Friday, December 30, 2011

On the Border

Wow, I was really surprised how many of you had gone through similar job layoffs. Your comments really helped me shake my bad mood.
The holiday guests have gone on to Fla. We live a short distance from I95, the main north/south road on the east coast, a good stopping point between Fla and northern locations. Hubby and oldest son are out shopping for a used car with good gas mileage and storage capacity for a duffel bag full of ice hockey gear and sticks. Yep, they took the bag on the test drives. I pity the poor salesman. The smell of a bag of used (sweaty) hockey pads is indescribable. No amount of soaking the pads in a tub full of bleach solution can erase it. Phew! The reason for the new car is that as of Jan 1, younger son is a legal driver. He will inherit the “loser cruiser” an old, mud colored, no horsepower, mini van. And older brother gets a “new” car in preparation of going off to college in the near future.

As for sewing, I have been working on the final pieces for my 6 PAC wardrobe. The one inspired by my misty morning drive to work.

I order this double georgette silk fabric to make a blouse.
and got this

A border print! Not along one selvage edge, but every 26 " in the print. This is the 2nd time DenverFabrics has surprised me by sending me a border print when I thought I was getting an allover print. There was no mention of this in the product description and the border was not shown in the online picture. This annoyed me greatly because I had ordered a specific quantity assuming an all over pattern. And they always ignore the border placement when they cut the length specified. So each cut end was a different distance from the border. Grr. When life deals you border prints, you’ve got to get creative. I found the Purrfections 1039 modern poet blouse pattern in my collection and thought the border print could be used for the cuffs and cross over band.

Oh and the border was not printed on the cross grain. It was about ½ inch off at one end. Better to have the fabric of an interfaced band cut slightly off grain, than to incorporate the border on the bottom of a garment piece and have to cut the piece out slightly askew for the border to be straight.  After reading the reviews of the Purrfection pattern, I felt it would require too many alterations in the back, sleeve and shoulders for me. Those are my problem areas. I still loved the style though. I looked through old Burda Style magazines for a similar shoulder princess seam blouse pattern that I could modify to look like the Purrfections blouse. I found the perfect one in Jan 2008 blouse 105/106.
I overlaid the Purrfection center front  pattern over the Burda center front pattern and traced the deep V neck line with a 2" overlap at center front.

The  neckline is on the bias. To make sure this edge did not stretch during sewing, I did several things.
1. I used light weight fusible interfacing on the facing.
2. I made sure to cut the interfacing using the pattern piece (accurate) rather than the garment pieces or the pattern piece with the garment fabric still attached (inaccurate) and yes, I am guilty of doing this.
 3. I used fusible straight grain iron-on stabilizing tape on the neck line of the garment front pieces. I pinned the fabric to the pattern, wrong side up, to ensure it was the exact shape of the pattern. Then I applied the fusible tape over the seam line.

Since the neck band I wanted to use was much wider than the one on the pattern, I moved the neck/ band seam outward towards the shoulder seam, otherwise the band would have been covering my ears. I added some thin flexible trim at the band seam to accent the V neck.

I will post pictures of the blouse on me when I finish the new pair of pants I am working on now.

Does my blouse match your kitchen? DH and I remember the color scheme and pattern of the border as being very popular in the tile selection at the Do-It-Yourself stores a couple of years ago.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bits and Pieces

I usually love to sew dresses for year end parties. This year I just wasn't into it.

My employer announced another salaried employee reduction in late Nov., with notification to be made on Dec 15. Horrible timing. I didn’t RSVP to 2 company related holiday parties until after the Dec 15th date for obvious reasons. I still have a job. Several of my coworker/friends do not. This is the 3rd reduction  in as many years; declining market, etc. The last two cut out the poor performers and none value added skills. This one was much harder to go through. The selection criterion was not publicized, or even explained to the people that were terminated. Less than 4 years and I am out the door with  full retirement benefits. I hope I can hang on that long with my increased workload.

Rather than sew something new, I refurbished my little black dress from last year. I like this dress a lot. It is fitted and has a bra friendly V back which shows off the results of those P90X back and shoulder workouts. I blogged about the dress here.  Dec 2011 I removed the silver and black faux jewels and replaced them with a black braided trim with gold balls.

Over it I wore the faux fur jacket that I made last year.

