Monday, January 20, 2020

Dressing to DIscuss Dying

I was asked to give a program on “Dyes, Types  and Uses” for an ASG  neighborhood group.  In general, I don’t mind giving a presentation about something I enjoy, though I always make sure my audience knows I am not an expert.  For my presentations I like to incorporate something in my outfit that supports or illustrates the topic.  I spotted this outfit in the Oct 2019 BurdaStyle magazine. #115.  It was the perfect outfit for the presentation.

Burda Oct 2019 115

  A colorful, easy to sew top, and  coordinating necklace. That could be used to illustrate the use of dye on different materials; fabric and wood.  

I dyed some very inexpensive wool lycra knit using Rit brand, general purpose, Aquamarine dye and the instructions for protein fibers.  I had bought this fabric specifically for experimenting with dying and fabric manipulation.  I prefer silk and wool when I do this, but these types of fabrics can be expensive.  So, when I find some light-colored wool or silk yardage sold “As Is” because of defects or dirt, I snap it up.
My wool sucked up all the dye in the solution, resulting in a deep color. There were some light streaks and dark blobs, which is not surprising when dying wool with general purpose dyes.  There are better dyes designed specifically for protein ( wool ) fibers. But they are not available in grocery, big box or hobby stores.

The Burda top is easy to sew, I serged the seams, and used a coverstitch for the hem on the sleeves and bottom edge. I tapered the sleeves to be narrower from elbow to wrist. A style preference.

Burda top 115 from Oct 2019 issue
Burda top 115  Oct 2019 issue
The necklace was made of unfinished wood circles, (Amazon) rubbed with the undiluted dye, the edges colored black using a sharpie pen.  And sprayed with a gloss finish spray.   To form the chain from the circles I cut a slit in the rings with a handsaw. The slit allows just enough flexibility to interlink the rings.  I have strands of Christmas tree “chains” made this way.  That is where the idea came from.
Dyed wooden necklace

The presentation went well, and I got a lot of questions about the necklace.

ASG Dying Presentation 
As part of the presentation I talked about using Rit Dyemore and IDye Poly to dye synthetic fiber wigs. At the end of the presentation I donned a wig I had dyed using Rit Polydye.  

My silly selfie of  me as a “blue hair”


Love the  Urban Dictionary's definition: "An old person who's white hair appears blue. Usually it is the only thing you can see over the steering wheel of the car they are driving."

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020 A New Year

"Why, Audrey what is that you are wearing?"  My new Atacac stripe body stocking. Thanks for asking. Doesn't it fit beautifully? And the stripes disguise any body flaws. "But where ever to you wear it?"  Oh you know,  creative photography sessions, or to  perform  improv dances. And I sewed it myself!

 The pattern is  available from Atacac as a  downloadable PDF,  either free or  for a contribution of 10 euro.  For a pattern as unique as this, I felt it was worth the donation.  This body stocking was designed to support the  PhD thesis "Kinetic Garment Construction" of one of the Atacac founders. The thesis is available on the site and makes for interesting reading. As well as the Atacac business model and manufacturing philosophy.  Check it out.

Back to the pattern.  There are no directions and the pattern only comes in one  size.  A size 3. It is a bit short in the torso for me. I suspect it would best  fit a body with the dimensions below and a height of  5'6" - 5'7"

The pattern is very unique looking

Atacac Body Stocking pattern

I purchased  3 yards of 60 wide cotton/lycra knit from  I was disappointed the stripes on this rather expensive fabric were printed rather than knitted, fearing sloppy stripe printing would cause major matching issues.  The printing was accurate. Any matching issues was mine.

Some piecing was required because of the odd pattern shape and I didn’t feel like spending time to see if there was a “no piecing required” layout. My  joints can only take so much crawling around on the floor, which is where I had to do the pattern layout and cutting.

