Sunday, December 16, 2012

Glam Up a Dress

It is holiday party time again.  My plan was to wear a dress made in a previous year,  but that went out the window when I did a try on of the dresses in my closet.  All okay, but not exciting.   Butterick pattern 5780 was lying on the top of the pattern pile, having been a recent purchase.

 I bought it for the style lines of the neckline. It is described as” the bodice side front bodice extending into back collar”   I have pictures of similar necklines in my inspiration file.

Christian Dior Jacket

Pattern Magic 2
  I thought it would be interesting to make the side front and back out of a different fabric, something sparkly and festive,  that coordinated with the fabric used for the other parts of the dress. It would give the illusion of wearing a short jacket over a scoop neck dress.  The dress is made out of a medium weight ponte knit from Hancock. The coordinating fabric I made myself by layering a sheer fabric over the ponte knit.  I auditioned three sheer fabrics with the  black knit fabric.

 My favorite was a flocked scroll design on a sheer woven.  I chose a sequined tulle instead because the tulle stretched like the knit I was going to use as a base.  I cut the tulle and the  ponte knit using the same pattern pieces, layered the tulle on top of the ponte, serged around the edge to hold the two pieces together and treated them as one for the rest of the construction process. I did not have to remove any sequins from the seam allowance like I did for another recent project.  The sequins on this tulle were tiny and scattered.  They did not cause any problem with serging or sewing. Sigh, this project reminded me of why I do not sew Butterick patterns very often.  The neck, shoulders, bust and torso length always require so many alteration to fit me. Ultimately I used my sloper and drafted the bodice pattern from scratch, but copied the Butterick style lines.  It was a good learning experience.  I did use lining/stay pieces in the bodice  just as the pattern did. They are necessary to hold that fold in place as it starts at the bust and wraps around the neck.  I used the pattern skirt pattern with my bodice.  I did  not insert a zipper. The dress pulls over my head easily.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sewcial Butterfly

 Last weekend I attended a meet up of local (VA, MD) bloggers and sewists.   You have probably already read about it on the blogs of other attendees.   It was organized by Lisa, another  Richmond, VA blogger.  I have read her blog for several years, but never met her in person.  We drove up to MD together and the two hour drive gave us time to get acquainted. She gave me new sources for patterns and the scarf  she was wearing ( her own design) was a wonderful holiday gift idea.   Robin hosted the get together in her home.  We had a fantastic time talking about all things sewing and  blogging.   Robin told us more about her New York Vogue magazine editor experience and we had a good laugh about the props and poses Vogue magazine has used recently in their photo shoots.  You know the ones I mean,  the giant leaves and odd poses in front of a big picture windows. I had hoped Trena would share her organizational  secrets. The ones  that enable  her to sew so many great garments, write in depth blog posts and reviews, and work a full time job.  And then I find out from cidell ( who was rockin a purple shift dress)  that Trena  also finds time to read and review books too. I am in awe. Just about everyone wore something they had sewn and we got to see and touch garments  that we had seen on blog posts.  Robin couldn’t wear her wonderful Style Arc coat indoors, but we convinced her to leave her coat closet door open so everyone could see it as they came in the door.  We all brought patterns and fabrics for a swap.  Though the piles of fabric and patterns were impressively large,  I was very good and only walked away with one length of fabric and 3 patterns.

I wore a new blouse to the meet up.   I wear a lot of blouses and decided recently to update my wardrobe with a couple of new ones. While browsing the blouses on high end Internet shops,  I was attracted to loose fitting tunics, in large scale print fabrics, with contrasting plackets and collars. 
Inspiration - Tinley blouse

Vogue pattern 1323, a Rachel Comey design,  had similar style details.

Vogue 1323
 Last year, Vogue magazine featured garments made from silk butterfly prints. I loved them.  G Street Fabrics has  several of them,  but with prices way too high for my budget.

