The Past, the Present, and the Future

The Past:  I was cleaning out some boxes over the weekend, when I found three unfinished projects.  One, this skirt, was nearly finished:

ImageThe other two were cut out and still pinned to the tissue (shame on me!)  Judging by the size cut, fabric choices, and the styles, this was from the days immediately following college.  This means that these unfinished projects have moved to seven states.  I’m not sure I could have fit into them even then!  Interestingly, I did make this skirt (sized up) about two months ago in an amazing black wool twill, underlined with black CDC.  I wore it to work two weeks ago and got huge compliments (though it was a bit short).   Alas, I tossed the unfinished projects, as I would never fit into them and the fabrics were of pretty low quality.


The Present: This is my International Cut Into That Fabric Day project.

ImageI’ve already written about this project, in View C.  This was coming along well.  I finished the lining and the shell.  Then came the set in sleeves.  Even though I reduced the ease in the sleeve cap before cutting (as recommended for a coated fabric), I still have “puckers and gathers”.  The fabric is not amenable to steam shrinking.  I had hoped to finish it by now, but I’m not looking forward to the tedium of pulling out the stitches (and yes, I did baste them in before stitching).  Not sure what to do, though one sleeve went in almost perfectly.  I guess that means gather my energy and do it again.

I am losing interest in this project, since it will be far too warm to wear it before long.  It has more than 80 steps, by the way! Not an easy one to finish quickly.


The Future: 

ImageWith all due respect to Pucci, I will be changing this up a bit.  I don’t want to look like I’m in costume for the set of Mad Men.  Still, I won’t be changing much.  The top needs shaping just a bit, so I’ll nip it in at the waist.  I like the interesting neckline, but it has four large buttons in the back – I’ll switch it to five smaller ones. I did the muslin of this one, and like most patterns from the 60s, the darts are in the wrong place for today’s silhouette, and I don’t want to wear that style bra!  I’m doing this in the plum/pansy handkerchief linen.

The pants seem okay as is, but when I do a muslin, my guess is I will taper the leg a tad more to the ankle, and lower the waistline a little bit.  I find a lower waistline more comfortable.  This one is waistband free, with a lapped side zip (with tab closure).    I’ll do these in the black linen I used for the color block dress.




Something for Spring… Vogue 8944


Update January 7, 2015:  I just saw this exact same dress somewhere from Calvin Klein, on sale.  Well, not exact.  The style, colors, etc were the same, but the fabric was poly rayon.

I needed something for Spring … a pick-me-up for this very late, and very cool, spring.  So I did Vogue 8944, and in the same (unoriginal) color scheme as on the Vogue website.

Pattern Description: From Vogue’s website – Loose-fitting, lined dress has yoke front, back zipper and narrow hem. Topstitching.

Fabric Used: For the dress, three different linens. I originally chose a different color scheme, but matching the weights of the linens was critical, so the lovely plum linen will be a different project.  The black and white are both from Gorgeous Fabrics.  The “fine weave” black linen is sumptuous, as Ann describes, and I will be ordering more for some pants.  The blue is hyacinth blue from Marcy Tilton. I lined the dress in cotton batiste.

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes

How were the instructions? The instructions were fine, though I did not always follow them (see below).Image

Things I changed and learned: This was a pretty easy dress.  When I work with something easy, I try to perfect the basics as much as possible.  Here, I wanted to use an invisible zipper, and I’m finally getting them in correctly on the first try.  But that meant that I constructed the front, then the back, with zipper CB, before basting the dress together at the sides. The instructions have you construct the top, then bottom, attach at the waist, then insert the zipper using the slot method. I also wanted to take out some of the ease in the bodice for a more fitted silhouette.  Changing the sewing order and basting the sides allowed me to do that better, and gave me practice matching seams with the color block (basting made that easier).  I also sewed the hem differently (using Claire Schaeffer’s instructions for a machine narrow hem).  Finally, the instructions have you top and edge stitching.  I just edge stitched.

The two areas that I still need to work on: the facing and ease stitching. Getting the facing just right – I simply cannot get it as nice as I want given the instructions (it’s the shoulder seams!) I think one of the shoulders is slightly wider as a result.  I have a few tiny puckers at the waist from improper easing.

Likes/Dislikes: Clean lines, fun, stylish. I wish it was warm enough to wear it.  Only dislike was how loose fitting the bodice was on me.  Of course, I almost always have to take in the bodice and lengthen it. My overall thought is I like it, but I need to continue improving my skills on the basics.  Oh, and pressing with linen?  I think I added a few permanent wrinkles…

Trying to get back in the groove…

Tough but exciting last few days.  Totally swamped with work.  And spring is finally here, so I feel the call to work in the yard.  Dogwoods, bulbs, ferns, bleeding hearts… everything is coming to life.

Anyway, I’m trying to get back the project I was working on when I had to stop.  Ann, from Gorgeous Fabrics, challenged her blog readers to cut into a fabric that stymied them.

