Thursday, November 5, 2020

Sewing for Others - Costume

 The last few months I have been busy sewing for others.  I volunteered for both projects, inspired by  the requested garment and my affection for the requesters.  It was only after making the commitment that my inner voice said, “What have you gotten yourself into?” Both clients have a significantly different body shapes than I do, and I am not experienced with fitting others.   But how am I going to get better at fitting if I don't practice.  Better family members that paying customers, for practice

The most  recent request was for a replica of the dress worn by the character Marion Ravenwood in the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. To be worn to a Halloween party.

The dress  has a fitted top with an empire seam under the bust and floor length skirt. It is also backless with a huge rosette and train on the back.   My client was a very curvy, petite. I showed her pattern options that would look very similar to the actual dress, but had features that would facilitate  fitting.  We chose McCalls 7974.  

I felt  gathers, would be more forgiving than bust darts, for bust  fitting.   The under bust band could be fitted to emphasize her curves .  The skirt gathers start  2 inches above the actual waist. My thinking was that this would make the transition from teeny waist to full hips easier and lengthen her bottom half, making  her look taller.

 I made a muslin of the dress bodice.  A lot of slashing and inserting of fabric in the resulting gaps went on in the first fitting.  Then the apprehension of transferring the muslin changes to the pattern, and wondering if I did it correctly, especially when the resulting bodice shape that was um… unfamiliar.

 I had a fitting instructor that told us to imagine the body as  made up of different shapes; spheres, polyhedrons (pyramid),  cylinders and think about how you would shape fabric over those shapes.  I told myself based on the body shapes I was putting fabric over, the  extra fabric was where it needed to be; low, and near the center. And it ended up fitting beautifully. 

The dress is underlined in a cotton fabric (high grade twin flat sheet from Target).  The  outer fabric is a  lightweight fabric with raised fuzzy dots  that I have always called “dotted swiss”. It was labeled "clipped dot" on where it was purchased. We opted to forgo  the bum rosette and the logistics of finding an undergarment to support a large bust in a backless dress.

"Marion" is very pleased with her dress. She talks about wearing it on other occasions and her favorite feature is the pockets. At least her cell phone won't show like Indiana's does.  

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Bedazzling with Buttons

I was looking for  a creative project to get my mind off the fact I don't need any new clothes for my Covid Isolation/work from home lifestyle, but I have a huge fabric stash of garment fabric. Sigh!  So I was excited to hear of the  Marfy Remnant challenge #Marfyremnantchallenge2020  created by Ann of Youtique Bridal and sewing blogger/youtuber Andrea at SewtoFit.  It was a challenge to use remnants of fabric, which we all have, to make and embellish a garment. The suggested pattern was Marfy 116,  a extended shoulder tunic with yoke, vertical princess seams and hi low hem.  The pattern was selected because both Ann and Andrea had won it in an ASG event. It was also a free pattern in the Marfy Evergreen pattern magazine.

Marfy 0116

 The remnants I used were men’s shirting pieces purchased in a 15 lb. bag from the Robert Talbott menswear manufacturing facility in Calif. Below is the original advertisement from Threads Magazine. Yes, these remnants have been in my stash for a while.

Advertisement for Scraps

I received a huge bag packed tightly with striped checked  and solid, very finely woven, cotton  fabrics.  The remnants were generally abut 16” by 20”. Wonderful fabric to work with.  I sewed my adolescent sons button-down shirts out of this fabric. Also quilts, masks and now this top.  I still have a huge amount remaining.


Because of the remnant sizes, I color blocked the top. But I still had to do a fair amount of piecing to get pieces large enough for the color blocking.  The back and back yoke have a center back seam.  The extended bottom in the back are separate pieces with the stripes going horizontally.  Fortunately the stripes are so fine, they look like a  solid color from a normal viewing distance.

When my mother moved in with me, she brought her button stash. One drawer in her button box was full of mismatched shirt buttons. Shirt buttons to go with the shirting fabrics! I sewed them to the yoke area of the top. Bedazzling with buttons! 

 I had recently made fabric cord  for the button loop on a silk blouse and decided to see if I could make really fine cord with these shirting fabric. I call it fabric cord, but all my sewing books refer to it as "tubing" or "self filled tubing" and the technique for making it is under button closures - loops. My first strand was less than 1/8 inch,  but it was difficult to sew and turn.  So the sake of time and my sanity, the others were a more doable 1/8”. 