One side of pattern

There are points around the pattern labeled with letters.  These points are used for putting the pattern together.  Mark every one of the matching points,  with letters. They are critical, as the fabric wraps and twists around both the legs and arms in a very non intuitive way.

Recommended Sewing Directions
  1. Sew the neck dart and the back head dart on each side piece.
  2. Sew the leg seam on each side piece. The foot has some weird tight curves. Use those match points!
  3. Sew hand /arm seam on each side piece.   I hand basted the 1 mm seams allowance on the fingers before sewing on the machine. There was no way I would have been able to successfully sew the small seam allowances in small curved areas, in a stretch knit,  without the basting.  Another option is to rough cut around the hands leaving fabric between fingers. Mark the seams around the fingers on the hands, sew around the fingers on seam line, and trim fabric from between fingers.
  4. Sew the zipper(s) in the back seam.  The website description on the purchased  body stocking says" the body stocking  is closed with a invisible  zipper running across the head and down the seam at the back. Since I had trouble sourcing an invisible longer that 36". I used two invisible zippers in the back seam; a 9 inch and a 26 inch. They both start at the same point at the back neck , the shorter zipper opens towards the head and the longer one towards the crotch.   I inserted them in the back seam at this point  in the sewing, to make the insertion and stripe matching easier.
  5. Open the zippers and sew the seam from the top of the head, where the short zipper ends, down the front and under the crotch to the point where the longer zipper ends.
Voila, Put it on and startle your spouse and pets.

Reality - I need help to get it on. It is also a bit difficult to see through the fabric.

  I have several other Atacac patterns in the queue. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Marfy Sew Along

My Thanksgiving holiday guests have departed. Normal eating, exercising and work schedules are back in place, and I have time to do blog updates.  I  participated in the SewtofitMarfySewAlong 2019 which finished up earlier this month.  The pattern everyone was sewing was Marfy dress pattern 6180.

The sew along was organized  and managed by Andrea at  She  provided YouTube videos on selecting the proper pattern size and fitting the pattern. Becki Chitwood, who had sewn the dress earlier this year, wrote comprehensive sewing instructions. And Roz from SewMuchFabric posted a video with fabric suggestion for three different looks; Weekend Glamour, Office Daywear and Special Occasion.
There were prizes (random drawing from all participants completing the dress)

$50 gift certificate from @sewmuchfabric
Marfy Catalogue
Pattern from Marfy
Bonus 1-hour Private Fitting consultation with @sewtofit ($55 value)

Back in August, anyone (around 30 people) who were interested in the sew along voted on the pattern. The pattern that was chosen, 6180, was not the pattern I voted for. I was surprised it won because it was not an easy to sew style or one that would look good on all body types.   But then I was assuming that  everyone who voted  actually planned  to sew the pattern.

I made a mock up in  cotton muslin.  I started with a Size 46 which matched my bust measurement.  I added significantly, 4 inches, at the waist and upper hip, tapering back to the original side seam at the hem.  I also added to the upper back beneath the yoke for my rounded back and 5/8 inch at the back shoulder seam to accommodate forward  shoulders.  I removed the high low hem, and lengthened the dress to below my knees.  Even with alterations and a decent fit, the muslin  was unflattering and I considered bailing on the project.

My competitive streak asserted itself and I kept going. Not wanting to waste precious fabric I dug through the deep stash fabrics in the attic and found slightly over a yard of dark green wool crepe. I decided to overlay the yoke with black lace and make the sleeves and flounce in unlined lace. This dress has a curved dart that starts at the hip and curves up to the bust resulting in a very fitted shape in the hip and waist area. I deliberately made the yoke and sleeves a contrasting color to the dress, to visually widen the shoulders and de-emphasis what is really the widest part of my body,  my  hips.

The wool crepe made such a difference to the look of the dress and it flowed smoothly over my curves, something the muslin did not. I actually like the dress a lot. I wore it to my nephew's evening wedding several weeks ago and felt suitably elegant.

