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 www.denverfabrics.com.

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.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Summer Tops - Burda 6580

 I was in New York City about three weeks ago for the PatternReview.com Weekend.   One of the fun activities at these events is to check out what other attendees are wearing, guess at the pattern and admire their fabric choices and creative touches.  Of course I sewed some new garments for the trip. One was Burda 6580 - a fitted top with side pleats and sleeve options.

This pattern is designed for woven fabrics.  The front is cut on the bias and shaped using pleats on one side of the waist.  The back has a shaped center back seam and darts. Because the top is fitted, the pattern notion list includes a 16 inch zipper which is to be sewn in on the side seam. Also because this is a fitted top, I strongly recommend your compare your measurements with the fitted garment measurements ( including sleeves)  and choose a size with desired/appropriate wearing ease.

I made both versions shown on the pattern front starting with View B,  which is tunic length and has a asymmetrical hem. My fabric was a novelty woven polyester print with text like “Fashion Vic” & “Bag” and pictures of models faces. It came from Hancock Fabrics. I felt it was appropriate for wearing in a  fashion center like NYC.

Burda 6580 View B

Burda 6580

The top was easy to sew.   One thing I do want to mention. The great thing about the Burda envelope patterns is they include 5/8 in seam allowances,  unlike the BurdaStyle magazine patterns.  Burda envelope pattern instructions are mostly text, which I tend not  to read unless it is for a tricky construction step. So I was a bit puzzled when I went to sew the neckline binding to the garment with a 5/8 inch seam allowance,  and there would not be enough binding to turn to the wrong sider. Reading the instructions, I found that you were supposed to trim the neck line seam allowance from 5/8 to 3/8 inch,  and then sew the binding to the garment with 3/8 seam allowance.   Disaster averted!

 I did not use the tie that is shown on the pleat for this view.  And I did not put in a zipper because I can easily pull the top over my head, shoulders and chest.  However my shoulders and chest are on the small side.  I chose contrasting black mesh fabric for the sleeves. I shortened the sleeve to elbow length and tapered the sleeve to be close fitting to my arm. It was my first time sewing this kind of mesh fabric.  I used the serger on all the seams, but I was also able to hem the sleeves with a straight stitch with no problem.  I was sewing the top late the night before the trip, and did not have enough time to rethread my cover stich machine with coordinating thread.

PR Weekend NY 2017
The weather is NYC was so cool I wore a sweater over all my clothes the whole weekend. But when the train arrived back in Richmond VA, the doors opened to our typical hot, humidity laden air. Welcome home. 

A week later I made the  southern sleeveless version, view A, out of a  cross woven red and  white cotton fabric.  I did include the little bow on the pleat for this version.  . 

Burda 65800 View A

Burda 6580

I am really pleased with this pattern .   It is quick and easy to sew fitted top, that can be made from a woven fabric.   I have so many blouse weight woven fabrics  in my stash and it is nice to have an alternative to traditional shirt patterns for those fabrics.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spring Sewing Udate

It’s that time of year when outside activities and family events reduce my sewing and blogging time. Especially blogging.

So this post will cover my last four sewing projects. Three blouses and a pair of pants.

The  inspiration for the first blouse was these mixed print blouses.

  I was delighted when I found a silk fabric printed with 6 different patterns, in vertical stripes of widths 3, 8 and 22 inches (Vogue Fabrics). I chose  New Look 6266 shirt pattern, which I have made before.

The shoulder yoke and sewn on collar and front bands gave me the opportunity to do some pattern piece layouts that utilized the stripe like the inspiration garments.

I like the finished blouse. The only problem is the color combo of  dark rust, verdigris green and gold is a bit odd and does not really coordinate with anything in my wardrobe.

 After all the work on the previous blouse, I was looking for something simple.  Butterick 6417 looked easy enough.

View B  - Front overlapping panels, with princess seams for a bit of shaping and a shawl collar.  Again the fabric is silk stripe, this time a narrow rose pink and gray stripe from DenverFabrics.com. I followed the pattern directions and  didn’t  interface the front panel/shawl collar. As a result  the lapels tend to fall open a little lower that I am comfortable with. So this  shirt is worn with  a  coordinating scoop neck tank top. 

Still on a stripe kick, the next project was a pair of pants  Burda 6811 .

They have a side panel and inseam pockets.  I cut the side panels with the stripes going horizontally.  I hemmed the pants and created vents on the panel seams just for fun. No issues with these pants.  Fabric is a navy poly rayon blend with white shadow stripes from JoAnn’s. 

The final garment is a blouse made out of the Nicole Miller novelty print “Cosmetics” from JoAnn’s Fabrics  It was on sale and I liked the print.

But the fabric is poly lycra.  I try not to be a complete natural fabric snob, and buy and sew poly fabrics every once in a while.  Still no love.  This fabric was easy to sew, but wrinkles a lot (I know...what?) and gets static cling except in high humidity conditions. The pattern is Vogue 7906 from 2004, I made view B with the  high collar and  bell sleeves.

It looks great and I get nice comments when I wear it. ....On rainy days.

Time to put away all my wooly fabrics,  bring out the linens and cottons and start some warm weather sewing.