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).
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).
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:
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:
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.
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.
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).
I know many of you are chilled these days, but here’s some warmth:
The citrus harvest has begun. We have been picking Persian, Kaffir, and Key limes for a week or two. Today we picked red lime, Meyer lemon (above), and our first orange.
We didn’t get a heavy fruit set this year, and the grapefruit is still too young, but we’ll take what we can get. The Meyer lemon did well, which is great for cooking. Anyone want to share a favorite recipe featuring citrus?
I have some things I want to finish, and a few new, more complex projects on the way. But first, a quick comfortable, yet stylish top. Vogue 9187 is a re-release of a 1960 close-fitting top. I think I have a version of the original pattern from my grandmother (it has buttons up the back).
I first did the muslin on this sometime last year, with handkerchief linen in mind. This top is too close-fitting for linen. I had some of the rayon/spandex double knit left over from making my niece a dress, so I thought I would adapt the pattern for a stable knit.
I made view D, in a size 12. There is very little ease here (great for a knit). I eliminated the back zipper (placing the seam line on the fold). I lengthened the torso 2 inches; this one barely came to my belly button, so that was necessary. It’s still a bit short, but since it’s designed to be worn untucked, it’s okay. For a bit more wearing ease, I sewed 3/8 inch side seams. This led to some gaping under the arms. To fix this, I tapered to 5/8th seams under the arm, starting about two inches down.
If I had given it any thought, I would have changed how to do the facings for the neck and arm holes. With no back zipper, you can’t simply pull through, as instructed. So, I stitched the neckline, under-stitched, and pressed. Then I use the techniques from inserting a lining from Susan Khalje’s Couture Dress class to hand sew the facings in for the arm holes. Took longer, worked just fine.
I love this top. I will probably try the true vintage one I have first though before doing this pattern soon (I have a duppioni in mind and the buttons down the back would be pretty).
And, yes, I know, I have to get some pictures of these things with me in them. Just haven’t wanted to photograph myself lately.
After the Donna Karan jacket, I wanted something easy. I chose this skirt. Yes, very easy, but it still took a couple of weeks to finish. By that I mean, I did everything but the buttons/buttonholes in an evening, got distracted by life for a couple weeks, then finished it.
Vogue 9209 (from 2016) is a true wrap skirt for crepe, gabardine, ponte or lightweight denim. I chose a khaki cotton twill with loads of stretch that I purchased from Emma One Sock in 2014. I was saving it to make a pair of cropped khakis, but finally realized I would never do that. The fabric has a nice weight to it with some good stretch, so I thought this would make a versatile skirt. I used pro-weft supreme medium interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. The beautiful, high-quality brass-toned buttons come from Pacific Trimming (I’m not sure where the flat clear buttons I used on the inside came from).
I followed the pattern instructions pretty faithfully, making the midi version (B). Since my weight gain has been in the tummy/hips, and I’ve always borderlined 12/14, I chose size 14 (but it still feels big in some ways). The only thing I did different on this pattern was to underline all the facings (something by hand). There is one error in the pattern – the placement for the interior buttons is off by two inches.
The pictures were mostly taken after wearing all day (and thus show wrinkles). As for wearability? This is an okay skirt. It’s sits 2 inches above the waist – and after two decades of low-waisted skirts/pants I’m just not accustomed to that. The overlapping fabric means a lot of fabric in the front, and it sometimes bunches. It only calls for two inside buttons, and I’m thinking more are necessary. The one thing I don’t like? How my knee kept grabbing the front hem/facing. It stays modest (mostly closed) unlike many wrap skirts.
In the end, an easy skirt, but I’m beginning to think the pencil wrap skirt isn’t really my favorite style.
No really, this jacket isn’t hard, but all the detail requires a great deal of attention and patience. Much of the work is tedious, such as making all that piping. Still, I am pretty happy with the result, and the style is more relaxed and fun than my usual work wear (which is highly tailored, traditional). I encountered various problems throughout the project, these problems are addressed throughout the overview.
