Thursday, December 27, 2007

Am I Shrinking?

I hope everyone is having a pleasant holiday season. For me Christmas is over, the visitors have come and gone, and I am heartily sick of Christmas cookies. I got my sewing machine and serger back from the shop, where they went for minor repairs and a long overdue tuning. They were gone for a little over a week, but I was so busy getting ready for the holidays, I didn’t miss them much. They positively hum now. I am working on the Vogue 2987, Anne Klein jacket. In November, I was following along with Ann’s blog her “adventures” as she worked on this jacket. But she left for a overseas trip before finishing, so I had to go forth on my own. Based on Ann’s experience, I decided to pin fit the pattern on my dress form. I found that the pattern pieces fit together well, but that there was a lot of ease in this pattern. It is described as semi fitted which by Vogue Patterns definition is 4 3/8 - 5 3/4" for lined jackets. I prefer fitted lined jackets to have no more than 4 inches of ease in the bust and 2 inches in the hips based on the fit of favorite ready to wear (RTW) jackets. I typically make a size 16 in Vogue patterns, and taper out to an 18 at the hips. When I pin fit the pattern on my dress form, I was shocked to see the size 12 had the best fit in the bust area, and the 14 in the hips. Because I am using garment weight suede which is thicker than most fabrics, I cut out a size 14 on top and 16 on the bottom. The following picture shows the final fitting on the dress form. I used binder clips, since pins could not be used. I need to take 1” seam allowances on the side seams and there will still be plenty of room for the lining and wearing ease. Just to make sure I hadn’t stretched the suede while sewing, I measured the flat pattern and compared the measurements to those printed on the pattern pieces at the bust point and waist. The printed measurements are the finished garment widths. Size 14 finished garment bust was printed as 42”, flat pattern measurement was 43.75 inches. No wonder the size 14 was still too big for me. My bust is 38”, a size 14 would have been almost 6 inches of ease. Long story short; I am making this jacket two sizes smaller than I normally do in Vogue Patterns. Before I cut out the sleeves I need to shorten the length, not something I normally do but they are really long, and reduce the sleeve cape ease to zero to accommodate the suede. I also need to do some top stitching on the back and front seams before sewing the jacket pieces together . I can’t decide to do matching topstitching (green) or contrasting (gold). I am going to use snaps in an old gold finish rather than buttons.

As of today, I am planning on participating in the Timmel 2008 SWAP, but I am not in the throes of cutting and sewing preparation like many of the other participants. I have a couple of garments I made several years ago that will work as the presewn garments. I am going to take my 2007 SWAP on the road again when I visit the Charlottesville, VA ASG group in a couple weeks to help present a program on Wardrobe Planning. It should be fun, and there are some independent fabric stores in Charlottesville.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Pinks, Purples, Postcards, and Posies

I had a busy weekend which started shortly after work on Friday with the Holly Ball for my son’s Junior Cotillion. Cotillion, for those who may not be familiar. is a program designed to give young people instruction and practice in the courtesies that make life more pleasant for them and those around them; to give them thorough training in standard ballroom dance; and to provide opportunities to practice and enjoy these skills at memorable parties, balls, dinners and events, complete with decorations, refreshments, favors and prizes. Can you tell that description came from a publicity brochure? Cotillion has nothing to do with coming out in society or debutants, though I suppose it is good training if your social circle participates in such things. We tell my son it is preparation for the day he is invited to dinner at the White House. Which I just realized is what my mother told me when she corrected my manners. Oh no, another example of me turning into my mother!

Since the Holy Ball is a special event, we started off the evening with dinner at The Jefferson Hotel, a historic, 5 star establishment located in downtown Richmond. The holiday decorations were beautiful, the service and food were wonderful, and the boys, my 12 year old and 4 friends, comported themselves well. The ball includes fund raising for the Christmas Mother Fund and an opportunity for parents to dance with their children, boys with their mother, girls with their father. My son was asked to greet folks at the door with the contribution box, and later to present the contributions to the Christmas Mother, a person who represents the fund, which provides needy children and families with toys, clothing, food and other assistance during the holidays. It was a job well suited to his personality. He loved greeting his friends and their parents, and cajoling donations. He stood on the stage during the presentation with a big grin on his face the whole time. I wish I could say I was as successful in my dancing, but I never had training in ballroom dancing. My dancing was terrible, but we had a good time. The Governor of Virginia was there dancing with his daughter, and it was nice to see him just being a dad.

