Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fabricista Fashion Challenge 2 - Confident and Classic

This pattern that we had to use for Challenge 2..... Not a  style that is very flattering to my body shape. The sweetheart neckline with attached yoke is a gold standard of the party and bridesmaid dress category.  I was very amused in past years to see it brought out by the independent pattern designers and marketed  toward the younger sewist demographics.  I am constantly fascinated with marketing, and how it can be used to take a pattern or style that has been around for years, and suddenly make it new and refreshing with a “custom” drafted pattern, the latest Amy Butler print, and a pretty young model.  But I guess there is a large and profitable market for this type of thing;  the sweetheart neckline fit and flare dresses, the cowl neck knit tops and the "new"  perfect T shirt  Those of us that have been sewing awhile know that no pattern is perfect and alterations will be needed.   My first impulse was to change everything about this pattern. I made myself keep some of the style details, so at least it was evident that I used the pattern.

I compared the pattern to my sloper and made changes that are typical for me in any pattern that isn’t Burda or Vogue. I lengthened the bodice, square up the shoulders, reduced width of  the front, added to the waist.  I sewed it up and it was …not good. 

So I went to work.  I made the top much more fitted, taking up extra fabric in seams over the bust and in the middle back so it is more like a bustier.

  I shaped the seam where the skirt attached to the top from” slice me half just above my widest part” to have a slight downward curve. The skirt flared out from my hips  like I had panieres.  I shaped it to hang straight down from the hip.  This dress required a incredible amount of fiddling and fitting. I have a dress form made from being wrapped in adhesive backed packing tape.  The result is a Paper Mache double of my body.  It is lumpy, bumpy and shaped like me.  It was invaluable for the fitting of this dress.

My design image for this dress kept veering to a fitted bustier in menswear fabric worn over a dress shirt, which I have seen and admired in Vogue and Burda magazines.  I kept trying to go in the direction of lightweight prints, cute little collars, and lace over solids. But the winter fabrics stacked in my sewing room were also wielding their influence.   So I went with my vision. The fabrics were a very light weight gray wool/lycra for the skirt, a burgundy with navy pin stripe wool for the vest and the contrast yoke was made in a  gray & burgundy stretch lace with floral motifs.  The pinstripe wool came from a pair of pants I cut out over 20 years ago and never sewed up.  I found the pants pieces during a recent foray in the attic.

 The dress is constructed with a full lining and faced along the bustier top edge.  I used a facing to give extra weight and stability to that edge.  The lace yoke is made like a cropped boat neck T shirt and attached to the facing. It can be easily removed and the dress can be worn strapless or over some other type of top. There is an invisible zipper in the side seam extending from under the arm to high hip.
I really like this quote  “Confidence is sexy and so is wearing clothes tastefully and with style.”
 Not sure where it came from.  So the two words I am submitting that  describe me  to inspire my  look are “classic” and “confident”.


The other contestants' versions of this dress really are awesome and varied. Be sure to check them out and vote for your favorite.  Fabricista Challenge

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fabricista Fashion " Recycle" Challenge

All the entries are posted, and voting is in progress for the first challenge of the Fabric Mart Fabricista Fashion  Challenge. Go to the site, check out the entries and vote for your favorite. Voting ends at midnight on Wed, Sept 18th.  I am delighted and amazed  by the creativity and resourcefulness of the participants.

Fabricista Fashion Challenge

Challenge 2 was announced and started yesterday.   The timing of this a bit odd, in that we are supposed to start on Challenge 2, but one of us is going to be eliminated by Challenge 1.

The next challenge is to use the Salme Dress pattern  that has been selected for us, and create a unique garment that reflects our personality. We can alter the pattern or add to the patterns to make it more us.  We have to think of one or two words that describe ourselves to inspire our look. We will be judged on creativity, craftsmanship, fit,  and how well represented the description words are in our design, and difficulty.

 Hmm it looks very similar to the like the Sewaholic Cambi dress, doesn't it?