I attended a couple of classes at G Street Fabric's several weeks ago. Beginners Guide to Sewing Silks and Sewing with Sheer Fabrics. Both were very informative and the instructor had a wonderful trunk show of garments she had made. There was one top that I really liked. It was made in a sheer fabric  with narrow french seams that accented the unique style lines. All the instructor could remember was that the top was made from a discontinued Vogue pattern. The sketch is below. It may not be completely accurate because it is from memory. The top had kimono sleeves. The  lower back wrapped around to the front, and there are geometric pieces sewn on the bottom. Do any of you recognize the style lines/pattern?

What Pattern is this?
Well, I am off to paint the bathroom that will be used by the guests who are arriving on Christmas Day.  I wish I was motivated to keep my home in guest ready condition, but I know when  it comes down to a choice of what to do in my spare time, sewing wins over painting any day.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Troublesome Trio

My week off and the Thanksgiving holiday was lovely. DS hosted the holiday dinner so the parents would not have to travel far. Here is her gorgeous table before the meal started
and after.

I was taking the pictures. When I had put the camera away and filled my plate, I found that DS the eldest (19) had promoted himself to the adult table and the only empty seat was at, you guessed it, the kid table. So I ate with my nieces and nephews, ages 6-17, and had a great time.

On the sewing side of life, I am working on a 6 piece wardrobe, part of a 6PAC sew along at Stitcher’s Guild 6PAC The goal is to sew a 6 piece wardrobe in 3 months.

The color scheme for my mini wardrobe was inspired by the colors I saw, for what seemed like weeks, on my morning drive to work. Gray skies or fog. Ribbons of concrete top stitched with lanes lines of dull gold and white. A leafy border of fading gold and rust above the ribbed cement noise barriers lining the side of the road. My drive home from work is in the dark.

The colors: greige (gray +beige), brown, gold, white, rust. The textures: smooth, ribbed or leafy. Techniques: top stitching, pin tucking, gathers

I have completed the first three garments. Each of them had an issue/challenge.

The knit top is Burda 1-2011 – 129.

I used a small piece of poly lycra animal print fabric. With a careful layout, ¾ sleeves and 3/8 seams, I was able to get all the pattern pieces cut out. I sewed the bodice using a straight stitch, something I do for fitting purposes on knits because I hate to rip out serging. It was too big, gigunda. I would have expected this top pattern to have been drafted with negative ease. But for the size 42 ( bust 36.25 inches) the pattern bust measurement was 38.5. I removed 4 inches of ease to get this top to fit snugly. Some of this may have been because my fabric was softer and stretchier than the jersey fabric used by Burda. On the back piece, which has the front armhole and shoulder cut on, I did it by creating a center back seam.  On the  front I cut the excess fabric off the sides.

The pants were a challenge because of operator (me) error tracing the pattern.
Where was my mind that day? I didn’t trace the front zipper area extension or the pocket extension. The pants pieces on the pattern sheet overlapped and  I inadvertently traced the grain line for the front pant piece on the back pattern piece and vise versa. It wasn’t until I was laying out the pattern pieces on the fabric that it occurred to me something might be wrong. The pant leg bottoms were not on the cross grain.

I discovered, after 20 years of using Burda patterns, that the grain line indicator on any pattern piece starts at the top edge. I caught the grain line and the front extension error before cutting the fabric. But not the pocket extension. I didn’t notice that until I was sewing the pocket to the pocket lining and they did not match up. The save was easy, but not satisfying. The side seam can be seen in the pocket opening. The fabric is a milk chocolate brown wool gabardine. I do like the style of these pants, especially the close fit in the upper leg with the gentle flare at the hem. This is not mentioned in the copy or obvious from the line drawing.

Finally the jacket – a Sandra Betzina Vogue pattern 1036 with lots of pattern pieces and top stitching.
I chose a cement colored polyester suede fabric. It was the perfect color and texture, but what was I thinking? I must have taken out the top stitching on every seam at least once because of wavering stitches and tension problems. My machine does great top stitching in the center needle position. But when I try to use an edge foot and a needle left or right position, the thread tension goes out the window. I actually have to tighten the tension of the  heavier top thread to fix the problem. And how the heck do you press this type of fabric flat? Heat, steam, both? Too much heat and it melts. Ask me how I know. I broke down and actually used a press cloth to prevent imprinting the suede texture with the iron. But the press cloth  I used was muslin and I couldn’t see what I was doing. It was very frustrating. I was complaining about this to my sewing friends over lunch, after a guild meeting, and one mentioned this Threads magazine article "Make a Press-Cloth Wardrobe," Threads #154, p. 44 Guide to Press Cloths about having a variety of pressing cloths, including one of silk organza which is slightly transparent. The silk organza worked great, but I still had to hand baste edges to hold them  in place for top stitching.  Any "how to press" suggestions are appreciated as I would like to make Vogue 1268, the Guy Laroche shirt dress, out of similar fabric. And to add more rework; I cut the lining for the jacket out of some heavier taffeta like material from my stash. It was too stiff and changed the hand of the suede. So I ripped it out and cut another lining out of Bemberg.
This jacket took forever. If I don’t look too closely at the top stitching, I actually like it a lot.