To start, from the pattern (Vogue 1440, OOP, though a 2015 release): “Unlined jacket has fringe, shoulder pads, draped front extending into back collar, wrong side shows, seam detail, no side or shoulder seams, two piece sleeves, mock band on upper sleeve, and continuous bias for piping and finishing seams.” Note, nothing in the description discusses fit. It’s got a fair amount of ease, but most of that is due to the drape; the fit across the shoulders and upper back is semi-fitted to fitted. And note – there is no provision for adjustments above the waist (such as for a long waist). This is definitely a more casual jacket – or really – draped open cardigan.
By the way, for this pattern, I had to study the instructions, the line drawings, AND the photograph to figure out some of the details.
About the fabric: The pattern calls for lightweight tweeds, cotton blends. I concur. This jacket could easily overwhelm many frames, so keep the fabric on the lighter side. It’s also going to show on the reverse side, so keep that in mind. I used a no longer available lightweight cotton blend tweed from Emma One Sock. I scooped it up right when the pattern was released, not realizing that the reverse was going to show, primarily on those big collar “lapels”. My reverse is more vanilla and black and far less red than the face side. No worries, I cut it so the “face” was the reverse. The collar covers all of the front of the jacket and also functions as the bottom few inches of the jacket. If you look carefully you can see that the bottom front is a different shade than the rest of the jacket. My fabric was also loosely woven, which meant that it shed to look at it. To help manage this, I cut the pattern pieces out, but left a wider seam, which I trim down with a rotary cutter right before sewing the pieces. You don’t want to use fray block, because you do want some of those edges to fringe later. But I couldn’t wait to clean my sewing room. It also stretched a bit on some of the pieces, leaving the shoulders slightly out of shape, so consider stay stitching some of the edges.
You’ll also need a lightweight fabric for all the piping and binding. All of the piping pretty much is visible – but so is some of the binding. I was glad in the end that I chose a lightweight silk charmeuse from Gorgeous Fabrics in one color for consistency across the jacket.
Notes on the The Piping and the Binding: it’s tedious. The end. No really, you will make 10 yards of piping. You could purchase ready made, but most of that is low quality and fairly stiff. For the piping, I found that using a piping foot (instead of the recommended zipper foot) to make the piping resulted in a tighter pipe. I also found that a piping foot worked better to construct the seams – except in those several occasions where you’ll have crossed seams. With the crossed seams, use the zipper foot. In addition, you definitely want to baste the piping as instructed, but you’ll also find that basting the seams together help keep the fabric from shifting. By the way, in a size 12, I used slightly more than 9 yards of the 10 yards I made.
I don’t recommend using the pattern piece to make the one long piece of continuous binding. It’s only one inch wide, and if your fabric is at all thick you won’t have enough width for turn-of-the cloth (and in places you’ll have multiple layers to bind). Cut your own strips, and slightly larger, which is what I did.
Fitting: I read all the reviews on PatternReview, and almost everyone spent a great deal of time on their muslin. In some cases, the changes really worked, but the jacket lost the original soul (though they looked amazing!). I originally trimmed the pattern pieces to a size 10 (two years ago), but decided the better of it. I had kept the trimmed edges and taped them back on. When I made my muslin, I learned two things. One, that construction was pretty easy (excepting attaching the collar), and two, my regular size (12) fit best between the shoulders and across the back. Wearing it today at work, I’m glad I did the 12, because I didn’t have much wiggle room when lecturing/gesticulating. I also didn’t feel the need to add my usual length in the torso for my longer waist. Remember, the muslin fabric is different than the fashion fabric. I find the shoulders a bit more extended than I’m used too (about 1/4 inch); they fit the model this way as well. The sleeves are very long and narrow/fitted, which I really like.
Making the toile helps you practice matching up all those seams. If you look at the fashion photo, you’ll note that the front piping all lines up on one side, but not the other. They should match up according to the line drawing. I basted seams to make sure mine met.