My weekend sewing was to make a bunch of fabric post cards that needed to be in the mail on Monday. The theme of my post card was “Stop and smell the flowers” because lately I wish the pace of my life was more relaxed, and in warmer months I do relax by futzing in my flower garden. The design for the postcard is an image I found on the Internet and the fabrics, with the exception of the white, were scraps from an Amish style wedding ring quilt I made about 10 years ago. I enjoyed working with the purple and pink fabrics used for the flowers. The flowers remind me of the dark purple ‘Thomas Edison” and pink, name unknown, dahlias I grow in my garden. While I don’t dislike making fabric post cards, I find I regret the time it takes away from my garment sewing. So I probably won’t participate in any more fabric post card exchanges.

The 2008 Timmel Fabric SWAP will start next month, and I am still ambivalent about it, for various reasons. I have several piles of coordinating fabrics I love, but I haven’t seen any fabric on the Timmel site that I want to purchase in order to qualify for the SWAP contest. I am not excited about making basic skirts and tops. They are actually cheaper for me to buy than to make. I may go with the SWAP option which includes 4 bottoms, 6 jackets and a coat. I enjoy making jackets, and I need a real winter coat, but they are quite a bit of work. Another option is to do an extension to my summer SWAP, which would give me lots of new clothes to wear in the spring. I have a month to work it out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

...and play

Holiday time brings invitations to parties. Different types of parties; neighborhood “girls only” parties, work department parties, and appreciative business client parties. For some reason I really enjoy sewing holiday party outfits for the dressier type parties. I no longer sew a lot of gifts, or Christmas ornaments to exchange with friends. So to keep the holiday stress level up, I make party outfits. Every year, I go through the catalogs for ideas. Bloomingdales, Barrie Pace and NM are favorites. I also review my inspiration file of pages torn from magazines.
I typically choose a traditional dress or jacket pattern (my comfort zone) and make it in a glitzy, fancy fabric. This year the dress I have made for the cocktail and hors d’oeuvres party at the local botanical garden was inspired by the SFA ad for an Alberta Ferretti dress. All it took was Vogue pattern. 8229, silver and gold floral brocade fabric, and quite a few design changes.

I spent a lot of time studying the picture of the Ferretti dress in order to replicate the size and location of the design details correctly. The relationships I noted were; the pocket welts were the same width as the neck bands, the pockets were located in the waist to high hip area, the angle of the pocket welts was close to vertical, and echoed the angle of the armhole from underarm to neck band. The center front slit was longer then I felt comfortable wearing, so I exercised artistic license and shortened it to about 4 inches. I extended the bottom edge of the dress an additional 8 inches, and eliminated the ruffle. I used the pocket bag pattern and the welt form a raincoat pattern in a 2006 issue of BWOF. I have a packing tape dress form double that duplicates my shape very well. I pinned the partially completed dress to the dress form to make sure it fit, the fabric gathered reasonably well, and played with the pocket placement. The fabric is “cringe” …nylon. But it was lightweight, matched the look I was going for, and was on sale. I checked Sandra Betzina’s book More Fabric Savvy for info. on sewing nylon. “rip stop” was the only entry for nylon fabric and that sure didn’t make me feel good about using it for a party dress. I guess I can wear it camping and it will be water and wind resistant. The Vogue Sewing Book had a section on sewing metallic fabrics which was quite informative. Actually the rip stop recommendations worked well; cotton/poly thread, a new size 12 universal point needle, and medium heat with steam for pressing. The fabric was actually easy to sew. I used a low heat fusible interfacing for the bands, and to reinforce the front slit and pocket area. There was very little fraying, which was a pleasant surprise. I am hoping the party will be in one of the greenhouse rooms with lots of plants so that the temperature will be fairly warm. Of course that means the humidity will be high and I will need to use super hold hair gel. Just in case the temperature is a little cool, I am on the lookout for a cream colored shrug or shawl.