Right now I am trying to decide whether to make a few new holiday party outfits or wear ones I already have. Making new ones is definitely winning.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Red Pant Friday

I declare today Red Pant Friday! A great day to wear red pants. Why? Because it is Friday, the last day of work for 9 days - vacation yeah! Food, family and friends coming up on Thanksgiving, and the first frost of the fall i.e. I am cold, time to break out my wool pants.

My other suitcase sewing project was a pair of red pants. The pattern was Burda 9-2011-107, a fitted , slim leg pant with no side seams. Instead there is rather interesting wedge shaped piece over the hip area. The wedge seams incorporate the darts usually seen in fitted pants. There are in-seam pockets in the front wedge seam and a pocket stay that helps hold the pockets in place and flatten the tummy.

The pattern recommends a stretch fabric. I used a prewashed, medium weight, wool gabardine from Vogue Fabrics. I did add some extra fabric in the waist and upper hips because it was non stretch and the largest pattern size was a 42. I usually use a size 44 for waist and high hip. There is an invisible zipper in the back seam that extends all the way up to the top of the waistband. I made the pants to duplicate this look by Australian brand Lover.
I have the fabric and pattern (self drafted) for the blouse, but sourcing the lace has been an adventure. It is a very light weight net lace. The scallops are larger than normal and the transparency creates interest where two layers overlaps. After an exhaustive search, I found similar white lace on a British bridal site for big bucks. And an acceptable poly lace at JoAnn’s. When I attempted to dye the poly lace red using iDye Poly Red, I ended up with some very pretty wine colored lace.
That really puzzled me. Oh well, I have some red silk netting in my fabric stash so someday if I am feeling especially creative, I may embroider my own lace using my sewing machine and instructions found on the internet. Since the blouse is going to be a long time coming, I decided to incorporate the pants into my winter wardrobe. With styling inspiration from netaporter.


 Though I didn't go with the black shoes cause I wanted to wear the red ones I bought for the Lover look. The jacket is one I made several years ago with a Burda style pattern, to replicate an Akris jacket I loved.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sewing from a Suitcase

Yes, that is what I did last week while at of out of town, work related training course. The class location was a drivable distance, so I took along my sewing machine and packed sewing projects in my suitcase. A blouse, with the pattern pieces cut out, the interfacing, buttons, and threads. Pants, cut out, with thread and zipper. I forgot the interfacing for the pants waistband, a different type of interfacing than for the blouse, so I didn’t get as far on them as I had planned. I did finish the blouse.

I wanted to make a blouse to go with the pants in my last post. BurdaStyle and the retail web sites are showing a lot of flowy, lightweight blouses with pants for fall.  I really liked the bouse on the right in the Fall 2011 Lutterloh fashion supplement (pamphlet of patterns).

 But as I am still a Lutterloh pattern neophyte and not familiar with the fit and built in ease of these patterns. I decided to use a pattern brand I was more comfortable with.  This BurdaStyle blouse, from the 9/2010 issue, pattern 102 is almost an exact replica of the Lutterloh blouse including the stand collar, though it is hidden behind stiff, bias cut, double thickness, gathered ruffles.

I drafted my own pattern for the small cascading ruffle that was sewn on the one side of the button placket on the Lutterloh blouse.

Drafting the ruffle:

1. Determine the length and width of the ruffle strip. Length was the distance from the neck seam to the waist. Width was about 1.5 “(no seam allowances included at this time) Cut a rectangle of pattern paper to this size. Label the neck, center front on the pattern piece.

2. Cut slashes from the outer edge to the center front edge, at even increments, leaving a hinge of paper on the center front edge.