  The butterfly prints remind me of an amazing incident that happened 20 years ago. DH and I were staying at a Bed and Breakfast in Berlin, MD. There were fig trees, the 4 ft tall variety,  growing along the side of the B&B.  As we came back from our afternoon walk, we saw the trees were covered  with hundreds of dark blue iridescent butterflies feasting on the overripe fruit, their wings slowly moving in the sunlight. It was a magical sight. I wish I had had a camera.When I saw a 1.8 yard length of silk butterfly print for sale at a very reasonable price on, I hit the "buy now" button.

Construction  details - I lengthened the shirt by three inches. The original length was a bit short for me.  I narrowed the shoulders about half an inch and took the side seams in about an  inch. Normal changes for me with unfitted garment styles. While I like tunic styles, they can easily overwhelm my body shape if they have too much ease. The placket collar and cuff in black fabric give the eye somewhere to focus/rest on when looking at the very busy print.

Vogue 1323 in butterfly print silk

  It is a fun top to wear and I  get  lots of comments and smiles on the butterflies.

Monday, November 19, 2012

One Pattern, Many Looks

My local ASG neighborhood group, which is fashion focused, had a challenge this fall. It was called  “One Pattern, Many Looks” .  Everyone was supposed to bring at least two completed items from the same pattern – one made just like one of the pattern views and a second (or more) with a change – embellishment, change the sleeve, collar, etc.  Seeing recent pictures of Chanel jackets and dresses trimmed in sequins like the one below reminded me of a similarly trimmed Burda jacket from 2010.


Burda 11-2010-104

When I realized I had a UFO  from the same pattern,  the Tibi Jacket blogged about previously , I decided to finish it. Then I could make another jacket like the one in the picture above  and have my two garments for the challenge.  My second version of the pattern looks very much like the Burda Style magazine jacket.  The Burda jacket is made of boucle tweed and is trimmed with what is described as beaded tulle and three rows of zipper tape.
I auditioned several different trim combinations. I found a  poly netting fabric with sequins  at Hancock Fabrics.  What I liked about it was that the sequins were dull.  More texture and movement than glitter and glam.  As an alternative I also found some sheer black ribbon with embroidery and small sequins at Walmart.

chain and crochet sequin trim

Walmart ribbon and silver chain trim

Sequin fabric and silver chain trim
sequin band with ball chain trim

The pattern directions have you cut bands of the tulle and shape it around the neckline by gathering the neck edge. That was doable with the ribbon, but I wasn’t so sure with the sequined fabric. I decided to go with the sequin trim to emulate the  Chanel jacket.  But  I cut the sequin fabric in the shape of the front and back neck edge. like a facing.

cutting the sequin trim

 I trimmed the sequins from the seam allowances by cutting them across the middle through the hole, without cutting the thread that held them on to the backing fabric.  I did this with a pair of throwaway scissors from the dollar store so as not to ruin my good sewing scissors.  The last time I had to mess with sequins was when I made four bridesmaid dresses for sis’s first wedding.  Those dresses consisted of a sheer over blouse of embroidered beaded and sequined fabric worn over a slip dress of a matching color.  They were very pretty, but a lot of work.

band with sequins removed from seam allowance

I liked the look of the zipper tape trim shown in the picture.  It is made by overlapping the tapes of three black zippers, two with bronze teeth and one with silver teeth.  But zipper tape is heavy and stiff.  Again the thought of the weight and shaping around the curved neck was daunting.  Back when zipper trim was first becoming popular, I searched for it on Etsy and this trim came up.

ball chain trim
 It has a similar look but is made with 22.4 mm ball chain attached to a bias strip.  It is easy to shape around curves and has a similar look to zipper trim.  I decided to make my own.  I bought several colors of the ball chain and used  my cording  foot to zig zag it on  bias cut strips of  brown wool flannel .

making ball chain trim

 My sample looked very nice. Unfortunately I was running out of time before the Challenge show and tell date, so instead  I used some purchased trim that had silver chain zigzagged to brown woven strips. 

