Thursday, December 20, 2018

2018 Holiday Party Dress

 I enjoy sewing a dress for year end holiday parties. It gives me an opportunity to sew a dress, which I don't wear much,  in a fancy or luxurious fabric.  The holiday party this year was at the historical  Jefferson Hotel, a 5 star/diamond ( depending on rating organization) hotel  in downtown Richmond.  Attire was specified as Cocktail.

Jefferson Hotel Holiday Tree

"A dress straight out of Hollywood. Diagonal section seams sculpt it to the figure and godets flare the hem. Panne velvet in iridescent gold furnishes high fashion. Add extravagant earrings, a small luxury bag and delicate high heel sandals and you’ll look ravishing for your rendezvous."

I have wanted to make this dress since the magazine was published in 2006. At that time I was intimidated by the combination of bias cut edges and seaming,  drapey expensive fabric, and potential fitting issue.   Finally 12 years later, I felt up to attempting this dress.  There were some backup party dresses in my wardrobe, just in case.

The fabric recommended for the dress is panne velvet. Panne is a description of the finish or nap of the velvet.  I have seen both panne finished woven and knit fabrics.  I am fairly sure this dress was designed for woven fabrics though it is not specified. The fabric in the picture looked  like the .2 silk, .8 rayon panne velvet fabric available at high end fabric shops.   This fabric is expensive, around $30 per yard and often quite narrow.  In 2014, I purchased  some 100% rayon panne velvet from FabricMartFabrics  for $14.00 yard.  The drape and feel was similar to  the higher priced fabric.   And since it was rayon, I  machine washed and dried it  before cutting out the dress, so there would be no surprise shrinkage when pressing during construction.

The dress was cut out in a single layer both because of the asymmetry of all the pattern pieces and because of the shifty nature of the fabric. The fabric wouldn't stay in place on the cutting table, so  I laid the fabric fuzzy face side down on the living room carpet which is a wool oriental rug.

Floor layout
 The fabric stayed in place while cutting, thread tracing the seam lines and even applying iron on interfacing to the curves seam line of the panels ( as per the directions).  The  carpet was like Velcro to the velvet, and the wool fibers of the  were not impacted by the heat and steam of the iron.  A little unorthodox but it worked.  I just had to make sure I picked up all the stray pins so family members and the grand dog did not get any in their feet.

I cut the dress in a size 42 above the waist tapering to a size  44 below the  waist.  The dress was still a bit unfitted in the waist and wasn’t attractive ( think 1920's flapper dress). So I took in more on the bodice side seams.

While pressing seams during construction I used a 5” by 13 “needle board  design for pressing velvet, velveteen and other pile or napped fabrics to prevent flattening the pile  .  It worked really well. I Googled "needle boards" and was shocked to find the same size needle board, brand  new, was selling for $145.   In this age of manufacturing innovation and automation, I wonder why these things went up in price?
Needle Board

Velvet is notoriously challenging  to sew. It has a nap requiring careful pattern placement, special tools are needed for pressing, it creeps when trying to sew a seam. There are many sources with tips and tricks for working with velvets.  I checked a couple of them to refresh my memory.  But my "go to" is  hand basting all  seams before machine sewing.  I much prefer hand basting to ripping and resewing.

The dress in lined in bemberg rayon. I created a lining pattern for the dress by  taping the pattern sections together to create a non pieced lining pattern and omitted the godets.

Burda 11 2006 110 Panne Velvet Dress


I enjoyed the challenge of this sewing project and I am happy with the completed dress for fit and comfort. My next sewing  project will definitely be something easy.

2018 Xmas Party

Friday, November 30, 2018

Fun with Fads

I enjoy fashion and some of the fads.  It is one of my guilty pleasures. This fall  it was the plaid suits worn by the glamorous “somebodies” during fashion week in London, NY, etc.

This is the look shown on a lady close to my own age.

and here are others on younger models to show the variety of colors.

The jackets were often  double breasted, with a peaked lapel.  The pants either  tapered or cropped.  

So where did  I go for patterns for these styles, –   Burdastyle Magazine

 Lets start with the pants

Plaid pants. Not for everyone. In fact for some they are associated with playing  golf or  the  basics of a clown's wardrobe.

