Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Challenge 6 - Judges's Choice

Using the fabric the judges selected for us, we were challenged to make a unique garment and work with a material we may not have used before.

The fabric was in the judges words “ a pretty chiffon panel print” My description is “polyester chiffon, stripes in 1980’s colors of muted forest green, mauvey pink, milk chocolate brown with a border. I believe the challenge was to work with chiffon, which can be difficult. For me this challenge was the fabric print.

Challenge Fabric

Immediate ideas for garments were a maxi dress, or beach type cover-up, neither of which I would wear So I asked myself what to I like to wear in silk chiffon and one of the answers was thigh length, body skimming tunics, over cami's and skinny pants. They make me feel elegant, lean, and covered up at the same time. So I went looking for a tunic pattern that would somehow use the border. After much internet searching and looking through back issues of all my pattern magazines, I found the one that inspired me, that motivated me to move beyond my dislike of the fabric. It was in issue 154, (2009) of Mrs Stylebook.

Mrs Stylebook Tunic

 Mrs Stylebook is a quarterly Japanese magazine  full of drafting instruction for women’s garments that are slightly different styles than what you would find in other pattern magazines. No patterns, but diagrams that show you how to take your sloper and by dropping the armhole 2cm, extending the bodice length 18 cm, or drafting a sleeve based on the length of the your front and back armhole, you end up with a pattern for a garment that will fit you perfectly, because it was drafted using your sloper as a starting point.

Mrs Stylebook tunic drafting instructions

  This pattern was a fairly easy draft. It is a basic un-darted shirt with shaped flounces added to the bottom edge. The collar is a simple rectangle that is gathered to fit the neckline. There are two layers of flounces, one shorter than the other, both with points that hang down in the center of each front and back side panel. I cut the body and sleeves from the striped part of the fabric. I cut the flounces on the border print area. One of the problems I have with this print is that it is busy. There is no one shape or color my eyes want to focus on. And if made it into a garment, an onlooker would have the same problem. So I happened to have a polyester organza ombre fabric colored from light tan to milk chocolate brown. I made the front button placket in this fabric starting with the tan at the bottom and ending in the darker brown near the face with the collar in the same shade of brown. The flounce edges are finished using a serged rolled hem. I have used sergers for 30 years and this is the first time I have used a rolled hem on a garment. You can teach an old horse new tricks! Though I need some more practice, the stitching was not as pretty as the quide book pictures. French seams were used on all straight garment seams and serging finishing on the armholes. I actually like the finished garment. And it is fun to wear, very flowy with lots of movement. The pattern is definitely a candidate for making again.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Vintage Challenge - 1931 Dress

The 5th Fabricista Challenge was to sew a garment from a vintage pattern. All entries can be seen at  Fabricista Challenge 

 My favorite decade for vintage fashion styles is the 1930’s. The long lean lines of the garments and the fascinating array of style lines and embellishment techniques really excite me. There are lots of decorative seaming, godets, flounces and  bias cuts.  Though the bias cut was used predominately in movie wardrobes and evening wear. Everyday garments, as pictured in the 1930 Sears catalog, were cut with economic use of fabric in mind.

Since I have never made a 30’s garment I chose one for this challenge. It may have been a risky choice from the contest point of view. 40’s and 50’s vintage seem to be more popular and they have the tucks and gathers the Challenge description mentioned. But the challenge prizes for this contest are token, so there has to be something  to  motivate me to  sew the specified challenge garment.

I chose a dress pattern from a 1931 issue of the magazine Praktische Damen und Kinder Mode - Practical Women's and Children's Fashions.   This German publication was produced during the early part of the 20th century, providing patterns and instructions for homemakers to use in creating fashions for themselves, their family and their homes. Original copies and photocopies are available on eBay and Etsy.

 The patterns in this magazine are printed in one size and must be traced from a pattern sheet, much like modern day Burda magazines. There was a paragraph of  instructions, but they weren't of any use to me as I do not read German. And the magazine was printed in a very ornate script that was difficult to read or I might have taken the time to type the words into an online translator.

 The dress I chose has a lace V inset in the front bodice, narrow fitting lace sleeves and a lace border with godets inserted in the front and back princess seams.