The sequin bands and chain trim make the jacket a  bit heavy in the front so I added a chain weight to the inside  back to make it hang evenly from my shoulders.   I  sewed the trim to the jacket edge and pockets by hand.  I did it the week my MIL was in hospice care.  It was good to have something to occupy my hands during that time.  I am totally sold on the value of hospice care, which I was not before.  It is end of life care  by health professionals and volunteers who provide medical, psychological and spiritual support. Their goal is to help people who are dying have peace, comfort and dignity. They can control pain and other symptoms with powerful medication not permitted in other situations, and can remove the uncomfortable hospital monitoring devices so the patient is as comfortable as possible. Hospice programs also provide services to support a patient's family.  Their explanations of what would happen really helped us accept and deal with the situation.  My MIL has passed and is in a better place now, but I know I will always think of her when I wear this jacket. She was the best MIL a girl could ask for.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Zoinks, Another Halloween Costume!

I am doing Halloween candy handout duty. Sitting near the door listening for the sound of voices and feet shuffling through the leaves as the kids come up the front walkway.  We don’t get a lot of Trick or Treaters, so I have time to blog.    I have admired all the cute and creative costumes sewn in blogland these past few weeks, and exclaimed over those that are showing up at my door.  I am remembering all the costumes I have sewn for my sons in the past, starting with this one for my oldest son back when he was just over a year old. He was the cutest frog with his big fat cheeks. The costume is still up in the attic

McCalls 7842

 I was not surprised when he told me that this year, he and his roommates were going to dress up for Halloween as the characters from the cartoon Scooby-Doo.  This is a long running Saturday morning cartoon series featuring four teenagers and their Great Dane dog "Scooby-Doo" who solves mysteries. My oldest son, when he is overdue for a haircut and a shave, bears a strong physical resemblance to the Scooby Doo cartoon character Norville “Shaggy” Rogers.  People always comment on it.    Shaggy is the tall and thin, with wild looking brown hair, craggy features and whiskers on his chin. He typically wears a baggy green V-neck T shirt and brown pant.

Scooby Doo and friends
This has to be the most uninspiring, boring, “costume” I have ever made. For the T shirt I used New look 6084  which include a  “V” neck T shirt pattern for men, a separate and more fitted T shirt for women,  and unisex drawstring pants. The fabric was medium olive green poly cotton from JoAnn's.


For the pants I was envisioning bell bottoms, which gave me an excuse to peruse vintage patterns on  There I found Simplicity 9736, a vintage 1970 men’s bell bottom pants pattern.

 Why make a pair of pants, you may ask.  Because I swear it takes less time and money to sew a pair than trying to find size 32” waist, 36” inseam pants in a specific color at a reasonable price. I almost made them out of brown double knit fabric. I hate to admit it but I do have some in my stash, and double knits were recommended on the pattern. But instead I purchased some cotton/lycra corduroy from  It was rather stiff for pinwale cotton corduroy, even after several washings.

Son #2 delivered the pants and shirt when he went to visit older brother for the weekend. Both garments fit fine and he looked very authentically “Shaggy”. So much so I have scheduled a haircut appointment for him during his Thanksgiving break.  Son  #2  was supposed to be the character Freddy, but he refused to wear the blond wig after someone told him it made him look like a drag queen.  This actually worked in his favor as several playboy bunnies came up to him at the party, asked if he was Hugh Hefner, to which he said "yes", and had their pictures taken with him.
Shaggy and Freddy Halloween 2012

I think I hear another group of  trick or treaters.   Got to go!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pin Up

Fall has arrived here where I live, with lower temperatures and humidity, weaker light, fading flowers, lots of dead leaves falling everywhere and oh yes, hurricanes.   Can you tell I don’t like Fall?   I have had no motivation to sew any new clothes.   But I have purchased some fabric.   Sigh! Why does have to use box sealing tape on which their name is printed over and over again.  Gee, do they have to announce to my DH that another box of fabric has arrived.  I have a plan to train him to actually look forward to boxes of fabric, inspired by this 1947 calendar pin up girl.

Esquire Girl Calendar Feb 1947
 “Is that another box of fabric” He will ask grumpily. “Yes, dear,  I will reply, “and let me show you how it will look on me!”  as I dash from the room with the box in my arms.  “Ta Da” I say returning and proudly displaying the fabric à la the calendar.  When I asked DH if it would work with him, he leered and said “Why don’t you try it?”  Hmm, maybe this plan will also deter me from buying so much fabric.

