle to the selvedge wiped out that option. Sleeveless it was. This dress has an inset band located  1 inch above the natural waist.   If I was going to sew these extra seams in a fitted dress,  I wanted to highlight them in some way.  And I decided to use…  Rick Rack.  Yep the old wavy braid that has been around since 1870, but is often associated with children’s clothing and Little House  on the Prairie skirts. I have a collection of pictures of designer garments featuring rick rack. I created a Pinterest board rick-rack-designer  so you could see  them if you are interested.   I thought why not use a coordinating rick rack to both highlight the seaming and echo the curving lines of the floral print. I hand basted the rickrack to the neckline and  insert seams  to make sure that when I sewed the seam by machine, the rick rack extended evenly beyond the seam.

Rick Rack basted to neckline
Rick rack basted to Inset Seam

Wool crepe is a  dream to sew. I did interfaced the top with fusible weft for a bit of structure. The dress was fully lined in Bemberg rayon fabric.  I made the size 14, with  my standard alterations for upper back curvature, and square shoulders.  I  lengthened the skirt by 2 inches so the hem hit just below my knee.

Vogue 8949 on dress form ( with arms)

Rick Rack at Neckline



Wreath Hat?

Early in my husband’s career with the power company, I gifted him with  a table lamp incorporating an actual working electric  meter. The kind of meter that used to be affixed to every house. When I was a child,  a meter reader would come around every two months, read the numbers on the meter and send us a bill. When the lamp is on the meter actually runs! The meter was set at zero when I bought  the lamp.  Over the years my husband turned  on the light  when he arrived at work and turned it off when he left for the day.   On his last day at work,  his teammates had a fun time figuring out the number of hours it had ‘run’ since the day he got it ( a variable being the size of the light bulb) .

I plan to work a few more years, even though I was eligible for full retirement several years ago. DH was all ready to dive headfirst at the" Honey Do" list.   Unfortunately his next task  was not originally on the list. We found extensive termite damage in my mother's house over the Thanksgiving  holiday. So his first job, post retirement, is back in Maryland, supervising the replacement of all the floor joists, floors and kitchen in my mother's house. 

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.