Of soft silk, bias, and failure

I really wanted to make a soft, feminine blouse to wear with linen trousers on a date with my husband this week.  I usually default to tailored tops, or tees, so something more romantic was in order.  Of course, romantic also can also be an appeal to the idealized, heroic, or adventurous.  And, I had some idealized or imaginary ideas about my skill level – sewing soft silks was/is an adventure.

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Oscar + Milly: Vogue 2712

My first attempt was the Oscar de la Renta off the shoulder ruffled blouse (Vogue 2712, published 2002), in Milly silk chiffon.  The chiffon is very light-weight.  I had no trouble stitching the french seams on the body of the blouse or the lining.  I practiced the baby hem – which I’ve done many, many times on silk CDC, cotton and linen – several times on scraps of the chiffon.  No success – too heavy, stiff, wonky.  I did gets loads of advice from the Goodbye Valentino RTW FB group, but I decided to set it aside to work on a simpler project and get more practice.  (The best advice, I think, was the fusible thread in the bobbin, but I haven’t tried it yet).

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Alice+Olivia, Vogue 1245

So I jumped straight in to Vogue 1245, view B, from Alice and Olivia (published 2011). Should be easy right?  Four pieces… I calculated two nights.  And I decided on a lightweight teal silk georgette.  The first thing?   The shoulder/top of the sleeve is cut on the bias, with french seams.  I jumped in got those French seams done, and moved to the second, the baby hem on the sleeves.

Slow down.  First mistake – not stabilizing that shoulder seam first.  It grew by 2 inches while making the french seams. I didn’t notice until I went to do the baby hem – which I probably should have let hang first.  And then, I decided to use the instructions for the baby hem – which are different from how I learned… and wow, that didn’t work.  Should have used Schaeffer’s method.  A mess.

So, while the pattern is theoretically easy, it can’t be rushed.  And I really did only have two nights to make it.  I have enough fabric to recut the sleeves, so I will do it later.  In fact, neither is a complete failure, since no fabric was completely ruined.  I can finish them, when I’m not rushing.  But I need more practice before I attempt either of these again.

 

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The Azalea Skirt (Anne Klein II, V2778, OOP)

Spring is here.  How do I know?  The itchy scratchy throat and eyes.  Yes, the pollen. Enough of that…

The azaleas are BLOOMING!

Friday afternoon, I decided that I wanted something bright and cheerful to wear on Monday (today).  I hunted down the hot pink floral fabric that I purchased from Emma One Sock in 2015, that was always destined to be this vintage pencil skirt.  I just finally got around to making it and wore it to work today.  When I started working with the fabric, I realized the color matched the azaleas in my yard, and the flowers were very similar.

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The pattern… I remember buying this pattern in 1991!  I even bought the fabric for the skirt, body suit, and jacket.   Talk about UFOs… I never made the jacket or the bodysuit, and I’m not sure what became of the fabric.  I did make the skirt in a rust wool with a royal blue rayon lining.

Here’s the funny part.  In my relative newness to sewing in 1991, I started the skirt.  The directions are for an underlining… not a lined skirt.  I didn’t know the difference then, but was really disappointed that, after constructing the seams, I had raw edges to deal with – not RTW at all!  I remember thinking – “the instructions are wrong”.  I was disappointed and set it aside.  Life flew by and I found it and the pattern after a move a couple of years ago. I could no longer fit in that version, but I have made the skirt twice since, well three times now.  I also know the difference between underlining and lining, and generally prefer the underlining now.

I still have the other two skirts – one is a straight size 12 in a black wool broadcloth, underlined in black silk CDC.  It’s a little short, and is too small now, but I really love it!  The other is a vintage floral bouquet, size 14, lined in cream silk CDC, blogged here.

This one was quick and easy.  I knew I didn’t want it lower than the knee in this fabric, but the designed version was too short.  Because this skirt is tapered to the knee (or thigh), I lengthened the skirt at the lengthen/shorten lines by two inches.  It’s just above the knee.  I also graded it out at a size 14.

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The fabric is a slotted weave in cotton from Emma One Sock. It has a fair amount of body, and a quilted feel to it.  BUT, you can see through the slots.  So, I underlined the entire skirt (as per the instructions) with white cotton batiste.  I considered a matching pink.  I had some leftover from a previous project, but not quite enough and didn’t want to be bothered with dye.