Surprisingly, I have been motivated to finish some UFO’s (unfinished objects). Late last summer I decided to make a copy of  this Tibi Jacket. I got as far as cutting out the bodice fabric before I lost interest.  
Tibi Jacket

The fabric pieces, leather for the trim, and the zipper got buried so deep on my sewing  table  that I didn’t find it until a recently cleanup.

 I think resuming a project takes more effort than starting a new one. First  I have to remember why it got set aside. It was usually because of an issue or problem. So  I need to solve that problem to move on.  It actually helps me get started by writing everything that  needs to be done as tasks or steps. Seeing them as individual  tasks makes them much more achievable. And if I start with easy ones first, the momentum to tackle the hard one is usually there,  For this jacket project  step 1 was draft a pocket pattern.   Easy peasy.  A square with bottom corners rounded.  That was done quickly and it was easy to move on to the next step.   Step 2. Modify the sleeve pattern to add pleat and shorten length. This took me a whole afternoon. And  lastly, Step 3. Figure out how to apply the leather binding and zipper to center front.  As this was the last thing I had to do before the jacket was complete,  the motivation to work through it was there.

 The pattern I used for the starting point was jacket pattern 104 from Burda Style magazine from Burda Nov 2010.

Burda 11-2010-104
The Burda pattern is for a shoulder princess seamed front and back, with full length set in sleeves. 
The Tibi jacket had shoulder princess seams in the front, and chest pockets with flaps.    Leather is used for the binding at the neck, center front, sleeve edges, hem and shoulder yokes. The ¾ length sleeves have a large pleat at the shoulder. The back is gathered below a yoke. Obviously some changes had to be made to the original pattern to get where I wanted to go. 
• Bodice - trimmed off seam allowances on center front and neckline.  Leather strips were used to bind  and finish edges.
• Self drafted pocket and pocket flaps patterns.
• Self drafted  pattern for leather shoulder yoke
• Shorten sleeves to ¾ length, tapered to 11” circumference at bottom edge  like other jackets with similar sleeves
• Add large pleat to sleeve cap.   I used instructions from Winifred Aldrich's Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear 

Leather binding  is a favorite way of finishing an edge and adding a bit of contrast.  I have used it many times over the years. The leather binding  is made from strips of lambskin.  The stretchiness and thickness of lambskin  reminds  me of a  medium weight double knit. Nothing to be afraid of if you have never sewn it before. Leather has no true grain, so binding stripes can be cut in any direction on the leather skin.  I use a rotary cutter and ruler to cut accurately.

 For my  3/8” wide  trim, the width of the strip was 1 5/8 “ I suggest determining the width of your binding strips by sewing some samples using scraps. Leather takes more width to wrap around an edge than fabric,  because of it's thickness. To get the longer strips needed for the center front edges and neck opening, I pieced short lengths of the leather using diagonal seams to make longer pieces. I also used the diagonal seams to make the binding bands for the bottoms of the sleeves.

Binding bands for bottom of sleeves
 Clip (rather than pin) the binding strip of the garment edge with right sides together and raw edges aligned.  Stitch the binding to the garment fabric .  Wrap the strip around the raw edge.  Stitch in the ditch from the right side, catching the raw edge of the strip on the back side of the garment.   
Finished sleeve edge
For the zipper and binding on the center front opening:  First  I  sewed the leather binding strip to the garment. Then I sewed the zipper tape to the leather binding strip so that when the binding strip was wrapped around the raw edge, the zipper teeth were located just beyond the bound edge. It took a lot of preplanning and testing, but the sewing was easy and the results exactly what I hoped to achieve.


Jacket Front

Closeup  mitered corners
Jacket Back
I made the princess seamed back of the Burda pattern rather than copying the Tibi back.  The backs of my jackets on a dress form will always look loose and a bit bumpy because  my back has way more curves than the dress form back.

Most of my summer clothes and shoes are packed away, so when it came time to take some pictures of the jacket on me, I just grabbed some compatible garments that were within easy reach, and opted for the barefoot look. Probably not the way I would wear the jacket to work, but fun for a backyard photo session with Miss Ashley.

The prerequisite Twirl picture