Basic, but oh so wardrobe friendly (McCall 7121)

Today, I would have arrived in Ukraine for a few days.  I’m a child of the cold war, coming of age in “West Germany,” graduating from an American military high school in West Germany the same year Chernobyl melted down.  I grew up with Realpolitik and understanding NATO and the Warsaw Pact far better than the US governmental system.  In college, I studied all things Soviet and Russian (and Ukrainian) – politics, language, culture, literature, history, geography.  Even though that world fell shortly after my college graduation, East of the Iron Curtain still fascinates me.  I was excited about Kyiv.  Unfortunately, we had to cancel at the last minute.

This is one of the dresses I made for the trip.  Simple – easy to accessorize with jewelry, hats, jackets/sweaters, scarves.   Modest, because visiting Ukrainian churches requires women to cover knees, shoulders and heads (men have restrictions too).  I like it, and it makes me feel better about my figure (yes, I still have a waistline).  I have some adjustments to do on the fit, but this will be a versatile piece in my wardrobe.

Sometimes, we focus on the fun and funky to blog and forget the everyday.  Well, here’s to the everyday.

From McCall’s website, M7121, view C.

The pattern:  McCall 7121.  This is a basic a-line dress, in three lengths, with options for color blocking or placing stripes on the bias.  Most of the reviews I saw were of the maxi-length, with the bias stripes.  That’s why I originally bought the pattern, but never made it.  I made view C, the just below the knee length, but changed the back. I made a 14, adding two inches to the length at the waist.  After wearing it, I think the shoulders through bust point should be a 12, and I should only have added 1.5 inches (I didn’t account for the slight blousing from the elastic).

The fabric:  a black rayon blend doubleknit from the new Gorgeous Fabrics.  Ann’s out of the black, but she does have it in other colorways.

What I did differently:

  1. I didn’t add the elastic, since I intend to wear this with a belt.  But the rayon is heavy enough that it needs the support of the elastic if you don’t belt it.
  2. The neckline, armholes and hem are the typical narrow hem: fold and press 5/8, open, then fold to the pressed line, top stitch.  This would be bulky in the doubleknit.  I used the lightest interfacing I had (Fashion Sewing Supply, Couture weight) to add 5/8″ strips to all of these edges.  I then serged these edges, trimming off 1/4 inch.  Then, I pressed under 3/8″, and top-stitched.  Cleaner, smoother, less bulk.
  3. I changed the back.  I didn’t want racer back, and I didn’t want a v-back either.  So I meshed together the pattern pieces for view A and view C to fill in the v-neck.

Final thoughts: I like this, but need to continue working to get the best fit.  When I sat in the car, the dress slumped in the front.  I didn’t do it so much at the restaurant (my posture is far better at a table than in a car, obviously).  But I still need to take the shoulders up a bit.  It’s also slightly big in the armhole above the bustline (in front and back).  I’ll make this again, perhaps in a fun print and shorter length, if I find the right fabric.  (Oh, and those front and back center seams – they aren’t straight or on the grainline, so cheating by using the fold line won’t save you time.  They add shape.)

 

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Vogue Couturier 1394: Pucci Pant and Top

Sometimes I have a grand vision of an outfit and how I will look once I’m finished putting it together.  Then reality hits.  I’ve wanted to make the Pucci pant and top (Vogue 1394) for some time, delayed only by looking for the perfect fabric.  I made it last week, but my conclusions on seeing it on me:  it does nothing for my figure (which peri-menopause keeps changing).

But it’s not a complete loss, for I did enjoy making it and learned a few new lessons.  You would have thought that making a muslin would be enough, but not in this case.  I didn’t  get the real sense of it until I finished.  This outfit works for those who are slender and tall, which I used to be.  My waistline/weight has been a problem in recent months (despite diet and exercise) and this top didn’t help.

The top/over blouse:  nothing complicated here.  However, despite the slightly curved line drawing, the side seams are perfectly straight and there is no shaping in the top.  Add in that I needed to grade out from a 14 (old sizing, it would be a 12 today) to at least a size larger to accommodate the hips, and you’ve got a triangle shape.

The fabric is a linen/cotton blend remnant I picked up from Emma One Sock.  Though Linda doesn’t identify the Italian designer, Marcy Tilton had the exact same design, but on a cotton, from Ratti. It’s a loose weave, and frays, but quite lovely otherwise and easy to work with.