In terms of construction – I serged my raw edges instead of using Hong Kong finishes (which I had done in my previous versions.)  I added a bar tack above the back slit, inside, to help prevent mishaps.  And, I inserted the invisible zipper.   On this skirt, and the 8 gore skirt though, my zippers aren’t invisible.  I don’t know what I’m doing different, but the top hardware is not hidden.  Suggestions anyone?  I don’t think I’m doing anything different, but I must be.

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My son took the picture this morning.  He’s six!  And it was grey and raining, so none in front of the azaleas.  The blouse is Kate Spade, purchased last fall.  It would be an easy make – and is trimmed with rick-rack.

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Butterick 6494 dress in Rayon doubleknit

Just a quick post.  I recently made Butterick 6494, view C, no pockets. It’s an easy make, but, sadly, it’s already too warm here for long sleeves.  Perhaps a cool evening?

From Butterick’s website.

This is an easy dress to make, so very little to write.  I made a size 12 in the shoulders, tapering in the sleeves and side seams only to a size 14.  It’s a slim, close fitting dress, and very flattering, but give yourself room if you have a clingier fabric.

As for the fabric:  a teal rayon doubleknit (with some elastine or lycra) from Emma One Sock.  It’s a medium weight, which is perfect here (the pattern calls for french terry).  The fabric was fairly easy to work with, though it wrinkles easily (see the photos).  I found that going up to a size 11 needle helped with skipped stitches.

I didn’t really change much or do things differently from the directions, which are straight forward.  I did eliminate the pockets, as reviews elsewhere suggested these could lead to enhancing the tummy area in an unflattering way.  I followed the instructions for the collar, but I don’t think it gives the best results.  I plan to follow David Coffin’s (Shirtmaking) instructions next time I do a collar, as I think it will result in a more professional finish.

Over all, I’m pleased, though I know where the errors are.

Some pictures:

 

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Paco Peralta 8-gore skirt in ivory wool.

I love skirts.   I love wearing them and making them.  An even though I likely have a dozen gored skirt patterns, I had to buy another one. I wanted to try out Paco Peralta’s patterns from Etsy.

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They are on amazing paper – not thick printer paper, not that easy to destroy super-thin tissue the Big 4 use.  I know, it’s just paper, but it really elevated the experience.  There isn’t much to this pattern – a gore you use 8 times, a one inch fold over waistband, plus lining pieces (cut four).

The patterns don’t come with instructions – but again, this is a simple skirt, so you don’t really need them.  He does have a few pointers on his blog, especially if you are using the godets.

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Doesn’t fit the dress form well (it’s not a great dress form), and a bit wrinkled from handling…

Here’s what I did:

 

  1. Made a muslin, because I wasn’t sure of fit/ease.  I’m wearing a 14 in the big 4 these days, and the large had very little ease (I made the large).  The benefit of making the muslin was that I now had additional pattern pieces to cut the skirt.
  2. I sewed four gores together (from the bottom up) to form the front, and four gores (bottom up) for the back, leaving room for a center back invisible zipper.  I then sewed the front and back together.
  3. Paco mentions that you can change the drape depending on how you finish the seams.  If you press them open, you’ll get more flare.  If you press them to one side, you’ll get more of a pleat (though I don’t think that’s the right word).  I pressed them open.
  4. After inserting the invisible zipper, I attached the waistband, but used Susan Khalje’s instructions from Linen and Cotton.  This required the use of petersham. First, staystitch the waist seamline. Second, snip the waist band to the stay stitching.  She points out that the pattern continues to narrow above the waistline, but the waistline is the most narrow part.  Therefore, snipping is necessary for any waistband that sits at the waist.  Trimming the seams, as instructed in most patterns, will likely leave a hard ridge.  Then attach the waistband, foldover, and finish.
  5. Before I folded over to finish, I basted the lining to the stay-stitching.  I also extended the waistband when I cut it out by one inch to allow an underlap, which will have hooks/eyes and a snap.  Susan Khalje suggests that the underlap has a cleaner finish and is more comfortable to wear.
  6. Finally, the hems: instead of the hem allowance he suggests, I hemmed both the skirt and the lining with a narrow machine hem using Claire Schaeffer’s method.  I attached the hem to the skirt with french tacks.

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I LOVE this style skirt, very classic, and this one comes to the center of the knee on me. I will make this again, and I feel my closet is bare without a couple of swishy skirts.  The next one will likely have a side zipper, for which I will use the lapped zipper technique.

About the fabric:  This is an amazing very lightweight ivory wool suiting from Emma One Sock, that is Helmut Lang/Theory.  It would make incredible wide legged pants, but you definitely need to line it.  Last I checked, she still had some available.  This wool is well made and a treat to work with.  I lined it with a matching silk crepe de chine, also from Emma One Sock.