Sewing for Work

I recently made two items, from the Oct 2007 Burda World of Fashion magazine, to wear to work.
One is the popular, much reviewed jumper, number 121. Jumper, that is such a weird name for a garment if you think about it. The magazine called it a pinafore which is even worse. A pinafore to me is an apron type garment with a bib, worn over a dress. It is commonly worn by females under the age of 4 at dressy events. Imagine me waking up one morning and saying to myself “I think I’ll wear my gray pinafore to work today”. Anyway it is quick to make in knit (rayon polyspandex blend) fabric, comfortable to wear, and in dark grey, can be worn over a rainbow of different colored sweaters and blouses. The other item is the dress, number 117. I was intrigued by the origami type pleats used for shaping in the bodice. The magazine picture was a side view that didn’t show much. That caused me to think twice about making it. Was it so bad the stylist chose to hide the major details? I decided to proceed based on the line drawing. I wanted to use a plaid fabric, but a subtle one. I found a poly rayon blend with a dark grey background and a thin pastel pink and blue plaid. I really like how the dress turned out. The bodice pleats accent the horizontal lines of the plaid and they soar up and out on the sleeves. The changes I made were…1 Tapered the waist tucks into darts in the back. I think I will do the same to the front tucks. There is nothing like an abrupt change in a line to focus your attention on that area. 2. removed some of the bodice length for a SBA (small bust adjustment). And 3. lined the bodice and sleeves, eliminating the need for a neck facing.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Plethora of Plaid

I have been a very lazy blogger lately, but I have been sewing. I have always loved plaid fabric. And for some reason, plaid has been popping up in my life a lot in the last few weeks. I finished my purple plaid swing jacket. McCalls pattern 5480. I love the violet background color and the grey bands match grey dress pants/skirts for work and faded black jeans for play. It is the first time I have ever made a bias cut jacket and I chose to do it in an uneven plaid. It is hard to see, but the bands of grey stripes are wider in one direction. If I had thought this project though, I probably would have never started. Sometime it is good to just plunge in, unaware of the trials and tribulations ahead. I carefully cut all pattern pieces out one at a time, matching the plaid at the notches. The right and left front were identical mirror images of each other, the bands of the plaid chevroning perfectly at the center front. Only after I had cut everything out, did I realize the jacket right front overlapped the left a good 2 inches, and because of the uneven plaid it would not match at the overlap. After much thought, I decided to make the plaid chevron at center front by adding a separate band for the overlap. This simulated a center front seam where the plaid matched and continues the pattern into the left front . The pattern called for big 1.5 inch buttons. I cringe about making big button holes because they always seem to gape and stretch. I notice that in this fall’s RTW clothes, a lot of big buttons have big snaps under them, eliminating the need for the button holes. But I chose to use the center front seam for in-seam button holes, which are easy to make.
While I was working on the jacket, the family attended a Celtic Festival and Highland Games. I really enjoyed looking at the plaid kilts of the game contestants and in the vendors' booths. Each one was prettier than the previous one. Both my husband and I have Scottish ancestors, but they must not have been “highlanders” because there is no plaid allocated to the names. Too bad, my 15 year old son really wanted a kilt. Yes, I was shocked too! There were some guys there that really looked good in their kilts. A pair of wide shoulders, the pleats of their kilts swaying from narrow hips, muscular calves in thick socks. Nice! But I don’t think it is a good look for my 140 lb, 6’ 4” son with his stick legs. I also noticed that some men have the same fitting problems as women, like shapely butts and rounded tummies. Unevenly hanging pleats really emphasize them.
Earlier this week I asked my husband what he would like for his birthday, he replied “ I want a new plaid vest, just like the one you made me.” When my memory failed to recall this item, he went down to his work shop and brought up the reversible vest shown in the pictures. The thing must be over 25 years old. I can’t remember if he was my boyfriend or my husband when I made it. Based on the gap in the front when he tries to close it, I say he was still a boyfriend. I was amazed at the work that went into it. I quilted the heavy brown cotton fabric to some kind of batting. There are shaped bands around the armholes, welt pocket on the wool side and patch pockets with flaps on the outside and button closures. My sewing skills were still developing when I made it. I can see the “large” hand sewn stitches tacking the armhole and bottom bands in place. The plaids on the welt pocket don’t match. I can’t remember the pattern I used or doing any of the work, which bothers me a bit. He requested that the replacement have a reversible zipper and a brighter plaid. And, I thought to myself, I can use pre-quilted and water/wind resistant fabric, snaps for the pocket closures, elastic ribbing at the bottom. It is amazing the new fabrics and notions that are now available to sewers, that were not around back in the 80’s. And I will need to make it. Hubby is a Medium Tall. Retailers seem to think all tall men are “big and tall”. A quick perusal of the Cabela's, Woolrich, etc. catalogs did not yield exactly what he wanted. Plus my stash contains loads of wool plaid remnants from the Woolrich store in Woolrich, PA which was conveniently located near Penn State University, where I went to college.
And the last plaid coinky-dink. The Activities Committee at work announced November’s activity as an outing to a dinner theatre. The play…..Forever Plaid.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Oct Update