The directions are quite good, though a bit different in terms of order from current instructions.  This plays out in the facing, and constructing the “shoulder” seam.  There is no shoulder seam, rather the back piece (cut in one) comes over and is stitched to the front to form the square neckline. I took my time with it to ensure a professional and perfect match.  It’s the first time I’ve been able to do this type of join cleanly.

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Four things done differently:  I under stitched the facings, by hand (not requested).  Since I could not get a perfect blind-hem with this fabric, I top-stitched the lower hem. I also used french seams for the side seams. And, despite repeated attempts, I could not get my machine to produce a decent button hole.  Every time I’d do step 3 (go in reverse to stitch the right hand side of the button hole), the machine seamed to protest going in reverse and stitch a big knot.  Since the button holes would show on this fabric, I sewed snaps instead.  After the first wearing, I’ve decided to sew buttons for a decorative element, but also to keep the facings from pulling away as I move.

The “slim pants”:  I needed to grade up a size, so I did.  I traced off the pattern, cut, spread, and added the equivalent of a size, using some books I had about maintaining the proportion.  The first muslin revealed a crotch smile and a side seams curving at the waist line pointing to the belly button. Oh, and they were still too tight. I was sad that night, as I began to get realistic about my changing body.

The next day, I made the fitting adjustments suggested by Pants for Real People.  I added a quarter inch to the sides, straightened out the center front (from notch up), and added a smidgen to the inner leg seams, tapering to the notches.  Felt good to go, so I cut them out.

These pants aren’t difficult, of course: faced waistline and hems, side lapped zip.  The novelty here is the tab (and I managed a decent button hole).  In no time I had the pants sewn together, all but facings, tab and zip. I pulled them on and they looked and felt fantastic (side zip not in, but opening pinned shut).

I completed the pant and … the waist is still a smidge tight, and I have too much fabric everywhere else, especially between my protruding belly and the crotch line.  They aren’t comfortable to wear for long periods of time.  I’m trying to decide if I can make adjustments on the final pant, but not sure where to start.

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Not a fantastic photo, but I took it looking down at my feet, pinching out the excess fabric from between the belly and the crotch line.

The black cotton sateen is medium weight with a bit of stretch.  I purchased it from Gorgeous Fabrics in 2016. I have one yard left – a skirt or shorts?

If I can figure out the fit and/or slenderize me, the pants do have potential.  However, next time I will consider facing the hems and waist with a lighter weight fabric to reduce bulk. I would also consider a different way to apply the zipper, facing and tab.  I prefer my zipper tops to be sandwiched between the fabric and the facing, but here, the zipper is applied after the facing is completed.  Because of the bulk, I finished the lapped zipper by hand using a pick stitch.  It didn’t look great top stitched on, especially since I could not keep the line nice and straight (again, bulk).  The only other thing I did differently was under stitch the waist band seam.

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In with the new… The Portside Travel Set

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Somewhere along the line, I developed an aversion to checking my luggage when I fly.  This was after 9-11, but before all the tacked-on fees.  I just hate waiting forever at the luggage carousel at the end of a trip. I ditched my nice luggage in favor of a Nike gym bag.  That gym bag is sturdy and has traveled to three continents over 20 years. It is still serviceable if unattractive.  An upcoming vacation pushed me to upgrade. The Portside Travel Set had been on my to do list since seeing Lladybird’s version and Rhonda Buss’s Sew-Along for Sew News.

Grainline Studio’s Portside Travel Set has been around a while, so I won’t go into too many details on construction.  It comes as a paper or a pdf pattern.

Fabric: A sturdy fabric is necessary, unless you want your unmentionables on the jetway.  I finally settled on three fabrics.  The black cotton canvas duck and the Hudson 43 postscript cotton blend home decor fabric are from JoAnns.  I originally purchased solar outdoor fabric in black – but you can’t press it without melting it, so I went with the duck. I lined all three pieces with some cream cotton broadcloth in my stash from Gorgeous Fabrics.

Notions:  This is where you’ll spend your money.  I used a denim needle, size 18, plus heavy duty thread from Coats and Clark (and a longer stitch).  The metal zippers and nylon webbing came from JoAnn, while the D-rings and swivel hooks are from Pacific Trimming.  I used a lightweight interfacing (pro-sheer elegance medium) from Fashion Sewing Supply.  I chose a light webbing for the strap from JoAnns after ordering a very heavy one from Pacific Trimming.  I wouldn’t be able to sew the heavy one with my machine, but the one from JoAnn is too light.  If I can find a better webbing, I’ll replace the shoulder strap.