   I think I would be perfect as one of the  well-dressed Italian matrons shown in the background of older Dolce and Gabbana advertisements.

 It turns out that many of the participants in the sew along fell by the wayside, for various reasons.  Only three people finished and sent in pictures by the deadline.   That made the odds of winning a prize very high. I won the $50 gift certificate from One can never have to much fabric! And Roz has many lovely ones to choose from.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Diamond Dress - Burda 8 2019 109

In the last year, Burdastyle magazine  has featured several variations of one piece dresses with V necklines and longer flared skirts. I don’t recall ever wearing a dress of this style,  but it looked like a good option for work dressing on a rushed morning.

 To test the water,  I chose  what I thought was the easiest to sew version, Dress 109 from the August 2019 issue.  This dress is in tall sizes 72-88. I am an inch shorter than Burda's tall height but I haven’t found this to be a problem.   The bodice is seamed to the skirt about 1.25 inches above the natural waist. I made an 82 on top 84 below waist.

Dress description:  “Exact cuffs, inlaid pleats along the shoulder ( not in the pattern I traced from magazine )and a moderate V-neckline … the cut of this dress with the bias skirt panel looks good on paper, though the real power of the style is in the wonderfully printed crêpe in electric blue and black.”

The fabric I chose for my wearable muslin was an inexpensive  polyester crepe.

  The little diamonds were printed on the diagonal. Because the  skirt is cut on the bias, the  diamonds end up in horizontal and vertical lines on the skirt.  Probably no one but a sewist would notice, but I didn’t care for it, especially over the tummy. Why didn’t I realize that would happen before cutting?  Because I was at a sewing retreat when I was cutting this dress out and was doing more talking that paying attention to what I was doing.

I like the style and fit on me, however my choice of fabrics resulted in a rather sober, dark dress.

The dress definitely needs a belt to accent the waist and breakup the expanse of black. For fun I purchased a coordinating belt bag to copy the styling in the magazine picture.  It actually proved to be quite useful as well as decorative.  During my normal work day, I attend many meetings in different parts of a very large building.  I always carry  my laptop, wireless mouse, phone, and a pen. Often juggling the last three items or putting them in various garment pockets.  The belt bag was great for neatly carrying them all in one place.

BurdaStyle 8 2019 109

I am thinking of making this dress again but in a lovely print wool challis.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Transition Sewing Vogue 1644

My late summer sewing plans got derailed by the arrival of my new Vogue fall patterns.
Specifically Vogue 1644 described as "Fitted jacket is unlined and has buttoned trim with snap closures. B: Slightly flared pants have fly closure with zipper, waistband hook and bars, side slant pockets and back patch pockets with top stitching detail.  Recommended Fabrics: Embroidered Fabrics, Novelty Suiting, Crepe.

 One of the fashion Vlogger's I follow talks about a personal work uniform. The outfit you can easily assemble from your closet. That  makes you feel confident.  The one you would choose for a big presentation or to make a good impression.  My uniform is dark slacks or skirt, a bright solid color blouse and a black and white patterned jacket.  In its simplest form it looks like this.

My Work uniform

But  I amp it up a bit by  sewing the jackets  using black and white fabrics of different types of  tweeds, jacquard weaves,  prints, etc.  For this jacket my fabric was a cotton/poly Ecru /Navy/Black Jacketing.

 The jacket is unlined and the instructions have you bind the facing and hem edges with bias binding.  I had hoped this might become a Tried and True (TNT) pattern I could use to whip up an unlined jacket in an interesting fabric when inspiration hit.  For various reasons, this was not to be.

 Normally I have no problem with the sleeve lengths of Vogue jacket patterns. So I didn’t bother to check the length of the sleeves on this pattern. That was a big mistake.  The sleeves were too short. 2 inches too short.  What?? Was it a coincidence that the hem allowance was supposed to be 2 inches.  Any chance the pattern drafter forgot the step in the pattern drafting software to add the additional length for the  hem to the sleeve. There is no mention of sleeve length in the description and  they look full length on the model in the  envelope cover picture. Oh well, my solution was to cut off 2 inches, and used two more inches as a hem resulting in a  3/4 length sleeve.