I had many questions I had to research and resolve as I made this dress. I knew the dress illustrations in the magazine were horribly exaggerated with respect to the model's height and width. How did these dresses fit the real ladies of the day? What kind of undergarments did they wear. Should the dress be lined? Should the border be unlined?   Were the godets so high they would be indecent without a lining. What was the best way to insert the godets, which had square inset corners where they hit the border and narrow points that merged into the princess seams. Which way to press the seams? Why were the shoulder so wide and square? Was that the style or more related to the physique of German ladies of the time. Especially helpful in answering these questions were sewing books published about the same time as the pattern. Three by the Woman's Institute of Scranton PA; Cutting and Fitting, First Steps in Dressmaking, Designing and Decorating Clothes, and a 1927 copy of the Butterick Art of Dressmaking

There were missteps and frustrations along the way. I have narrow shoulders, 4.75" wide and the dress pattern's were 5.75". I decreased the shoulder width, not thinking about the impact, which was to chopped off the point where the V lace inset hit the sleeve exactly at the shoulder. And then I read that shoulders were wider in the 30’s, so I recut all those pieces to be the original shoulder width. The dress bottom edge was a horror of mismatched lengths before the border was added.  I am not sure how that happened. I had to press DH into service to pin mark a level hem and hardest of all, trust his accuracy, when I had to cut 1' off the back and none off the front. He did a great job.

The dress was supposed to be Grosse(Size) 2 according to the illustration page, but the pattern instruction page said it was Grosse 3. It was huge and had to be taken in on all seams. This impacted the shape for the border and I had adjust those pattern pieces.

The fabric used for the dress was a green poly blend knit. Not my fabric of choice, but it was the only fabric in my stash that matched the green lace.  I lined  the bodice lace insert with a skin colored knit, but all other lace was unlined.

The dress is shown with a belt. I chose not to use it. It cut up the fit and flare lines of the dress and emphasized my uneven hips. The judges of this contest are not familiar with non symmetrical bodies and send me comments  about ' not sewing matching curves".  Yes, after every challenge we receive an email with a nice comment and a constructive criticism.  They are based on the judges' interpretation of the pictures and can be, lets say, interesting. Sewing this dress was a rewarding experience. I loved doing the research and reading. If I made it again I would do a better job of sizing the pattern before I cut out the fabric. ( no, I did not do a muslin) including redrafting the bodice for slightly narrower shoulders. And use a fine fabric, not a poly knit. Wool crepe would have been lovely

During my research I found a couple  similar dresses from the same decade. Some very charming and one that  I think is fascinatingly ugly. I'll let you guess which one that is.

Handmade Jane Blog

Tea with the Vintage Baroness


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Little Black Dress Challenge

For the latest Fabricista Challenge, we were to be creative and make a little black dress for our perfect night out. We had to create a story that told where we were going and what we were doing in our dress.   All  the wonderful entries are posted at Fabric Mart Fabrics Blog  Check them out and vote for your favorite,

My mother was a big fan of the actress Audrey Hepburn. And I was born in the midst of her popularity. Hence my name. Several of the black dresses that Audrey Hepburn wore in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s ( 1961)  are famous. So how could I not use this challenge to make a dress from this movie?

Audrey Hepburn - Breakfast a Tiffany's

 One dress in particular, with a sleeveless fitted bodice and a pegged skirt trimmed in feathers, is featured in many books on "iconic" dresses. Two such books are targeted towards sewers.   Famous Frocks - Patterns and Instructions for Recreating Fabulous Iconic Dresses and Sew Iconic - How to Make 10 Classic Hollywood Dresses.

I used the pattern from the first book. Their variation of the dress has the gathered waist pegged skirt like the original movie dress. The bodice of their version has a cowl neckline. A much better style for me than the  scoop neck fitted version of the inspiration dress. And I just happened to have 4 yards of the most perfect feather trim in my stash.

I made the dress out of black wool challis. I chose this fabric to achieve a nice drape on the cowl neckline and soft gathers at the waist, but I was a little concerned a challis skirt would sag under the weight of the feather trim. Fortunately it did not, because the grosgrain tape that covered the quills of the feathers was a bit stiff .I thought the pattern was surprisingly well drafted. The cowl facing is slightly smaller than the cowl and acts as a stay to keep the cowl close to the chest, preventing gaposis. The skirt has shaping in the side and center back seam to achieve the pegged shape.

Fabulous Frock patterns are in 4 sizes,  XS (bust 31") to L (bust 37")   5/8" seam allowances are included in the pattern. However this info is buried in the sewing directions of the dress. The directions are basic and do not include any information on sewing the vent, inserting zipper etc.