More on seam binding: The inside of the jacket is quite beautifully finished. It really is, except there are times when the seams don’t extend far enough to be caught up in the next set of seams, and you have a raggedy edge (as in the photo). I used some silk embroidery thread and hand satin stitched over this.
Okay, let’s talk about the fringe, seam binding and grosgrain: I bought this pattern immediately when it came out, so Vogue may have fixed this later in later editions. I don’t know because they don’t have an errata on their website. But you will NOT cut enough fringe if you cut using the pattern piece they provide. It’s simply not long enough, by quite a bit (about 12-15 inches if I remember). The first three are fine for the top of the collar and the two sides, but the fourth piece for the bottom band is simply too short. I had to piece the bottom band using leftover fringe from the sides of the collar. It worked, but I was annoyed. I also meant that I didn’t have any fringe left for the sleeves. Since I wasn’t crazy about that, I didn’t care too much.
I studied the instructions and photo for quite some time to understand how the fringe would work and look after construction and fringing. You apply the quarter inch grosgrain (I used petersham) to the placement line. It doesn’t say how in the instructions – centered, top of the grosgrain to the bottom of the line or on top of the placement line. I chose top of the grosgrain to the bottom of the placement line. This results in a shorter fringe, which I preferred.
Second, you place the grosgrain on the right/face side of the fabric. This means that all along the front, on that beautiful draping collar, is not grosgrain, but binding. For me, that was far less attractive (see photo). The bound edge is not stitched down, and due the grosgrain placement, left an opening of about 3/8″ inch. So, I used my leftover grosgrain and applied it over the binding. Better, but now I no longer had any grosgrain for the sleeves. I was okay with no fringe on the sleeve, but I had planned to keep the grosgrain detail on the sleeves. If you don’t do what I did (cover the binding), you’ll use far less grosgrain than the 5 yards listed in the notions.
Take a real close look at the photo of the collar in the fashion shot. The fringe is not fringed all the way to the black trim – that’s because the grosgrain (on the reverse of the collar) is lower than the binding.
And finally, the finishing details. These were almost completely missing from the instructions. Oh, sure, fringe the fringe, hem the sleeves and go. Nope. All the tails of the binding are mingled in with the fringe and they are ugly. You can’t fringe near the seams (including the mitered corners and CB seam). The photo on the left below is before, with both the binding and piping hanging down. I painstakingly undid the stitching up to the grosgrain and careful trimmed excess binding and piping out of sight. No need to finish them any more because they are caught in the two rows of stitching for the grosgrain. The photo on the right is the trimmed and completely fringed edge. Finally, you may find that you’ll have to lightly tack down some of the seams on the inside, if they still don’t behave after pressing and a clapper.
Overall: I like it, I’ll wear it, but it’s not likely I’ll make it again. Still, it looks great, and made me really think about my own sewing skills and how to improve them. I left for work before it was light enough for pictures, but here it is on the dress form before I finished hemming the sleeves (they are basted in place) or doing a final pressing:
It seems like every time I pre-treat a knit, the fabric grain (or the equivalent in a knit) becomes distorted or “off”. They are perfectly fine when they arrive, but after I follow the instructions (always on gentle, no spin), the selvedges are no guide.
Take this knit velvet, with cutout diamonds:
As you can see from the two photos (black, sorry, hard to photograph), the cutout and grain are at an angle to the selvedges. I laid the fabric on the floor as best I could with the “straight” grain parallel to the lines in the hardwood floor (but not perfectly).
I really like this fabric. What do I do with it?
And, I’m no longer pre-washing knits. I’m obviously doing something wrong. (This happens no matter the vendor.)
Everything is crazy here. And sewing for myself hasn’t been going well… fit, design, motivation. But, my sweet 4th grade niece recently asked me to make some dresses for her stuffed bunny… “and maybe, while you’re at it another skirt for me?” Of course! It’s been two years since I sewed for her, and I got excited choosing fabrics and trims.
Because she’s grown, and wants to pass the “finger-tip” test at school, I made up a sample dress for her (and one for bunny) and a sample skirt for her. I used the size chart based on her favorite Lands End dress, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be too big. I also used fabrics I had on hand, saving the pretty prints and cottons for when I have a better sense of her fit. She’s a two day drive away, so I’ll have to re-estimate her size based on a FaceTime chat in a week or so.