Raw edge look?

Even before I discovered the sleeve length issue, I thought  the bottom sleeve diameter was wider than normal for  a two piece, shaped sleeve.  To confirm this,  I measured several RTW and Burda and Vogue sewn blazers.  They all had sleeve wrist circumferences between 10 and 11".  This pattern had a sleeve hem circumference of  12.5".   I  reshaped the sleeves along the seam lines, removing 2 inches of the original wrist circumference.

In case you are thinking I am being a bit of a nit picker about my sleeves...  I feel it is so important to have space between the body and a sleeve in a jacket to look slimmer. especially a shorter boxy jacket like this one. (I don't agree with the "fitted" pattern description)

I used purchased fabric covered snaps to actually hold the jacket closed.

Fabric Covered Snap Fastener
I think these look so much better than any fabric covered snap I could make with the home sewer method of covering snaps with fabric. You know the "cut circles of fabric slightly bigger than your snaps, work a running stitch around the edge of the circle, gather  etc.". Both the top and bottom of these snaps have two pieces, which are put together like a  covered button. I have never seen  uncovered snaps (just the metal bits)  of this configuration for sale.  I ordered these  through Amazon from a Chinese vendor. Low price, but three week delivery time.

Bias trimmed seams and covered snaps

The pants included in this pattern are the new wide leg style that seems to be in every new Vogue wardrobe pattern that has come out recently.  I am on the fence on this style. For the purposes of photographing the jacketing I wore it with a similar wide leg (24")  pair of Eileen Fisher silk pants and  I like the look. However I have come close to falling down the stairs, when the wide legs of the pant I was wearing caught on the heel of my shoe, so I am a bit leery about wearing wide leg pants in certain places.

Vogue 1644 Jacket

Vogue 1644  Jacket

Sunday, August 11, 2019


Hubby and I celebrated a wedding anniversary recently. One of those landmark ones  where the number ends in a zero.  A great reason to sew a special dress.

On a sewing related  Facebook group, there was a post from a woman making a dress with an embroidered lace fabric she had purchased at JoAnn's. The embroidered flowers were described as Dahlias, but did not look like any I grow in my garden.

  I instantly recognized it as the fabric used to make Vogue  9372,  Hmm, a bit much for me.

 and  the  April 2019  Burdastyle style 118. This one I like.

The Burda dress is a great special occasion style. Fitted through the body, with an  off the shoulder neckline and asymmetrical collar. There was a couple yards of the fabric available at my local store and it was on sale.   In short order it was on my sewing table.

The dress is underlined, except for the sleeves.  I hand basted the rayon underlining to all the lace pieces, then treated these basted pieces of fabric as one for further sewing. My serger and sewing machine were able to handle the  layer of underlining and the random heavily embroidered areas of  the lace, but they both sounded like an all terrain vehicle traveling on rough ground.

hand basted underlining

I made a size 42 from the waist up and a size 44 below. I have smaller, squarish, forward shoulders and I wanted the shoulder area to fit well so I did a lot of fitting in that area and customized the darts on the RHS sleeve  and collar. I  applied twill tape to the shoulder seam of the unlined lace sleeve to stabilize that part of the neckline  during fitting, and sewing on the collar.

Twill tape on neckline seam 

 Since all garment sections are underlined (except for sleeves) there is no lining, and the neckline is supposed to be finished by a facing. The facing  pattern was a rather odd shape.

 Since I had custom fit the neckline, I didn't want to transfer those changes to the facing pattern and add even more layers of fabric to the neckline seam,  I chose to face the neckline with a 1.5" grosgrain ribbon that I shaped to the neckline.  
Burda 4 2019 dress 118 side

Burda 4 2019 dress 118 front

Burda 4 2019 Dress 118

Dahlia flowers on my dress, to celebrate 40 years of marriage (and no dalliances).