 

Fitting via Text (3 more McCalls 7079)

Last fall my niece asked kindly for some new skirts and a dress for her bunny.  She lives several states away, so I asked my sister for some new measurements.  I also asked her what my niece wore in RTW for her favorite dress.  Comparing the measurements, I determined that a size 14 (girls) would be the right size, so started on McCalls 7079.

Well, the dress hangs on her and the bunny dress would not button shut.  Fortunately, the dress fit her American Girl doll.  We’re doing this fitting via text message.

I cut out another dress for each and made some adjustments.  A size 12, plus raising the neckline another 1/2 inch (it’s far larger than the envelop shows).  And I added 4 inches to the bunny dress.  I got them there in time for Christmas, and voila!  Perfect.  I immediately cut out two more dresses, thinking I could send them in time for Christmas, but only made them this weekend.

The black and pink floral is a poly ponte from Gorgeous Fabrics.  The brown floral is poly ITY from Gorgeous Fabrics.   The green velvet (Marcy Tilton) is the same velvet I used for my shirt. I didn’t get a new picture of the bunny dress.

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Hope she likes them. I’m partial to the brown floral.

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First sewing of the year… is not for me.

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That’s right, I’m sewing patches onto a BSA uniform.  My husband became den leader of our little tiger scout’s den this year.  I remember getting all my sewing-related badges for Girl Scouts… wonder if they do this for the boys?  I hope so!

Next on the agenda is Kwik Sew 3123 (navy wool short coat) for my husband.  Almost finished with the muslin; next will be to customize it for what he wants.  Not sure exactly what I will sew after that.  The fabrics that just arrived from Emma One Sock will likely be stitched up quickly:  a winter white 8 gore skirt and a teal ponte dress.  I might squeeze that dress in later this week while cutting out the jacket proper…

It’s cold out everyone (even here in Florida)… stay warm.

The list is long and ever changing…

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Last Make of the Year: Paco Peralta top (Vogue 1567)

Let’s finish the year with something easy and festive.  I cut this top out before Christmas, but I’ve been so busy (like everyone) that I spent only 5-10 minutes a day on it.  I’m not fond of the skirt (I have wide hips), but the top looked simple (and I thought it would be done to wear Christmas day).

Vogue 1567 is a close-fitting top with dolman sleeves (wow – haven’t seen them in a while).  With only two pattern pieces, the emphasis is on the fabric and construction.  I chose a poly stretch velvet in green (Sage Shimmer Velvet) from Marcy Tilton. It’s sold out of course.  It’s knit, with no rolling and easy to sew.

Vogue 1567 Paco Peralta, from Vogue webpage.

The pattern itself is fairly simple and the instructions are fine.   I made several construction choices to make it my own.

  1. Instead of double stitched hems, I stitched the seams on my straight stitch machine (pulling lightly as I stitched).  I finished all seams on the serger.  I’m not confident in sewing a straight line with a 5/8ths seam on the serger – though I am with the 3/8ths – has to do with the cutting knife position on the one I bought.
  2. In the directions, the back facing, sleeves and hem are all turned under 1/4 inch and then top-stitched with two rows of stitching.  I didn’t turn under any of these edges; rather, I finished the edges with the serger for a less bulky finish with the velvet.  I only top stitched the back v to give it more stability and reduce stretching.  I wanted a softer hem on the sleeves and waist, sew I hand-sewed these hems.
  3. I will likely take in the neckline a bit (1/2 inch each side), the neck is very wide, and I don’t think I did it quite right (see below).  I will also add lingerie straps.
  4. I added my customary 1.5 inches in the torso for being long waisted.

So, I have never quite gotten the technique right for the fold-over facing on these type tops. Something is always out of whack for me.  I followed the instructions carefully, and lined up my notches, but the shoulder seams seem slightly off (see the picture).  Hard to describe, but the front facing is turned tot he outside, along the fold line, over back, basted, then stitched.  Then you turn the front facing to inside along the fold line, and press lightly.  Anyway, they are always a bit wonky.

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See, a bit wonky.

This was my inspiration top:  a Vince Camuto velvet boxy top in green I found on Nordstrom.  I like mine better!

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The inspiration top.  But the construction looked terrible!

I’m pleased with the top. I’ll post a picture of me in it with the skirt I’m making to go with it.  I might make another one, but the sewing agenda for the new year is quite ambitious.  Right off the top: a coat for DH, two dresses for my niece, two skirts, another top, and two dresses….