3. Open up each slash the same amount to form a curve. The number, location, and open area  of the slashed determine how the ruffle looks and hangs. Fewer slashes, fewer and bigger waves. More slashes, more gentle waves.

4. Trace new ruffle shape onto a new piece of pattern paper, smoothing out the curves. Round off the outside corner bottom edge. Label center front edge and neck on pattern.

5. Cut out ruffle, adding seam allowances to neck and center front edges, and hem allowance to long curved edge.

6. Finish curved edge by desired method.

I did the narrow hem on the edge of the ruffle by hand, while watching Project Runway. Twice, because I turned the hem to the wrong side the first time I did it, distracted by the TV. That helped me empathize with the frustration some of the designers had executing their designs that night, and I got extra practice on narrow hemming.

The fabric is a silk chiffon remnant purchased at the Vogue Fabrics sewing expo booth. I was determined to use silk chiffon for this blouse. It has the most divine lightness and drape, which cannot be duplicated in rayon or poly, IMHO. But silk chiffon is my sewing nemesis, especially keeping the fabric flat and on grain while cutting out the pattern.

This time I did two things that improved the process. I ripped the fabric into shorter lengths, corresponded to the length needed for the bodice pieces, so I had smaller pieces of fabric to square up. And I used a layer of paper under the silk in the pattern cutting out process. I have heard of  this before, but never tried it. I used newspaper because it was handy (I checked for ink rub off first). In hind sight I could have used tissue paper, which I buy at the dollar store for gift wrapping. I am a convert to using the paper! It is easy to pin the fabric to the edge of the paper to keep it on grain. And the cutting, oh my! The fabric does not shift or push up in front of the scissor because of the paper's stiffness. And my scissors cut the paper/fabric together much cleaner and easier than the  chiffon fabric by itself.

Other construction details - I used skin tone silk organza as the interfacing for the front band cuffs, yoke and collar. And French seams to neatly finish inside seams. The cuffs are standard rectangular shirt cuff. The pattern used is from the other, tie neck version, of this blouse in the same issue.
I am pleased with how this turned out. It looks nice with the pants and also worn with jeans as an over blouse. It can also be worn with gray pants and jackets I have in my wardrobe.

That is Ms. Ashley trying to get into the picture. Speaking of cats. I just found out about a book called Crafting with Cat Fur Yes, it is about using your cat's fur in crafting projects like felting. Ms. Ashley is a long haired cat and a prodigious spring time shedder. I have no desire to use her hair for crafts. But I thought some other members of my family, with a potentially large supply of that raw material, might be interested.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Taste of Wine - Burda 8_2011 Pant 137

I seem to be spending my weekends gallivanting off to quilt shows and sewing expos. This results in lots of new ideas and purchases, but very little sewing activity. I did manage to add some color and a new pant silhouette to my fall wardrobe. The color, a wine bordering on magenta, the silhouette - slouchy tapered leg. The pattern is Burda pant 8_2011 137.

Burda pant  Aug 2011 #137

The pants have  a double pleat, one within another. A sewn inverted pleat covered by a larger pleat. I think I interpreted  the directions correctly. They look fine and the waistband fits so I am happy.
 I was concerned about looking like an ice cream cone in narrow leg pants so I did a comparison of the pattern leg width to some other pants in my closet. The pattern leg circumference is 15.5 inches. The narrowest leg pants in my closet were 14"  jeans so I felt comfortable making the pattern.   I did not include the side seam pockets. Most of my hip curve is between my waist and 4 inches below. Side seam pockets always gape on that short, extreme curve.

The fabric is a lightweight wool lycra gabardine from Vogue Fabrics. It is described as washable and came through that test beautifully. It has the soft drape needed for these pants. I did not line them. I looked on the  netaporter  web site  for purple pants and  styling ideas.

Diane von Furstenberg


I prefer pants like this hemmed long, covering the ankle, and worn with chunky high heel shoes.   But looking at the picture,  I think I need to shorten mine about an inch to keep the leg from pooling on the top of my foot. I haven't rotated my summer clothes out yet,  so in this picture I am working the color blocking trend and wearing the pants with a gold sleeveless RTW knit top and chunky sandals.    But the weather is cooling so I am in the process of  choosing a pattern, and fabric from the stash selection below, to make a coordinating blouse.