 Now that I had all these cords. What should I do with them? I shaped and hand tacked the cording into flower shapes with a hole in the center so they could be fastened over the buttons. They are removable. I like the look of the airy flowers on the yoke of the top,

Back yoke

It was a fun challenge.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Criss Cross Applesauce

I am not ready to let go of summer and start sewing for fall. I thought the Sept. Burda magazine might be inspiring, but it has still not arrived.  And the two new patterns ordered from Sewing Workshop (California)  seems to be following the same slow mail trail.   So, I was paging through a couple Mrs Stylebook issues still littering my sewing table from my last project.  I decided to do another drafting project, to keep the momentum going on the drafting self-education.   My casual lifestyle wardrobe includes blouse and they are relatively easy to draft. And I found one with  an interesting sleeve. Here is the  magazine picture. I know. Not real flattering  or inspiring. I totally passed it over. 

It was the drafting instructions for the sleeve that caught my eye.

The translated description is "Origami-like sleeve blouse.  If you look closely, it is a striped blouse composed of multiple colors.  The point is the elaborate sleeves made by stacking rectangular cloth parts.  The material is cotton.  Blouse (39,000 yen) The Cage (Igit and Co., Ltd. Omotesando)" 

 The description makes me think MSB must find ready to wear (RTW) garments and create drafting instruction for them. The sleeves appear be woven, which is emphasized by the use of striped fabric. The garment on the model looked a bit oversize, including the sleeves. 

The shirt had a yoke with extended shoulders, collar and collar stand, a hidden button placket and deep faced curved hem.  

The sleeve pattern is remarkably like a tulip sleeve pattern, but with an angled slash that creates two strips that can be interwoven with the other sleeve half.

My fabric is a  deep stash, red and white silk dupioni  that I machine washed and dried.  The sleeves and yoke lining are white 65% Poly/35% Cotton Sheermist Batiste Fabric.

This was a fun exercise. I learned a couple things. The finished garment looks like the picture on model, very oversize.  In future, I will reduce the  amount to extend shoulder and side seams for  on oversize styles like this. I was pleasantly surprised to find sleeve actually worked. I made mine narrower that the drafting instructions specified and think it looks neater.  Maybe I could extend the slashes the full length of sleeve for a costume.  Reason I am thinking about this is I got a request for a Halloween costume yesterday. A weird lookin cosplay character. 

The title of the blog post was what popped it my head when I thought of the sleeve design.  It took me a minute to realize it is part of a rhyme that teachers say to students when they want them to quiet down and sit cross-legged on the floor. 

Criss-Cross Applesauce, Give your hands a clap. Criss-Cross Applesauce. Put them in your lap. 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Mrs Style Book Skirt

I have had a subscription to the Japanese pattern magazine  Mrs Style Book for many years but have only made a handful of garments.  The magazine features many skirt patterns both traditional and also some really bizarre styles that remind me of designers such as  Issey Miyake and Rei Kawaakubo.  When Stefanie of Sea of Teal announced the wardrobe basic for July as skirts, I set myself the goal of using a  Mrs Style Book pattern for my skirt. I chose a more traditional skirt from the Spring 2020 issue.

The text translation is "A mermaid skirt with flare from the hip line 
Hint!  Large patterns and directional prints can be used by carefully matching the patterns.
 The clean silhouette and flared hem that swings every time you walk make it an elegant accent.  The mermaid skirt has a flared pattern from the hip line down.  The hemline has a descent on the back for a fresher look.  The material is linen with a light texture.  After finishing, wash it and dress it roughly without ironing.  ●Pattern / P.101 

Here are the pattern drafting instructions.

I find the drafting drawings very easy to understand, but I also use the Google Translate app on my phone to translate the Japanese characters. I just aim my phone camera at the text, scan it, select all and it translates the whole paragraph. This gives me additional information that can't be shown in a drawing. Such as the amount and type of fabric needed for the skirt. -  Usage amount cloth (description and ordering info P.230) = 144cm Width, 3m 10cm 

The fabric  is shown on another page and is  available via mail order.