I like plaids, but I realize plaid pants put horizontal lines on my widest body part.   The safest plaids for pants  would be muted /dark colors with very little contrast.  Boring.   How about a navy, gray, red plaid wool flannel suiting from Denver Fabrics? The colors made me happy.

When I sew my own plaid pants, I can achieve  a customized fit, and better plaid matching than RTW.  And if I don't like them for everyday wear, I tell myself  that  I just made a pants muslin with obvious horizontal and vertical  lines  that I can use to fine tune fit.

The pants pattern I chose was a high waisted, tapered leg style from Burdastyle 12 2010 108.

An easy sew as I left them unlined. The wool fabric had a gabardine weave and hard finish.  Not itchy at all.



Ah yes,  I also bought  a pair of  cream boots. Fast fashion faux leather for less that the price of a yard of wool fabric from Mood.  They remind me of the white Go Go boots I had in grade school.

 I remember those boots because it was the first time I had an article of clothing that was considered in style,  and I was so excited about wearing them.  Thinking back, I don't  believe my mother bought them for me, too frivolous.  They must have been a present from my doting paternal grandmother.  I remember her fondly for her habit of buying me cool presents (impractical and not age appropriate in my mother’s words) from expensive department stores. I loved her presents. That she thought I was the type of person who appreciated the latest fashion and jewelry. Even though my mother was right. I remember disliking the scent of the Windsong perfume, and the beaded hippie necklaces didn't go with the dresses I wore to school. But the perfume bottle sat on my dresser for years and I still have those necklaces somewhere.

Back on topic.

For the blazer, the style had to be double breasted with welted flap pockets and a peaked lapel. Patterns for this style of jacket are offered every couple of years in Burdastyle. Burda 7/2015, model 125 and 9/2018 model  117 are almost identical.  I chose the latest incarnation from the Oct 2018 issue. It is in tall sizes. I am an inch shorter than the tall size height. I decided that was not enough lack of height to  worry about alterations.

 If I had really thought about all the work this blazer was going to require, this project would have ended before it started.  Many seams, plaid layout and matching, welt pockets with flaps, collars with stands and shaped lapels, I haven’t made a jacket like this in years.  When  it was time to do the welted pockets or the collar and lapels,  I definitely needed remedial help. The YouTube series "How to sew a jacket" from Atelier Saison  a Japanese sewing factory that sews garments individually, was just what I needed.  The video series was recommended by Tany .  And while the videos have no verbal instructions,  and minimal text translation, which are only visible in full screen mode on my computer, the footage is very clear and the process flow is logical.


And though I don't think I would wear both pieces as a suit, at least not to work. I did have fun cavorting around the back yard in them. And taking photos that would embarrass my children.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Plaid - Burda Jacket 9 2014 127

 If you follow fashion, you may know that plaid is "in" again.

Left over from the last time plaid was popular, this project jumped to the front of the sewing project queue.

Burda Plaid Jacket 9 2014

“Lead the pack in a short plaid jacket with patent leather trim. It’s a fun and feminine alternative to blousy bomber jackets. Material Recommendations - Jacket fabrics with some body of wool or blends. Imitation patent leather as contrasting fabric. The edges of the fabric are not finished, so only non-fraying fabrics should be used.”

That last piece of information…edges of fabric are not finished was found on the BurdaStyle Website description.  It was also buried deep in the  magazine instructions,  which I discovered when I read “put facing and jacket front together wrong sides facing, sew along edge, trim off seam allowances” I thought “what the ??”  The pockets were also supposed to be left unfinished on all edges, which was fine on the sides trimmed with leather but on the bias-cut hand opening… there may be no fraying, but potential stretching if the pocket was  actually used. I wasn’t ready to embrace the raw edge look, so my jacket is finished in the more traditional methods.

Fabric used was a red/black wool blend, with  lambskin patent leather for the trim. The lambskin came from Fabric Mart Fabrics long ago. All trim was attached by using a temporary fabric glue,  to avoid using pins and clips, and edge stitched along the cut edge.  I used a new 90 needle, regular polyester sewing thread and my Teflon pressure foot on the leather. Worked great.  While sewing the trim I thought of the black patent leather Mary Jane style shoes that were my childhood Sunday School shoes for many years. I also remembered we polished these shoes using Pond’s cold cream, which was a staple on my mother’s dressing table.  Isn't it  strange what we keep in the old memory banks of our brain.