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Meshed Up

  In honor of National Sewing Month, on line retailer Fabric Mart Fabrics is sponsoring a 2 month event with a fashion sewing related challenge every week.   One winner is chosen for each challenge, based on a combination of viewer’s votes and judges’ evaluation, and one is eliminated.

 The contest is called the Fabricista Fashion Challenge  and I have been selected as one of the initial 10 participants.

 I email my interest after a lot of waffling between “Boy would that be fun”   and “Girl, you have a full time job. Are you ready to dedicate your evenings and weekends to this?”   What the Hey!  I hit the "Send" button.   My baby, son # 2,  is now in college along with his older brother.  And Hubby is working on a big project that requires him to be out of town Mon thru Friday.  It is just me and kitty in the evenings.    When I found myself staying later and later at work, which will never be rewarded in any tangible way, I knew I had to do something drastic.
The first challenge started last Monday - The Recycle Challenge.

Make a garment out of recycled materials or materials that would have otherwise been thrown away, such as scraps from your sewing room or grocery bags. You can reconstruct a garment to make it more fashion forward and utilize unconventional items to add accessories and embellishments. Be creative!

This post is about my entry for the challenge.  It and the wonderfully creative garments of the other participants can be viewed on    Fabric Mart Fabrics Blog    sometime on Monday, Sept 16th.   Please visit and vote for your favorite, which I am hoping is me.

I keep my sewing scraps and I stock pile unique “found” materials for creative projects. Neat stuff like bottle caps, corks, packaging material, ribbons from candy assortment boxes, old lace and leather, moss, skeletonized leaves, palm fiber, shells, vines.  I always have lots of ideas, but not the time to execute or experiment. I was hoping this contest provided the motivation.

One of the items I have stockpiled are  the mesh bags that large quantities of apples,  oranges, onion and limes are frequently packaged in. I love the different  woven textures and the flexibility of these bags. They come in many colors, usually matching the fruit or vegetable they contain. They can be used as stencils or printing material and I often thought it might  be interesting to weave strips of fabric through them. I immediately thought of them when the challenge email arrived.

mesh fruit bags

Monday - Day 1

Somehow I get through work so I can rush home and get started.  I find and sort through my mesh bags. The largest ones are the orange and apple bags. (Orange and red).  I watch TV and rip out the serged stitches around the side and bottom of bags, so that I have large rectangular pieces. My next ”normal” sewing project would have been a bomber jacket, so the inspiration pictures and patterns are close at hand. I decide that might be good choice for this mesh fabric. A bomber jacket has no shaping and all the garment edges are finished in a way that will anchor the loosely woven mesh fabric.


I pull scraps from scrap bags.  I have fun remembering the garments I made from the original fabric. I decide to limit scraps to solid colors that contrast with the red and orange color of the  mesh, specifically browns to creams. Most of the mesh has openings of about 3/8 inch. I tear or cut strips roughly 3/8 wide or in a width that was a multiple of that if  the fabric was lightweight and would need to be folded to fill the space.

Sewing Scraps

Tuesday Day 2 - Researched material that mesh is made of  - polypropylene.   OK , no irons or prolonged exposure of UV rays.  I hold a scrap to candle flame to see what it does.  It melts away from heat source. A good way to seal loose ends that may unravel.  I trace bodice and sleeve patterns onto paper that can be taped to work surface and  mark some lines for suggested color changes.  I   put mesh on top of pattern. I overlap smaller pieces to make  them big enough to cover the pattern.

mesh over pattern

 I weave using  a bobby pin as a needle.  I learn that bias cut rayon chiffon shreds.Torn strips tend to have a lot of threads on the torn edge. Knits and  lace works great. The rougher the fabric, the harder it is to weave through the thin strands of polypropylene. I like the look of the weaving,  lots of texture, but pliable.  Note to self , extend mesh past edge of pattern because ends shred, and be gentle.  One sleeve takes 3 hours to weave .  I estimate the two front  pieces and back will take 5 hour each,  Start to panic about limited time. Decide to have a solid back.

woven sleeve piece

Wednesday - Thursday Day 3, 4 –  after work, weave my fingers to the bone,  over and under, over and under

Friday Day 5  I cut lightweight red fabric for underlining.  This fabric is basted to the mesh along seam allowances, then the raw edges of the  mesh/underlining  are serged  to catch the loose ends of the strips and mesh.  And to cover the mesh cut ends, which are a bit scratchy.