Rules for the Timmel Fabrics 2008 SWAP have been announced and the twist is to make at least three of the required 11 garments from one ‘wardrobe” type pattern. For example a top, pants and jacket that is included in one pattern. Going through my pattern stash, I found that there are actually a lot of patterns like that. Some are labeled “wardrobe” patterns; others are not but have a skirt, pants and tops. I usually buy a pattern for one garment, typically a unique jacket, and use tried and true patterns for skirts and pants. But I definitely have a lot of the patterns. I have been stashing fabrics in various weights and textures of grey, cream and accent colors of blue, pink and green/yellow (see picture of blue fabrics) for my 2008 SWAP. I think I will hold off on choosing the wardrobe pattern until closer to the Jan. start date. New styles and patterns will come out between now and then. Grey is an “in” color now, but I have always liked it as a basic wardrobe color. However, I am feeling ambivalent about the SWAP, even with all the enthusiastic postings at The problem is I normally sew work clothes and I was all excited about sewing some dresses to wear to work. Then rather suddenly, my office was moved from a satellite office building to the manufacturing plant. The parking at the plant is a good 10 minute walk from the building in a “wind tunnel” paved with aggregate concrete. A long walk hauling a laptop bag. A horrible surface for heels. And I will probably need a lined water resistant coat for bad weather. Umbrellas are tough to manage in the wind tunnel. No more mad dashes from car to building. And the product made in the plant has an odor. Not unpleasant, but noticeable (think baking with chocolate) that is absorbed by clothing and hair. To attend meetings within the plant will often require donning safety shoes, safety glasses and earplugs. Want to take a nice dress and make it look ridiculous? Don aforementioned items. I will have to focus on nice tops, pants and the occasional jackets. No dresses.
For fall, now until January, I am trying to do SWAP type sewing around a purple/green/grey color scheme. When purple was announced as a fall color, I went though my huge stash. I have lots of purple fabrics, both violet (red) and blue based. I found several nice wool boucles. There were a lot of muted dusty purples fabrics too, which look boring and sad. Back in storage they went. I have a plaid swing style jacket that is just about finished. Unfortunately my husband's cousins are stopping by for a few nights and I have to clean up the sewing room/dinning room. Mid week overnight guests are a logistical nightmare for someone who works full time, has teenagers with after school activities (irregular meal times) and a husband who has to go out of town on business. We will get through it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Is it Oct. Already?

I was working diligently on the Vogue vintage dress on Sunday, the last day of September, and the last day to post a review for the Vintage Sewing Contest. I tried on the dress and realized I still had a lot of work to do. I had neglected to realign the bodice darts to the skirt darts when I did my alterations. The belt needed to be finished, the invisible zipper inserted, etc. It was a beautiful day and I was inside, stressing out. I decided it was more important to enjoy the day and relax than try and meet the contest deadline. So I made my lunch, took it out on the deck, listened to the birds, admired the few flowers that are making it through the drought, and watched my oldest son shoot hoops. I made the right decision.

This dress was more work than I expected. There are 10 darts in the upper collar and 10 in the under collar, as well as four in each pocket. I love the shape the darts create and the way the collar drapes. I also chose to make the 6 bound button holes on the bodice as per the instructions. It reinforced how much work bound button holes require, and the difficulty my middle aged eyes have discerning dark thread on dark fabric. The dress requires a self fabric belt with covered buckle. I had hoped to find a "cover your own belt & buckle kit" (1" width) at the Sewing Expo or G Street Fabrics. G Street had the kits for 2 inch width. So I had to come up with my own kit. I bought a 1" gold belt buckle. I used Pellon Peltex double sided fusible for the inside of the belt. Peltex is a 1/16 thick, non woven material commonly used to stiffen purses, fabric post cards and bowls. It is strong and flexible. It is available by the yard at fabric stores. Below is a brief description and pictures showing the technique for covering a belt with fabric with no sewing needed.
Step 1

Cut Peltex the length needed for the belt. Be sure to include enough length to attach the buckle and for any overlap. The fabric should be slightly longer in order to turn under the raw edges at the ends. For the width of the fabric I used 2 x the Peltex width plus 2x the seam allowance/overlap. My sample is made with a 6 inches long, 1 inch wide piece of Peltex 72 and a 6 inch long, 2.75 in. wide piece of fabric. I used 3/8 '' overlaps.