So, I cut out Vogue 8884, view C. The shell is a gunmetal grey coated cotton I picked up years ago from Marcy Tilton.  This fabric is a challenge – pin holes show, no mistakes, difficult to ease, careful with the basting please!  I did decide that I would not do all the top stitching – just edge stitching.   Fewer errors, better chance I get it right.  It’s also more sophisticated.  Still, I’m using the edge stitching foot, when a teflon foot might be better.  It seems it “sticks’ from time to time leading to very short stitches instead of long when top stitching.  I’m doing it in a matching silk thread, so it doesn’t show too much.

Other things going into the coat:  I using a very lightweight fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply (except the belt – I went heavier there), and a black silk twill for the lining.  The lining, shoulder pads and buttons all come from Gorgeous Fabrics.  The belt buckle is from Cleaners Supply.

Anyway, this is where I was when I had to stop:


Had some trouble turning the loops/belt carriers.  Finally just cut them over, pressed them with edges folded to foldline and edge stitched both sides.  So, next up, attach the carriers to the body and sleeves, finish and insert the sleeves.  Then to bag a lining.

Resisting the urge to start a new sewing project

I just got some beautiful linens from Gorgeous Fabrics (here and a sold out white) and Marcy Tilton (a sold out pansy/plum purple handkerchief weight).  I’m now itching to start the next project, before I finish the one I’m working on – a bad habit I need to break.  I’m going to do Vogue 8944, view A, color-blocked with this.  So perfect for spring!

Meanwhile, I’m working on a raincoat/short trenchcoat in response to Ann from Gorgeous Fabric’s “cut into that fabric challenge”.  It’s coming along.  More on that later.

My new goal is to finish an old project after every couple of new garments (that and to sew down my enormous stash of fabric).  Here’s my list:

  1. Vogue 1389, Donna Karan Suit in dusty blue wool.  I got stuck on the welt pockets. I’ve recut the front to redo.
  2. A child’s chair from a McCalls OOP in blue cord.  Needed a piping foot.  Have one now.
  3. An OOP Vogue Ann Klein dress.  I stopped when I realized the style didn’t work for me.  My sister looks good in it, so I just need to do the finishing.
  4. An OOP Vogue Tracy Reese.  Ditto on the style.  A good style for my other sister, but it’s not even close to finished.
  5. V1083, vintage dress coat in merlot cashmere.  It’s almost done.  I forgot why I stopped.
  6. A Butterick tote that I was making for a beach trip.  I wasn’t going to finish in time, so I stopped.
  7. A pair of dress pants for my husband in a beautiful black wool suiting.  Umm.  Welt pockets stopped me dead.
  8. Another Vogue OOP from Badgley Mischka.  I gained weight while making this. Not sure I’ll ever fit in it as this was pre-pregnancy.  I’ll finish it for the sewing practice one day.
  9. This vintage dress from Patou in this beautiful fabric. Sigh. I wasn’t going to finish this in time for a wedding without making compromises.  And the fit was off despite multiple muslins and basting.  I will finish it correctly.

Not sure what I’ll do next (after the coat and the colorblock dress), but it’s likely to be finishing DS’s chair.

So what does one write for the inaugural post?

About the women at the top of the page:  This blog is dedicated to them.   That’s my grandmother, great-grandmother and mother (and me).  They taught me many things, including the importance of being creative.  I mostly learned cooking and gardening from my mom – and at one point we began to learn together.  But I did learn the importance planting a garden and putting up the harvest from an early age with my grandmother and great-grandma.  In particular, I remember standing on a stool putting up corn and green beans one summer when very, very young.

All three of them taught me to sew.  I must have been about eight when I made my first outfit.  At least, I have distinct memories of hemming the top in this photo (note all the craft related gifts, and the RD Complete Guide to Sewing):


My great-grandmother spent a lot of time teaching me hand stitches.   Of course, I didn’t want to learn hand stitches… I was itching to get on the machine.   My mom made many of my clothes growing up, with my grandmother providing impeccably-made garments.  Naturally, I didn’t always want to wear hand-made; I wanted Jordache and Izod, like all the other teens.  But the gown my mother made me for my senior prom was gorgeous, and she made all  my sisters’ gowns too. And, I got to sew a few things along the way. When it was time for me to do a college internship in DC, I bought several patterns, the fabric and notions and visited my grandmother to get all those outfits made!  I still have the patterns.  I remember how much she stressed the importance of grain lines and pressing while we sewed those dresses/suits together.

I gave up sewing for many, many years.  In fact, for about 15 years.  I even gave away my sewing machine. My husband has always encouraged my creative habits, enjoying what I prepare in the kitchen (and bragging about it), building me raised beds and doing the hard-scaping for me to fill will plants and flowers.  Then, my mother-in-law bought me a new sewing machine after I asked to borrow hers to make curtains. The next Halloween, I made our costumes:

ImageI was hooked.   I learned so much from these lovely women.  I’ve realize that I could have learned so much more had I been more appreciative of the gift they gave. I’ve been striving to improve ever since.