Famous Frocks - Audrey Dress

cowl neck

Feather Trim

There are two rows of feather trim sewn to the bottom of the skirt. One two inches above the other.

Friday, October 4, 2013


 I won the third challenge. Yippee!  Thanks to all of you who voted for me.  I was attending a sewing expo yesterday and was checking my emails between classes when I got the news. It made a good day even better, and then I won a door prize later in the day.  The challenge prize was a Designer Button Assortment, which will be much appreciated.  Last week, when I ran out to buy buttons for my challenge jacket, I was shocked at the  meager selection in the store and cost of ones that were available . The buttons  I really wanted came 2 to a card and were $6.00 per card.  Total cost would have been $30.  Too much for a casual jacket so  I found  an acceptable lower cost alternative.  What in the world is driving up the cost of buttons?  I can't believe it is direct material or shipping cost.

This week's challenge is a Little Black Dress and I have got to get moving on it.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Bundle Challenge

Each contestant was sent a 6 yard bundle of fabric. We were instructed to use the 6 yards to make a  2 piece garment, and to be sure to  incorporate the three fabrics in some way.

The fabric bundle I received contained  a 2 yard piece of stiff grey woven with a faint shadow stripe.    A 1.5 yard piece of bright fuchsia slinky (acetate/lycra) with a defect down the length of the fabric and a 2.5 yard length of rose colored polyester knit.  All of which I would have normally relegated to my “fabric for muslin” pile, the knits because of fiber content and the woven for its hand/lack of drape.  But as a result of being forced to use them and liking the results, I may be more open to sewing these types of fabrics in the future.
My Bundle

I love the way slinky fabric looks and feels, but I had a memorial incident in my early years with acetate that makes me averse to using it for garments. I must have been about 12 years old and one evening  I was dressed in my silky grown up nightgown (as opposed to kid stuff flannel) sitting cross-legged on the floor, removing the nail polish from my nails. I over poured the polish remover on the tissue I was using and a large quantity splashed down on my nightgown,  dissolving the fabric and leaving a big hole in my lap.   A rather startling example of science in action.   Yes, nail polish remover, acetone, will dissolve acetate.  Acetate is also highly flammable, it flares up when it comes in contact with flame.  On the other hand these two characteristics make it easy to test mystery fabrics  for acetate content. I would recommend it for sleepwear.

The rose  knit and the fuchsia slinky clashed horribly in daylight,  but looked okay in indoor light. I thought small doses of the fuchsia on the rose would look planned and dilute the color intensity. Looking in my pattern stash for a very different pattern,  Vogue 1135 a Ralph Rucci dress, caught my eye, and I immediately thought that  instead of the  tucks in the bodice, appliqued strips of the fuchsia fabric  would look really neat. Coming up with a way to create and attach them took a lot of thought and samples.

Vogue 1135

The raised bands on the bodice are made using an applique quilting technique for make padded flower stems. A strip of fabric is folded in half with wrong sides together.  I serged the raw edges of the slinky strips to reduce curling and prevent slippage.  The strip is sewn to the background with the stitching line about 1/4 inch from the raw edge.  The opposite side is folded over the seam allowance to cover it and hand sewn to the background fabric resulting in a slightly raised, even width strip.

cut strips
  What a challenge this dress was! It has under arm gussets, lots of tucks which have to be marked then sewn, and an invisible zipper in a curved seam with matching of 3 bands and two tucks across the seam (hand basting required).

gusset and bands

 All the versions of this dress I have seen have  been sewn in dark colored fabrics which makes it hard to see the details.  Well, here it is in all its pink glory.  It is floor length dress on me and I am 5’8” tall. Usually I have to add to the length to Vogue patterns. The dress is actually very comfortable and fun to wear.  It swishes wonderfully.  I wish it was more fitted in the lower back. The fabric is loose and pools on my tush, but there are no seams to do alterations in that area.

being goofy - action shot

I had seen a lot of jean jackets worn over feminine dresses, a balance of structure versus unstructured.  So I used the gray fabric to make a short collarless jacket with jean jacket styling.  The jacket was top stitched in white. My serger developed repair issues between the dress and the jacket.  I resorted to finishing the inside seams with bias cut strips of silk. This jacket is a copy of a white denim RTW jacket I already own. 

jacket - copied from RTW

Jacket inside seams finished in silk bias strips

Jacket and dress