Step 2

Place Peltex on wrong side of fabric. Wrap fabric over one long edge to back of Peltex the amount of the overlap. Use tip of hot iron to tack in place.

Step 3

Turn belt over so front is facing you. Align a piece of Steam A Seam2 (SAS) 1/4 " width to remaining raw edge. Remove paper backing from SAS.

Step 4

Turn belt over so back is facing you. Pull fabric firmly around Peltex. Turn under raw edge so no SAS is visible. Make sure turned under edge overlaps the raw edge tacked down in step 1. Use hot iron to melt SAS along seam/overlap and to the Peltex in all other areas.
Note: I put the overlap seam near a long edge of the belt because I later added grommets in the center of the belt for the prong of the belt buckle, and didn't want any extra bulk a center overlap would have created. I may also hand stitch the seam just to make it sure it is secure. Not shown: I cut the Peltex in a point for the end of the belt and sewed the fabric in the same shape at the end only. But you could use the SAS to fuse the fabric around the pointed end of the Peltex too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sept. Sewing

Some readers may know that this BLOG started out as a way to track my progress on a Timmel Farics sponsored SWAP (Sewing with a Plan) contest. It was the first time I had participated. Reading other participants BLOGs and postings on the discussion board at really motivated me. Well a couple of weeks ago, I got to meet two other participants and see their SWAPs. It was wonderful. Mary and Jodi both live in Newport News, VA so the Fashion Focus Neighborhood group of the Richmond ASG chapter set up a meeting location mid way between Richmond and Newport News in a lovely historic Bed and Breakfast. Mary and Jodi brought multiple SWAP’s, since they have participated multiple years; Jody most recently in the Wardrobe Planning contest. It was wonderful to see their creations in person. Jodi had several great wardrobes of casual garments that fit her lifestyle. Wonderful knit fabrics in rich colors and textures, made into garments with interesting details and styling. She was wearing one of the outfits from her SWAP and she looked great. And I got to see that fabulous coat she made by taking apart and copying an old favorite coat. Mary makes lovely tailored garments. She is definitely an expert seamstress. Her dress SWAP was very inspiring, especially since I had a hard time getting my head around the concept of a dress swap. Each dress was unique and had as much work in it as a tailored jacket. And there was a stylish jacket that went with all the dresses, which I know from personal experience, can be hard to accomplish. We all gave short presentations on our sewing backgrounds, described how we developed our SWAPs, why we chose certain fabrics and styles, learning’s, successes, etc. I had a great time and I know the other members of the FFG did too. Photos on the internet do not do justice to the garments and fabrics. All I could think of was how much harder the voting would be if we were seeing the SWAPs in person. Thanks to the Group coordinator Judy Sutter for setting that up.

I have started on another vintage dress. A 1947 Vogue pattern described as "four piece skirt joins bodice at waist line. Darts trim the hip pockets on skirt and the deep collar. Open or closed neckline, sleeve cut in one with blouse fronts, set in armhole in back. Long sleeve gathered to cuff band and three-quarter length sleeves.” I am making it in a lt. weight wool flannel in a medium blue. I especially liked the multiple darts on the pockets and the collar. The pattern is not printed, just a paper shape, with various perforations marking the darts and seam lines. The paper is crumbling and I have to be very careful when smoothing out the wrinkles. I have to add 4" to bust, waist and hips. The bodice is giving me fits because of the front cut on sleeve with underarm gussets and a back with a set in sleeve. I am not sure where to add the additional width. I may actually have to do a muslin of the top.

I am trying to stretch my creative horizons. I signed up for a fabric postcard class club at a local quilting store. I was inspired by the postcards made by Vicki and students who took her Fabric Postcard class. Yes I know, like I need something else to do, but I reasoned I could use fabric scraps from my sewing projects. I soon discovered Fallacy #1. Garment scraps are not near as exciting as new quilting fabrics and 2. Postcards are not going to make much of a dent in my scrap pile.