Sleeve underlining pinned to woven piece

Underlining pinned to front woven piece

 Finish assembling the  jacket. -  I need a separating zipper in a coordinating color.  Local sewing stores have a pathetic selection of separating zippers.  So  I find a boxy brown 90’s suit jacket, with a front separating zipper at the thrift store. I remove the zipper and cut the bomber jacket back from thrift store jacket back.   Red wool ribbing is from my stash.

Thrifted Jacket

Sat  Day 6 - I take jacket for its first outing,  to the  ASG meeting . This group of ladies is my sounding board.  Did I go too far into Bizart  - Art too (bazaar) to Wear?  Their reactions are favorable and they do not call the orderlies to come take me away. Our ASG group meets at a convalescent center, so this was plausible.
Mesh Jacket front

Mesh Jacket Back



Day 7 – I take pictures and write blog post.  I discover the advantage of using scraps is that the jacket coordinates with other garments I have sewn. And guess what I found yesterday...decorative gourds in a purple poly mesh bag.   A new color way!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Seeing Stripes

Fall can be a lovely time of year in VA, the  warm temperatures continue without the oppressive humidity of midsummer.  This time of year is the best for flower garden fragrance. I let the autumn blooming clematis scale two stories, to the roof line of our house, just because of it's fragrance.
autumn blooming clematis

 The faintly fruity scent of the osmanthus (sweet olive) tree hidden in the back corner of the property perfumes the whole yard and greets me when I get out of the car after a long day at work.  I love being outdoors this time of year, which make sewing projects slow down a bit.  I did manage to finish a blouse.  It was inspired by a striped blouse on my favorite style blog,  Wendy's Look Book

  To replicate it, I looked for a loose fitting shirt pattern with no darts and shirttail hem. I found one in the Burda Oct 2010 magazine. Pattern 110.  The blouse has a yoke and deep inverted pleat in the back, cut on front facing and two part sleeves.

Burda 10-2010 #110

  The fabric is a printed strip silk from Fabric Mart. I prefer woven stripe fabrics.  With printed stripes there is always the chance the print is off grain.  As this one was; about 1/2 inch from selvage to selvage.  It was small enough I decided to go head and match the stripes even if this caused the garment pieces to be slightly off grain.  The stripes are uneven and the length of fabric had only two repeats of the pattern.  Both the front and back pattern pieces were fabric hogs; the front because of it's cut on facing and the back because of the pleat.  I was able to fit the upper sleeve in the same band of stripes as the bodice pieces so they would match, but there was no extra fabric for the under sleeves.

   On a whim I decided to cut the under sleeves out of a different  fabric. I love the surprise of it when the blouse is seen from the back.

Yes, it is lace.  I shortened the shirt tail about 2 inches. The majority of the time I will wear this blouse tucked into a skirt or pants and I don’t like having blouses so long I have to stuff the shirttails down the legs of my pants or worry about them showing below the hem of the skirt. Just kidding on the latter situation, I don't wear my skirts that short.  I will also wear it out over jeans. Friday work dress code in the summer is jeans.  I don’t consider it a perk to be able to wear jeans to work. They aren’t as comfortable as a well fitted pair of dress pants. They aren’t always the best look for anyone over the age of 35, and as a coworker of mine said. “I went to college so I wouldn’t have to wear jeans to work.” But everyone comments if you don't wear jeans, so I'll wear them, but with a nice blouse on top.