And my version, complete:

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Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

Ah, the year-end reflective post.  Every year it’s the same: didn’t sew enough, need to work on this or that, plan to do X in the future.  Well it’s true.

This year, my plans, as always, were ambitious.  Health and family issues kept me away from the machine, but I managed to continue stockpiling fabrics.  Actually, I practiced restraint until Gorgeous Fabrics announced the farewell sale.

I find that when I sew, all areas of my life bloom.  My creativity increases in all areas.  My cooking is more adventurous.  I start ripping out plants in the yard (working on a Florida friendly habitat).  And my work productivity goes way up.

I did not sew much last year, but I did tackle a few old projects and worked on more ambitious projects, like two Rucci outfits, a couple of dresses using couture, and the Donna Karan jacket.  I haven’t had a need for much, so haven’t felt as driven.

This year, the need is still low to moderate, but the desire is high.  I  will continue to focus on outfits that are appropriate for work, my climate, and for tooling around town.  We’re planning a big overseas trip, so travel clothes are on the agenda.  More linen.  More cotton.  I have my eye on Paco Peralta, plus Vintage Balmain, Dior and Montana (and, and, and).  I need something for a wedding in California in March (a guipure skirt and silk top?) We’ll see what happens!

I feel my sewing skills are improving – at least on the technical level.  I still feel challenged with the serger.  And the biggest issue I have is fitting the self.  I have no fitting partner, and my body shape is changing as I go through menopause.  I have finally recognized that I need to sew for now, not the body I think I’ll have if I lose a couple pounds, flatten the tummy, tone the legs.  Well-fitting clothing is far more flattering than beautifully made clothes that pull and are uncomfortable. I find myself shopping Nordstrom for fill-in pieces (that also don’t fit well, but …)

I never really join in the various contests on the interwebs.  But this year I’ll be participating in the ready-to-wear fast Sarah Gunn is sponsoring at Goodbye Valentino.  The rules are fairly permissive:  I can wear what I have, just not buy anything new (accept accessories).  I have a decent closet and I know how to sew… so Goodbye Nordstrom (for clothes anyway).

Here’s to 2018!

At long last, the Rucci dress is finished (Vogue 1239)

What a journey with this dress!  I bought the pattern in 2011 when it came out.  I found the fabric in 2012.  The envelop back said edge-to-edge lining, china silk, 60″.  I searched forever for a matching blue silk habotai in a wide width.  Finally, I took the pattern out and studied it:  not edge-to-edge, but facings, and 45″ would do fine.  Started enthusiastically.  Started sewing the lining and remembered:  I absolutely hate working with and wearing silk habotai. Ordered silk CDC, cut it out, and… stopped.  I needed to make Halloween costumes.  It stared me in the face for months into three years, and finally, I got back to it last week (enthusiastically, too).

From Vogue’s website.

I was ambivalent last night when I tried it on, but wore it to work anyway.  It’s the first thing I’ve made (that could be worn to work) that ever received open compliments, from the cleaning woman to colleagues to students.  They loved it.  By the time I had gotten to work, I felt good in it, and decided that my ambivalence had to do with two things:  I know there are many small errors  and that I’m not used to being so covered up  (warm climate).  So, as the day wore on, I felt more at ease with the look, though it really is pretty fancy for work, and maybe is best for an evening of culture.

As for the look: some have described it as sci-fi, or lab coat.  That’s what I was expecting, an ultra-modern look.  But it felt more like the 1950s.  My husband said it looked nice, and had a 1950s vibe (before I even asked).  He also said it reminded him of June Cleaver.  I was not annoyed – it’s exactly what I thought too!  So, I donned my grandmother’s pearls and headed off to work.

I’ve blogged this before here, here, here, and here.  But now the details, plus pictures (including me):

The pattern:  Vogue 1239, Vogue American Designer CHADO ralph rucci. Close-fitting, lined to edge dress has shoulder darts, side front pockets, inside ties, hook and eye closure.

The fabric:  The pattern calls for a crisp fabric (poplin, taffeta, shantung), which is necessary to get the look pictured. I chose a silk poplin (Isaac Mizrahi) in deep blue from Mood Fabrics.  I lined it with a very dark navy silk crepe de chine from Gorgeous Fabrics.

The directions:  were mostly good.  I didn’t have any issues except with steps 49 and 59.  In 49, you are directed to cut one upper front band lining section along line indicated in pattern tissue.  I apparently cut both when I cut the lining.  I  basted to see what would happen, and it was perfect.  So, I’m pretty sure you are supposed to cut both (and the pattern tissue seems to indicate this too).