Elegance "Elegance Mrs. Stylebook Manager" 03-3891-8998 33-10, 5-3 Higashi-nippori, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo P.52〜  55 "Pattern to show the wearer a clean look" B fabric ● Madras check (100% linen) 144cm width 1m 1,480 yen ( $14 USD)  Black 6 Beige 2 Yellow 3 White Blue (used color)

 The instructions for my skirt referred to detailed pocket sewing instructions on another skirt pattern/page.

My fabric is from Hobby Lobby, a blue and white cotton plaid with silver metallic threads.  It worked great for this skirt. 

 The pattern drafting was fairly easy though getting nice flare curves, and side lengths that matched took a bit of effort. I did lengthen the waist to hip measurement by 2 cm to match mine, and the hip to hem measurement by 4 cm because I am a bit taller. 

I sewed this skirt and wore it on our annual beach vacation in Delaware. Delaware is open which meant that backing out of the beach house rental agreement would have cost us a lot of money.  All the people that vacation with us have been socializing with us for the past several months and were known to be Corvid free. 

There were less traffic and people on the boardwalk and beaches, which was actually very nice.  One downsides for the young people in the group  were that their  favorite restaurant had eliminated happy hours and half priced drinks. Not enough customer volume.  Bumper Cars was not as fun with only 6 cars on the floor at a time.  A lot less bumping going on and isn't that the objective of this amusement ride?

Wearing a mask while walking on the boardwalk in sunny, hot, humid weather was absolutely miserable.  It felt hard to breath. One solution was to buy an ice cream code or boardwalk french fries, as no mask was required while eating  at a safe social distance. Vacation was fun, but it is good to be back home and making healthier snacking choices..

Monday, July 13, 2020

Birthday Suit

I had a birthday recently, and in lieu of presents I chose to go out for dinner with the family. A good excuse to sew something special.  July in Virginia is hot, with temperatures over 90 F, and humid. What with the requirement for social distancing, many restaurants have expanded their dining areas outside (often called patio dining).  A loose flowy dress seemed a good choice for outside dining, but I was missing the structured garments I used to make for a work environment. A good compromise: a birthday suit consisting of sleeveless vest and knee length shorts.  I originally chose Burda 7074, a collared vest that I had admired on another blog. 

But the fabric situation required another solution. I recently purchased 2 yards of a lovely lavender cotton/spandex fabric from Vogue Fabrics.  It was labeled as shirting but when it arrived, it was definitely bottom weight fabric.

Though the perfect color, the 2 yards was not enough fabric to make a pair of shorts and a collared vest. However, Vogue Pattern 1707, a collarless, lined to the edge vest (no facings)
combined with Burda 12 2010 108 for the shorts was possible with only  2 yards of 54" fabric.  The pant pattern is high waisted, flat front. I made them knee length and tapered an additional inch on each side of the legs. 

The vest is lined with a similar shade of lavender silk crepe, part of a 8.5 yard "remnant" I bought from Trim Fabric in NYC in 2005 for $40.00. I got some great bargains from them back then.

I don't know if Vogue has changed their draft or my body is changing again, but the front bust dart on this pattern had 4" of take-up which made the cup size huge. My sloper waist bust dart take-up is 2".  The back peplum was also shaped for very curved, bodacious butt. It looked like I needed a padded insert to fill it out until I altered it to my shape.

I also made a coordinating mask. The lining is cotton, the outer layer is glittery mesh over the silk georgette, topped with a lace applique. Everyone dressed up and we had a great time.

Vogue 1707
Vogue 1707
Coordinating Mask

With matching mask

 With the girls (future DIL's)

Monday, July 6, 2020

Smooth Sailing

And life goes on. Mom's surgery went well. Thanks for all your well wishes.  She is home and everything is back to normal. Back to smooth sailing in the journey of life.   Well,  maybe not, but it was a good segue into my latest project.

The other print I pulled out of my stash was this one, of sailboats.

  I  sailed a lot as a teen and young adult. I taught sailing at a summer camp and we even owned a sailboat,  which we docked on a lake in Pennsylvania.  These day I still love to sail, but we do it in warmer climates and we charter the boat  with a captain, or  take a cruise on a large sailboat.  In fact we were supposed to be sailing Italy's Amalfi coast  in early June, to celebrate my sister's birthday.   Don't worry sis, when everything settles down, we will go! Until then you are still 59.