Just wanted to mention the wonderful 2 days I had at the Chantilly, VA Sewing  Expo. I took a lot of classes, mostly on fitting or sewing techniques. Even if a class is on a topic I am familiar with, it is good to have the refresher and see the demo’s again. This year Cynthia Guffey’s “Fitting your Hanger” ( shoulders and back) presentation really drove home the point that a lot of fitting issues in the bodice are because of poor shoulder and back fit. Before you start messing with bust and armholes, compare the shoulder slope of the pattern to your shoulder slope and make sure they match. Lorraine Henry’s "Crotchety Crotches" class discussed measuring and fitting armhole and leg crotches. I never thought of underarms as a crotch, but they are. She did an interesting comparison of her crotch shape  to that of  several pattern lines,  and a pattern copied from a RTW pair of Liz Claiborne pants. It was easy to see which pattern fit her best ( Liz). I want to do the same comparison exercise myself.  I bought several new pairs of specialty scissors, some independent patterns, fabric and lace. I love sewing expos and always come away invigorated and raring to go/sew.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Rest of the Wardrobe

Here are the other pieces of my summer sewn wardrobe.  They are all made using patterns that were very popular, with lots of positive reviews, and coverage on other blogs.

The skirt shown with most of the tops  is view C of Simplicity 2451. I use a size 14 for the back and a 16 for the front as that is how I am distributed below the waist. I lined it to reduce wrinkles.

This sleeveless top with contrast band is made from Simplicity 2892. I wanted to incorporate the tribal trend into the wardrobe so I used a rayon cotton print (Hancock Fabrics) with silk ruching and neck ruffle.

This sleeveless top in a teal crinkle poly/cotton voile ( Jo-Ann Fabrics) is sewn from Burda  07-2007 -119.  To keep the crinkles from stretching in the armhole and neck line area during construction, I use bias fusible stabilizing tape to hold them in place. Burda magazine instructions quite often recommend this type of tape and I find it very helpful. My original supply came from Judy Barlup but I found a cheaper source fusible tape

I collect 1980’s Vogue blouse patterns because they were designed for woven fabrics,  unlike most of the top patterns nowadays, and they have interesting details. Patterns from that time were designed for shoulder pads and generally need to be modified if pads will not be worn. I made changes to the shoulder seam and sleeve hole opening to remove the space for the shoulder pads.

View A of Vogue 2504 was made in a variegated purple print silk (EOS). I love the print.  But this fabric is overprinted with tiny plastic squares, which made it a challenge to iron and give the fabric a shiny snakeskin look. I washed the fabric several time in really hot water hoping to eliminate or dull the coating. It didn’t work.

 Butterick 5185, a twist top with angled hem lines was made  in a non stretchy shadow print cotton knit . Thi stop was fast to make and easy to wear.

And lastly Simplicity 2554 view F - A sleeveless blouse with flounces sewn into front and back shoulder princess seams in a purple, clay pink and black silk print ( G Street Fabrics). I love the colors.  This is one of those multiple style top patterns where some are designed for knit and some for woven fabrics. Wovens are recommended for this top, but it has been made successfully in knits.

I have still not started my fall sewing. I have purchased a few fall fabrics, and am studying the Sept. fashion magazines from France, Britain, and Australia, which I buy at my local Barnes and Noble book store. Earlier this week I attended an Accessorizing Workshop given by a local image consultant. A small group of us met at Nordstrom’s for the initial lecture on “using fabulous accessories (shoes, belts, jewelry, sunglasses) to make an outfit spectacular” while considering body shape and hair and skin coloring. Then we trouped on down to  the Chico’s, Black Market/ White House and Ann Taylor stores where she showed us the on trend accessories at each store and used us as models to illustrate flattering style and proportion. Then it was back to Nordstrom’s where we had a homework exercise - “Pull together a flattering outfit, clothing and accessories, for yourself from any department in the store.” It was fun roaming about the store, selecting shoes from the shoe dept.  choosing jewelry, picking cool sunglasses from the teen dept. and why not …high end garments for my outfit. Yes, I did have to explain to the clerks what I was doing, but they were very helpful. It was not easy task for me. I think it was harder because of my sewing background. I kept thinking “If only they had a jacket in this fabric, but in a more flattering style,  or if I could just find a  pair of cropped pants in this particular color..." rather than accepting and working with what the store had to offer.  But I got an A on my homework assignment, and seeing the latest clothes and accessories gave me a lot of ideas.  And to my husband’s relief, I did not buy a thing.