Step 59 was a real problem. This was finishing those beautiful sleeves.  Well, I got mine done, but they aren’t as lovely as the photograph.  For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what the directions wanted me to do there. So, I pressed under my edges, basted them wrong sides together, very carefully fell-stitched (or slip) them together by hand, then did my edge stitching.

Other things I did: I made a size 12, adding one inch to lengthen the torso.  I made a muslin, so this is what I concluded I needed.  I think now another half inch in length would have been optimal. I made no other adjustments on sizing.  After wearing it all day, I think I would decrease the circumference of the sleeve openings a bit.  They are on the long size, and make my skinny wrist even skinnier looking.

My initial tests with thread suggested a longer stitch for the edge stitching.  After several tests, I decided I got the cleanest look with edge, but no top stitching, silk thread and a length of 2.5.

The dress has no interfacing, and since I was not top stitching (which helps give the dress its structure), I interfaced all the facings with silk organza. In addition, to help keep the neckline from stretching, I basted organza selvedges along the neckline.

I reinforced my corners using the couture method from Claire Schaeffer’s book.

Finally, the dress may channel June Cleaver, but it’s a risky dress. With only ties, the belt and one hook and eye to hold it in place… well. Before I left for work, I added a snap at the bust line.  I also moved the eye over toward the side by nearly an inch.  The hook and eye is a little high and wanted to come undone, so I found myself tying the belt a little above my natural waistline.  I will move it down slightly, and add a second hook and eye.

Though it took me over night to warm to the dress, I like it. I would consider making it again, if I found a more casual fabric that suited the lines of the dress.  Oh, and I LOVE the pockets on this dress!

I’m not so great with photographs. I use an iPhone to get selfies. On top of that, my vision is such that I can’t see what’s on the screen without the reading glasses.  My contacts only correct for long vision.  Sigh, I need bifocals. Pictures of the odyssey:

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Yes, I pressed the fabric before continuing.

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Blurry, but look, it’s fall in Florida. Or winter. Okay, its 80 out.
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Focused, and you can see the oranges.  But I added the snap after this picture.  Did I say this fabric is impossible to press?  And puckers? The puckering was why I eliminated the top stitching and kept only the edge.

This one wore me (Butterick 5354)

Elber Albaz, former designer of House Lanvin revealed in an interview, “What is your job as a designer? To unveil the body or to cover it?” He went on to say, “…It was then that I realised that fashion is not really about the body at all. Its essence is simple: to make the woman look beautiful, to make her fly.”


This top (Butterick 5354, view D) doesn’t aspire to Lanvin in the slightest, but I liked the drawings, the description and the line drawings.  Albaz’s sentiment is still relevant: fashion should make you feel confident, beautiful, enhance the best of you.  But it didn’t even make me flap wings.  This is a design that could work (with some re-working) in a VERY drapey fabric, but don’t consider it with any fabric with body.  It covers the body, adds weight, and is headed to the donate pile.

The fabric is from Gorgeous Fabrics – I bought it after working with the navy rayon doubleknit (and during Ann’s closeout sale).  I love the fabric, and am kicking myself for wasting it here.  I have enough left for a sleeveless top, maybe.


Okay, other than the fact that it’s just not flattering (though super easy), here were my  main issues:

  1. The neckline is not as wide as pictured in either the drawings on the front or in the line drawings.  Views B, C and D indicate a wide neckline (I made view D).  It’s more of a circle around the neck (View A somewhat indicates this, but is still more revealing than reality).  It’s a very, very modest neckline compared to these drawings.
  2. The shoulders are too narrow.  Yes, I know, muslin.  This isn’t usually a problem I have – since I have narrow shoulders.  But the shoulder lines are well inside where they need to be flattering.  I made a 12, my usual size, and many on PatternReview indicated sizing down.  Again, where the shoulder meets the sleeve cap is more like View A than View D.
  3. The facing is fiddly.  I measured carefully, I cut carefully, I attached carefully.  I understitched.  I trimmed and notched.  I pressed.  The facing rolls out.  In fact, it’s not drafted properly, as it won’t lay flat on the inside. The outside curve of the facing is a bit short, forcing the facing to pull up – and is perhaps why issue number one is occurring.


Could I have fixed this with a muslin?  Yes.

Win some, lose some.  Moving on.

(Sorry, can’t seem to get the lighting right with my iPhone).