The post cards have to go out early next week and the dress has to be completed by the end of the month to be eligible for the contest. Fortunately this weekend is when the guys go off for a Boy Scout bike/camping trip and it is just Kitty and I at home. Hopefully I will get a lot done.

Speaking of Kitty, 2 different neighbors stopped by this week to tell me that they had seen a coyote in my yard. One had even verified it was not some mangy dog, by researching coyote's on the internet. I am a bit shocked as I live in Virginia, in a highly populated residential neighborhood of a big city. However, there is a 10 acre field between my back yard and heavily traveled River Road. I am hoping Mr. Coyote is munching on the teeming rabbit and squirrel populations, but just to be on safe side, I am keeping Ms. Kitty in at night.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Potting Sewl

I finished sewing another vintage dress. The pattern is the type that was ordered through a newspaper. I remember seeing the pictures of dress and craft patterns in the classified section of my childhood paper, The Pittsburgh Press. And I remember thinking the dress styles were years out of date and the crafts were old style embroidery. I believe these patterns are no longer offered in newspapers. The general consensus of the posters on Vintage Sewing contest discussion board is the pattern style is from the 1950’s or 60’s. One poster thought the short haircut on the model was similar to Audrey Hepburn’s when she was a popular movie star. I didn’t notice it until I read her comment and then I had to smile. Guess what actress I was named for? My mother was a big Audrey H. fan. I thought this dress looked like a summer sun dress and envisioned it in a small all over print. The brown cotton/linen, embroidered in pink flowers was on sale at JoAnne’s. As I was standing in the checkout line reviewing the paper that listed all my cut fabric, making sure I had gotten the sales price, I saw the words "Potting Soil" "What in the world?" I thought. Then I realized that the words were the fabric description, and it was for the brown embroidered fabric I was about to purchase. Normally fabric descriptions are short descriptive terms like fabric type, weave, or the manufacturers name. But "Potting Soil"?? Visions of a bored/mischievous inventory data entry person sprang to mind. One who did not like the color brown. I couldn’t resist changing soil to "sewl". That is the reason for the goofy post title.
I liked the style of the dress. The wide neckline, the bodice extending into the shoulder area, and the fitted silhouette with flared back skirt. The listed pattern measurements were all 4" smaller than mine. I pin fitted the pattern pieces on my dress form double, lining up center front and back. There must have been a lot of ease built into this pattern. I only added 1 in. to the bust and 2 in. to the waist, all in the front. The back width was fine. I did a SBA (small bust adjustment) at the princess seam. I inserted pink bias tape in the princess seams, neckline edge, and belt piece to emphasize them. The bias tape was a 1.5 inch wide, folded in half to ¾ inch. The raw edge of the tape was matched to the cut edge of the fabric so when the seam was sewn the folded edge extended an eighth of an inch beyond the seam line. I find this is less work than making and inserting piping, but it has a similar look.
I found some cute pink flower shaped buttons to use on the shoulders and back waist tab. I discovered that bodices extending into the shoulder areas do not work well on my sloping shoulders, when they have been cut for a square shoulder. I actually made small shoulder pads to hold the shoulder/button area more horizontal. I enjoyed sewing this dress. The combo of pattern and fabric really excited me and I look forward to my sewing time. By pushing myself to use patterns that are not in my size, I am learning so much about resizing patterns and fitting.

I am in a state of indecision about my next sewing project. I am conflicted between adding a couple of transitional pieces to my summer swap to make it wearable for warm fall weather or starting on some of the new fall patterns and winter fabrics. Or I could tackle another vintage pattern before the contest ends later this month.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Sewing 70's style

I finished the Vogue Paris Original pattern 2227, 1970's Pierre Balmain dress. It fit well without any alterations and was fairly easy to make. I wish I had made it in linen or wool double knit, instead of the poly cotton double knit. I just don't care for the synthetic knit blends. The neck and arm holes were just as snug as I thought they would be. The armholes don't bother me, no worries about undergarments showing, but I did lower the front neckline just a hair. I am going to transfer the neckline and armholes to my fitting sloper, since they fit so great.