The fabric is polyester chiffon, from JoAnn's.  I don't particularly like polyester fabric, but I loved the print.  For the pattern,  since it was still out on the sewing table, I used the same New Look blouse pattern from the previous project. The only difference was I made view D, which has  the 3/4 length sleeves with turn up cuffs.

When I sew, I like quiet. No TV or podcasts running in the background. I do a lot of my thinking then.  Boats got me thinking about nearby water bodies. The ocean, reachable with  a 2 hour drive,  The James river, turbulent around large  rocks covered in goose poop, a short walk from our house. Decorative lakes in nearby office complexes. With improbable fountains spurting in the middle, to keep them from becoming "slime ponds" in the summer heat. The rain barrel on my deck.  No real ponds and creeks like where I  floated  stick "boats"  as a kid.  How about a folded paper boat for the rain barrel?   Why not?

It floats!

Sunday, June 21, 2020


The  June theme  for #SewYourWardrobeBasics over at the Sea of Teal blog is  prints. That got me thinking of the favorite prints in my stash and  I pull several out of storage.. This is one of them

Hands.  I have long been fascinated by them. They are part of our bodies. We use them every day to do so many things. To complete a task. To express one’s self in ways words cannot such as through touch, playing a musical instrument, creating a painting. I have a collection of hands that include vintage jewelry displays, the molds once used to make rubber gloves, and handmade mechanical hands that clap or drum the fingers when knobs are turned. I  have ceramic bathroom fixtures shaped like hands; soap, toilet paper and towel rod holders. And a copy of Michelangelo’s Creation of David, hand detail,  on the wall.

 When I look at my hand print fabric, I feel good, optimistic.  Hands holding hearts. Red roses and the patriotic colors of red, white, and blue.  The fabric is silk and was purchased a few years ago from a China based Etsy seller. I used the fabric for a blouse. New Look 6394. All the styles have front chest darts and shirttail hems, with back, sleeve and collar options.  I made view E which had a stand collar, ¾ length gathered sleeves, a shoulder yoke and waist darts in the back.

 This print is directional, and I oriented the hands reaching up.  That looked good except where the shoulder yoke wraps from back to front.  At the front yoke seam, the hands were reaching down and were chopped off.

Yoke Before
For print continuity, I hand appliqued full hand motifs across the yoke lines. Now  hands reach down towards the ones reaching up.

cutouts to be appliqued

Yoke with appliques

This is how I wore it to go to the grocery store. How exciting is my life!

New Look 6394 Casual

For a picnic or dinner out, I would wear it like this. 

New Look 6394 Picnic

This was how I originally planned to wear it, back when I purchased the fabric. For work with pinstriped pants.     

New Look 6394 work

Instead, shortly after I took these picture above and before I could change, I had to take my mother to the hospital emergency room.  She is now fine and being treated for her ailments. But I was upset and frustrated to find I was not allowed in the hospital  with her because of Covid.  She is 85, hard of hearing and was in extreme pain. She does not have or want to use a cell phone. I was told I could wait in the car in a faraway parking lot, or on a covered bench outside the door.  It was getting dark, but I chose to sit on the bench, damp from the torrential rains earlier in the day, facing illuminated fountains.  It was very quiet, no ambulances, just the security vehicle making its rounds. After several hours, the sound of fountains was irritating and the biting insects were swarming.  I went back to the entrance door, and asked the three masked sentries, enclosed in their plexiglass cubicle, if I could please speak to someone about  mom's status.  I was given a number to call and after being transferred a few times, I was told diagnostics were still in progress and it was recommended I go home.  A Dr. did  call the next morning.  Mom will be in the hospital for several days until she has stabilized enough for surgery.   Even though we can now dine inside restaurants, get our hair cut at a salons, and exercise in fitness centers, the hospital's policy is still no visitors "unless the patient has received a life-threatening diagnosis". Fortunately that is not the case.  A Dr. (hospitalist) calls me once a day with an update. I am still waiting to hear from the specialist.  I feel like I have abandoned my mother. Every time I call her room, she is off getting another test.  Luckily future DIL #2 works in this hospital.  She has kindly offered to spend her lunch hour visiting with mom. Not as good as being there myself, but it does relieve my anxiety a bit and I am grateful to her for that.