Cutting out and matching the plaid took the most time.  Sewing went quickly. I did my normal high back curvature modifications and lengthen the jacket 2 inches. It’s original 20-inch length was a bit too short for me.  Weirdly, the sleeves were too long, and I had to trim off 1 inch. You may notice a piece of the leather trim on the shoulders that was not in the original design. After fighting with too much fabric in the sleeve cap, I compared my traced pattern pieces against the pattern sheets and discovered I had accidentally traced the front bodice with a smaller size shoulder.  That leather trim at the shoulder covers the gap at the shoulder seam between the front and back garment pieces.

While I was searching through my husband dresser drawers, looking for his thick socks, he asked me if I was dressing up for my pictures.  I said  "Yes. I am going for the lumberjack look because of the black and red plaid of the jacket."  He started singing "I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay"  This made me laugh as it is a Monty Python song about a lumberjack that likes to wear women's clothing. Lumberjack Song

Burda 9 2014 127   Lumberjack Look

Burda 9 2014 127 Casual Friday work look


Saturday, September 29, 2018

Via Del Perle Inspired Top

This Via Del Perle  “Lace Insert Blouse”  has been in my inspiration file for a year or so.

  I liked the combination of the utilitarian sweatshirt fabric with lace and silk chiffon.  You can click photo to view them slightly  larger.

When I want to copy a garment, I like to study the pictures and jot down notes on the style details.  I note the  proportions of a seam length or style feature in the photo in relation to the model's body.  And then  extrapolate them to actual measurements on my body. Example: the top ends at high hip. On me that is a center front measurement of 18 inches. The shoulder seam extends beyond the shoulder about the same width that it sits on shoulder, so for me the shoulder seams would be 9.5 inches or twice my shoulder width. Though I did a rough sketch  of a flat pattern with these measurements superimposed on my sloper,  I am  not confident of my  hand drafting skills, and also a  bit lazy. ( couldn't be bothered to look for my Garment Designer software dongle)

But in my beloved collection of  old BurdaStyle magazines,  in the July 2012 issue, I found blouse pattern 114   puffed-sleeve-blouse-072012 , that had the blocky shape, jewel neckline, extended shoulders and gathered sleeves similar to the inspiration top.

It was so easy to trace the pattern, square off the  bottom hem on bodice and sleeve pieces to the appropriate length, add a center front seam and extra width at center back for the  pleat.  And done!


It took a while to  accumulate all the fabric and notions. I purchased  the lace from an Etsy vendor in China. I have ordered both fabric and notions from China before. In my opinion the  cost and quality of  matches what I can buy in the US.
Hmm no wonder…*warning a little topic detour here. Did you know JoAnn fabrics sources 66% of what they sell from China. Because of that they are a bit  concerned about the recent import tariff on China produced fleece yarns and fabric. JOANN-Fabric and Tariffs     "The U.S. lacks suppliers capable of providing the quantity and quality of the products Jo-Ann buys from China"  says a JoAnn spokeswoman.  Guess I should just buy directly from China too, especially since shipping is  really cheap ($3-4 range) compared to US mail order shipping. Why? Because it is subsidized.  postal subsidies for chinese ecom merchants

Anyway the lace had similar flower and leaf shapes to the inspiration lace, and the shapes were in both right and left orientations which were needed for the mirror image layout on the front.

The ribbing came from a US Etsy vendor.  A thrifted XXXL,  medium gray sweatshirt was used for the front fabric.  The separating zipper was purchased on a recent road trip to Fabric Place Basement ( the new Alexandria, VA location). I thought about buying silk chiffon for the sleeves and back, but forced myself to “shop my stash” and used a silk cotton blend I found there.  It is a bit more opaque then the chiffon and better suits my comfort level for a top.

I cut the motifs from the lace and arranged them on the front to my liking. I temporarily glued them to the fabric using tacky non-permanent glue.  Using a long zigzag stitch, I stitched around the edges of the motifs to permanently attach them.

Lace Layout

The last steps were to cut the jump stitches between the lace motifs, dab the cut areas with fray check  and  cut out some of the grey background fabric (in areas above and below the bust) just like on the inspiration top.