I actually had more fun styling the dress to match the Versace dress mentioned in the previous post. I decided to buy a pair of above the elbow leather gloves like the ones in the picture, because I plan to make a couple of 3/4 length sleeve jackets for fall that I would wear the gloves with (in the car driving to work and walking into the office building). Could I find a pair leather gloves in VA in August? Heck no. The major dept. stores have not received their" winter leather goods" yet and even the online stores show delivery as late Sept, so I had to use the stretch lycra gloves used for Halloween dress up. Hubby and I were giggling hysterically as we walked around the yard looking for a suitable photo backdrop....the basketball hoop, the mini van, hoping the neighbors weren't home from church yet. We also shocked the sons, especially the 15 year old. The look on his face was priceless. "Hey bud, don't assume your parents are old, stodgy and predictable."

Monday, August 13, 2007

Switching Years

I finished making a couple of T- shirts for myself with lovely rayon/lycra knit fabrics from
And started work on a Vintage pattern.
I decided to sew the 60's Pierre Balmain dress. It is fairly simple and I might actually wear it. There was a similar dress in the Versace ad on page 63 in this month's Vogue Magazine. It is accessorized very differently than the 60's version. Interesting, but not a look I can carry off. The measurements of the pattern are very close to mine with the exception of the waist. I thought the easiest way to check the fit would be to pin the pattern to my packing tape dressform double, who I affectionately call Verite (French for truth). I made her last year in an all day session with Jan Bones at the Sewing Expo in Chantilly VA. Verite is a very accurate double of my unique body shape.
I found the pattern at a Goodwill store, and it has obviously been used. I could tell by the tucks and pleats still taped in place, that the person was short waisted, had narrow shoulders and needed an extra inch or two in the hips. The adhesive on the tape was still very sticky and I was able to peel it away without damaging the pattern. The pattern fit Verite very well when I pinnedit on her. The center front needs to be shortened a bit and the arm hole may have to be cut lower. Both of these can be adjusted after initial construction. The pattern is well designed. It has match points every 4 " along any seam line. It includes 3/4 " seam allowances on seams that are to be topstitched. The armhole is cut higher for the sleeveless version, something I haven't seen frequently in patterns today, The pattern fabric recommendation includes double knit. I am using a med. weight, firm, 70/30 poly cotton double knit. The instructions recommend underlining all the garment pieces. I will try it on a couple to see how it changes the feel of the fabric. I am not sure the knit needs additional body, which is one purpose of underlining. But the instructions also say to catchstitch the armhole facings and hem to the underlining, and that will definitely give a more professional look. I remember my mother poring over the instructions for Vogue Paris Original patterns in the 70's and commenting on the advanced techniques used to construct the garments. I am going to try and use as many of them as possible just for the experience.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Another Sewing Contest

For my birthday last month, my good friend Ursula gave me a vintage pattern. There was no date printed on it, but the general consensus was that it was from the 1950’s. My mother remembers sewing a similar housecoat for her sister around that time and a check of pattern dating sites listed 1950 too. Which means the pattern is as old as I am. The outside envelope was starting to deteriorate but the inside pattern pieces were as good as new. Sort of like me, I hope. The present motivated me to search out all my vintage patterns. They were all over, in the attic and the basement. I know, I know, not great environmental conditions for archiving printed paper. Then I saw that there was a Vintage sewing contest over at To be eligible for the prizes, you must sew one garment from a vintage pattern or reprint of vintage pattern from 1920 to 1982. Yes, I signed up for the contest. It is just one garment, not a whole SWAP. But can I pick just one pattern? It is really tough. The time frame meant that the patterns I sewed in high school, in the early 70’s, are eligible. I still have them. Hipster elephant bell bottom pants, smocky tops by Kenzo and Ann Tice. I am tempted to make the bell-bottoms to give my kids a laugh. I will need platform shoes to complete the look. But from what I see in the magazine, platform shoes are coming back. Seriously, the patterns on my short list are....
One 1960 style dress. I have the perfect poly blend double-knit from a free bundle. (I retrieved it from the give away pile). A 1940’s Vogue evening dress reprint from Eva Dress in olive lace and matching solid. A pattern, no name or date, of the type purchased through newspaper. And a 1920’s McCall’s pattern for a flapper type dress. Decisions, Decision. Oh yeah, and I order a bunch more vintage patterns from Etsy, which seems to have the best prices. This contest will be a learning experience in altering/resizing a pattern to fit me. None of these patterns match my measurements.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Terrific T-Shirts