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Marfy Blouse Trio

Over the years I have purchased many  Marfy patterns, but I have only sewn 2, a blouse and an unblogged pair of pants.  Motivated by a recent Marfy Challenge sponsored by online fabric retailer Sew Much Fabric Marfy Challenge  and a Facebook group that was having a Marfy blouse sew along, I decided to sew several Marfy blouse  patterns.  Sort of like an intensive self directed study of Marfy blouse sizing, drafting and ease for by body.  And to document it in writing for future reverence, something I don’t usually do

Marfy  patterns are described as offering a “high-fashion, sophisticated home sewing experience for expert-level sewers”. They  are available from McCall's Pattern site McCall's Marfy and Marfy's own site. 
Marfy Patterns:
  • Do not have cutting layouts
  • Do not have seam allowances
  • Do not have hem allowances
  • Do not have instructions for assembly
  • Are expensive...…..But they have such unique styles.
First sewn was Marfy 5187 

  Description: “This shirt has a little collar, front placket, yoke and sleeves with low-cut armhole. To be made of various colors, or even in a crew-neck version with box pleat and hidden fastening. I made the collared version. The fabrics are sand washed rayon’s and silk ( dark blue).   My Marfy size for blouses, based on my bust measurement, is 46. For reference I make a size 42 in Burda and a Size 14 in Vogue for tops.  For some reason I had purchased this pattern in a size 48.  So I made a muslin.  It had loads of wearing ease, and the cross-back width and shoulders were too wide for my body. I reduced the shoulder width 1/2 inch and took out some of the upper side width allocated for side bust tissue, where the side seam curved out.  I essentially moved the armhole in ½ inch on each side.  I like the look of the extended shoulder seam of this blouse, but will  have to play around at styling  the blouse since I do not usually wear loose blouses like this.

Marfy 5187 front
Marfy 5187 back
Marfy 5187

The second blouse was Marfy 8509.

 This was purchased from the 2002/3 catalog and is not available either in the current catalog or on either website. This pattern too was  a size 48 . I did not make a muslin. Again the shoulders/back width were way too wide. I decided in my confidence to reduced the width in the  hips as well as the shoulder. This was before reading the description  ” tight-fitting single-breasted tunic has a shirt like collar. It has 2 pleats at the back which are closed at the waist and open into a slit at the bottom. It is closed by cross strings as are the flared cuffs.” I should have double checked the hip width before cutting.  The hip area is too tight, even using  ¼" seam allowances on side and front princess seams. The fabric is a thrift store find. I am guessing rayon/cotton.  Wrinkles like crazy. So this one is a wearable muslin. Love the style.  I plan to make this one again in a firmer fabric with more room in the hips.

Marfy 8509

Marfy 8509  Side

Marfy 8509 back

The third blouse is Marfy 5209 described as “Sculpted blouse and shirt-style stand-up collar forming a bow.”

This is one of the patterns sewn in the challenge.  I was intrigued by the bias-cut side panels used to shape the blouse. Darting is built into both the back and front side panels. To emphasize the bias, I chose a blue check silk from my stash.  Only problem was the check was very uneven. They were not square and there is a faint white line woven in on one side of the check.   So matching was difficult but IMHO, still better than RTW.  This pattern was a size 46. Surprisingly the shoulder seams were still too wide.  I removed width from the back and shoulders, and after checking the hip width, added some extra in this area.  I love the fit through the bust. The length is a bit to long for my preferences.
Marfy 5209 Front

Marfy 5209 Back

Marfy 5209
This was a fun exercise,  I feel more confident,  and incented to sew  some of  my  Marfy dress patterns. Especially since I have received  "Save the Day"  cards for two winter weddings. One for the palindrome date of 02/22/20. Isn't that cute,  and easy to remember?