Friday, August 31, 2018

Reptile Prints

Reptile prints fabrics seem to be very popular and two slithered (sorry I couldn’t resist) into my stash recently.

The first was a remnant of 1.25 yards,  45 “ wide,  shades of blue,  100% silk surah from Fabric Mart.
And the print was linear, running from selvedge to selvedge. I really should refrain from buying remnants. I spent so much time digging through my patterns  to find just the right one  for the style of the garment I have in mind, but so many had to be eliminated because they required more fabric than I had. It took a bit of searching to find a top pattern that would fit on this print fabric and allow symmetrical placement of the light “stripes”.  

 McCall’s 6515, circa 1993 ( does 25 years old qualify as "vintage"), a sleeveless, V neck dress with dramatic fold over collar. The armholes, collar and front edges are accented with piping. I cut off the dress pattern 8 inches below the waist mark to shorten it to a blouse length. I looked through my scrap bags for a dark navy silk I thought might be used for the piping, but instead I found a perfect matching blue silk left over from a blouse made back in 2007 Blue Blouse. 

It is scary to find out how old some of my scraps are.

I used a combined piping/facing to finish the armhole.  I made the piping with a 1 inch seam allowance. I  applied the piping and  trimmed the armhole opening seam allowance and lower seam allowance of the piping. The other piping seam allowance was left  untrimmed and hand tacked to the fashion fabric, hiding the armhole seam allowance. 

piping and facing in one.

The  style is very unfitted, with no darts or side seam shaping, which resulted in a surprising cool top on a hot humid day. If I had had more of the fabric, I would have shaped the hem edge to be more flattering.

Print two was purchased because I  wanted to add some yellow to my wardrobe.  This silk reptile print, in black and white, has ombre “stripes” of pale yellow. Source:

 I had plenty of this fabric so my pattern and style choices were larger.  I chose a pattern I had made before and really liked to wear.  Previous Make Vogue 1412 view B: very loose-fitting, raised neckline, front extends into back collar, front buttoned one-way pleat, and continuous lap on sleeves.

Vogue 1412 front

Vogue 1412 back

The front pleat in this top allowed me to create a double wide stripe of yellow in the center front. I was so proud of my color placement but when I pointed it out to my DH, he said it looks like I dribbled chicken soup down my front. Sigh! Remember Audrey, you did not  marry him for his fashion/style sense.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Burda 8/2018 Deep V top 113

The August issue of Burda Style arrived  just as we were packing up for our annual week at the beach. I had been looking for a sleeveless top pattern that would fit on about a yard of  fabric, and had vertical design lines to break up a large print. Why? Because I had a yard long piece of a poly/lycra large scale print fabric I loved.   The "Deep V top" 8/2018 #113 met all my requirements. I quickly added the fabric, tracing paper and the magazine to the "sewing" tote. Based on the weather forecast for the coming week, which had rain every day, I packed a lot of sewing projects. I am happy to say the weather was better than forecasted and I only completed this project.

I made some  changes. This is a petite size pattern (17-21) and I am not petite. And elastic waists on tops are not a good style for my body because gathers at a thick waist, make it thicker.   So much easier to deal will both issues by extending  the pattern from waist to hip length, omitting the gathered waist peplum.

Sewing Notes.
  • Pictures on all Burda sites show an invisible zipper applied in center back seam.  There are no instructions for this in magazine and it is really not needed because of the V neck opening and the use of recommended stretch fabric. ????

  •  The General Seam and Hem Allowance section says 5/8 '' allowance on all "seams and edges".   However specific  instructions on applying the seam binding on the armhole opening says to use 3/8”  SA so just be aware only 3/8 “ SA needs to be added on armhole opening. 
  • There is shaping in the center back seam which allows the back  to fit close to the neck and also helps with the fitting of the back armhole to the body.  Don’t be tempted to put the center back on the fold. Fit will be compromised. I actually added more curvature to the top of the seam because  of my upper curved back, forward neck.
  • Armholes are low.  I raised bottom by 1/2 “and could have added more. 

I love the style of this top and how easy it was to sew.  There is  a dress pattern, 112,  that uses the same pattern pieces as the top but also has sleeves.  I am tempted to make the top again with the sleeves.