We are back from a great vacation week in Rehoboth Beach, DE. We rent the biggest house we can afford a couple blocks from the beach and invite family and friends. My parents, 2 of 3 siblings, many cousins, and my best friend from college, live in MD, VA and DE, within a reasonable driving distance. It is a constant stream of people and food. The girls who sew always make a point of visiting Mare’s Bears, a quilting shop in Lewes, DE. We also shop the discount book stores for quilting, and craft books. We have been doing this for about 30 years and we have started to reminisce about some of the wilder “pre kids” times. It is now our kids that are providing the excitement. 13 year old girl and 15 years old boy cousins, testing the limits of their parent’s rules on boardwalk curfews and attire. The girls fell victim to a box of cute kittens “Free to a good home” and hid two of them in a bedroom of our ‘no pets rental” for several days before being discover by an adult. Fortunately two of their friends were able to take them. The week before vacation I finally got around to making a T-shirt for my younger sister Suzanne, from fabric she bought at G-Street fabrics. She is predominately a quilter, having had traumatic clothes sewing experiences in high school. We still chuckle about the time she sewed sleeves into a blouse upside down, matching the underarm of the sleeves to the shoulder seam. The blouse fit great when she held her arms up in a cheerleader “rah rah” pose. Any other arm position resulted in tight shoulders and massive bunching under the arm. I too have my share of of similar sewing incidents.
For her T-shirt I chose to go with Simplicity 4076, which has 50 plus good reviews on I had sent her instructions on taking her bust, waist and back measurements. I included my measurements, thinking if she saw mine she would not be surprised or dismayed at her own. Though we have similar coloring and hair, she is smaller and has cuter features than I do. I was sure her measurements would be very different than mine. Image our surprise when they were exactly the same, except she is longer waisted. As she said, she is the same top on shorter legs.
It did make fitting a snap though. The reviews of that pattern are right on the money. The gathered front T shirt was easy to make, and it fit great. That made me want to try the other styles, so I raided my stash and whipped up the crossover top and knotted front versions as well. All winners! Here she is modeling all three tops in front of the beach house. They all went great with her white pants.
I liked them so much, I orders some great print knits from that coordinated with my summer SWAP (Yes, Melody, that was me. Love the fabrics!) My sister liked the shirts so much she asked if I thought she could make one on her regular sewing machine. I told her yes, and brought two smallish suitcases of knits from my stash to the beach for her to choose from. My husband rolled his eyes whan he found out the suitcases contained fabric. All the girls happily helped her choose a couple of pieces. It is so great to have sewing friends and relatives!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Purr Sueded

I fixed the links for the SWAPs on the sidebar to point to my flicker photos. My guys are off this week at Scout Camp near Pulaski, VA. My husband is coming home a couple days early to take me out to celebrate my 50th birthday on Friday. It is Friday the 13th, but for me that day has never been bad luck.

This past week I had various scout things to do to get the boys ready to go. Sewing badge after badge on shirts and sashes. Some day I am going to digitize the shape of a scout merit badge to make the sewing easier. If anyone has already done it, please share! Nothing like trying to go around a circle the size of a quarter neatly. Another task was to purchase a moccasin kit for youngest son so he could complete his Leather Working merit badge at camp. I stopped by the local Tandy Leather store to get the kit. This store typically carries, in addition to the kit I was after, loads of heavy, stiff black leather. I am not sure who their customers are, but there must be a lot of motorcycle riders or local equestrians that are into making their own chaps, studded belts, saddle bags, etc. The store never has much in the way of garment leather except for pig suede in black, and garish colors like purple and orange. This visit, I was surprised to find suede in aqua and a soft green. After much mental arguing, I succumbed. I actually made this suede top a couple of years ago for my Sewing with Leather presentation at an ASG meetting. Funny how a presentation deadline can motivate you. It wasn't difficult to sew and I wear it a lot in the winter. Then the Aug/Sept issue of Vogue Pattern Magazine arrived and it had a new pattern for a suede jacket I loved. It is not on the Vogue web site yet, so here is a picture of Vogue 2087. The fortuitous arrival of this new pattern put an end to any unease I had about the suede purchase. I think it will look lovely in the green.