McCall’s 7079: This dress almost identical to her favorite dress. I used an amazing navy Rayon Doubleknit from Gorgeous Fabrics (still available as I type). I need some for myself. Yes, the picture shows a plain dress, but for a fitting dress, I think it works. I made the flared skirt, plain back with sleeves, all to match school dress codes. The hand-applied pink floral trim is from Farmhouse Fabrics. This very easy dress comes together quickly.
Little Hip Skirt (OOP): I have made this skirt before, but she said it’s too short for school now. This time, I upped the size (for longer wearing) and made a single layer circle skirt (with yoke). This time I used a woven, instead of a knit. I chose the Loden Green Cotton Moleskin from Gorgeous Fabrics (still available as I type). I bought it for another purpose (a lot of it), but it didn’t work for it so I set it aside. Now I need a skirt made from this yummy fabric – very easy to work with, drapey and soft. The hand-applied rosette trim is also from Farmhouse Fabrics.
McCalls 7583: I have no idea how to fit a stuffed bunny. Best I could guess from photos and measurements her mom sent, the bunny is a little smaller than an American Girl doll. I used some floral cotton batiste leftover from making a maternity dress for myself 6.5 years ago (also from Gorgeous Fabrics). The trim her is from Joann’s. I made this one in an hour, and it was pretty easy (except those quarter inch seams). I’ll do the prettier dresses a little differently than the directions next time for a better finish (especially the neck and armholes).
No, I’m not that fast when it comes to sewing. Generally, the only time I can work on the machine is after the little one goes to bed. Amazingly, I can do handwork during daytime (non-work) hours. So I was able to work on the Marfy top and this dress concurrently.
But this dress didn’t work out so well, and I think it will go to the charity pile. I love the fabric, and in principle, I thought the dress would work for me. But it looks frumpy on – and adds pounds. In fact, I looked 6 months pregnant rather than just no longer having a flat tummy. (I have seen this dress on others and it was very flattering – I’m a bit of a pear, so perhaps it doesn’t work well with that figure).
The pattern: A 2017 release from McCall’s (7591). From the envelope: Misses dresses and sash. Fitted pullover dresses have lined bodice, front and back bodice variations, elastic waistlines and length variations. I made view c, adding the sash from view a. I bought the XS-S-M; a medium corresponds with a size 12/14, which is what I made.
The fabric: A very lovely silk jersey I bought from Emma One Sock in 2015. It reminded me of Pucci, and I was considering it for one of my Pucci patterns, but didn’t buy enough fabric. I love the fabric, though the print and colors are out of my comfort zone. Jersey is only one of the options listed, but you definitely want something drapey here.
Construction notes/changes I made: I cut a size medium (12/14) and added 1.5 inches at the torso lengthen/shorten line – my normal alteration – but I could have gone with 2 inches here. The recommended lining is tricot, which I didn’t have on hand, so I used self lining. I added bra carriers to keep the bra from showing. Otherwise, I went by the instructions. They were okay, but I’m thinking I could have done better had I not.
What worked/didn’t work: For me, the overall look didn’t work. What drew me to it was the neckline opening – and that was easy to do well. Anyway, what didn’t work- the slit is shorter than it appears on the envelope drawings, and won’t hang properly. The armholes are topstitched, but that (and the hem treatment) seemed to cheapen the dress. I can never get elastic distributed evenly – here there is better gathering in the back than the front. And those shoulders. I did them three times, finally by hand. This is something I cannot seem to master. The approach is to sew the neck and arm seams, fold back the lining on the shoulder seam line, stitch the shoulder seam and then slipstitch lining opening closed. It always looks homemade to me. I definitely got better results when I inserted the lining by hand with the previous two summer dresses. The sash could be wider.
You win some you lose some. I’ll set this aside for a couple of weeks and then try it on again and decide what to do with it.