What I did differently and cautions:  I didn’t do that many things differently.  I mostly followed the Sew Along and adopted the changes there.  I did underline the pouch, so it would be lined like the dopp and duffel. I also edge stitched everywhere – to add extra strength to the seam lines, though my edge stitching leaves much to be desired.   I did as Rhonda did in the Sew Along – I fused the interfacing to my lining pieces rather than my shell fabric.  The shell fabric was rather firm, so I wanted to give the lining some body to hold up.

Cautions:  when choosing fabric, keep in mind thickness.  This is important so that you can machine-stitch through the layers (think jeans).  It’s also important for turn of the cloth.  The directions (which are very good) clearly note the zipper openings should be 1/2 inch wide. If you don’t pay attention, you won’t get things to line up properly. (Also remember to use 1/2 inch seams.)

Looking forward to traveling with my new stylish bag.  It’s bigger than my old one, but should still fit in the overhead.  BTW, the front pocket won’t hold an iPad – at least not a newer generation.


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Repeat: Paco Peralta’s 8-gore skirt

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I love the fit and flattery of the ivory wool skirt that I made last January from Paco Peralta’s 8 gore-skirt pattern so much, I made another one in linen.  This skirt is so easy, and I always receive so many compliments.  I wore this version yesterday to a ladies’ luncheon and it was a hit.  I took the selfies after the luncheon, so please excuse my wrinkled self.

The fabric is from Marcy Tilton – the dogwood linen.  This a beautiful and easy to work with fabric.  I lined it with white cotton batiste.  The only difference from the previous version is that I moved the zip to the left side, and used a hand-applied lapped zipper.

The very wrinkled top is Vogue 9187, blogged here.

PS: Marcy Tilton is having a sale, that ends tomorrow night (5/11/2018), and of this moment, this fabric is still available!

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Just realized I took this in front of the dogwood.
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Dogwood linen, in front of the dogwood tree.

Life sometimes takes a difficult turn.

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I haven’t posted in some time, but I wanted to say that I’m okay, or I will be.  In the last few months I’ve buried my father and institutionalized my mother.  It was unexpected.  It started with a phone call last January from my sister – who never calls – to say they had been in a car accident, but were okay.  But they weren’t.  The trauma pushed my (unharmed) mother into late-stage Alzheimer’s.  My dad cracked his sternum, but was okay and recovering.

But then, March 4, my dad called to say he wasn’t doing so well, and was headed back to the ER.  I flew up to visit, pay bills for him, clean house etc. While he seemed well, I froze.  Everything stopped.  My dad seemed so fragile.  My mom was so happy in her new situation – chatting away about all the old days (I got lucky and saw her on good days).  She talked about her husband, and how proud she was of her children (even though she didn’t know who I was).  But I froze.  Every day – phone calls.  Then my dad got better, though he still hadn’t gone home.  Then last month, he contracted pneumonia in the nursing facility, and died three days later.  None of us expected it.

I told my sister-in-law, who lost her father nineteen years ago,  that I finally understood her pain.  I told my students that you cannot understand and that no one prepares you for the loss of a parent.

It’s been almost a month now, and I’m not nearly as frozen anymore.  I’m partaking in things I enjoy again for the first time since my dad called March 4.  I’m still writing letters to my parent’s friends, and that helps work through the grief.

My mom was the artistic one, the one who taught me to sew.  My dad was the introvert, and he was the parent I was closest too, the parent I am most like.  He was the one I called and emailed.  He encouraged me to learn, study hard and pursue my degree.  He is with me always.  I’m reminded of him everywhere.

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Another Mandy Boat Tee

The Mandy Boat Tee is a free sewing pattern from Tessuti Fabrics in Australia.  It’s the first pattern I made with my serger, and I reach for that top regularly.  I needed a top with sleeves to go north next week, so I made this in the red rayon doubleknit leftover from a failed Butterick top last fall. The fabric has body, so works well with this top.

This is very easy, doable in an evening. I made no changes from the previous top, though next time I think I’ll lengthen it a couple of inches.IMG_0005

A wee blurry, and after being worn.

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I love linen trousers. (Vogue 1550)

I live in a warm, often sticky, climate.  Clingy clothes aren’t very comfortable. When I decided to make something for date night, I wanted a flowing, wide-legged, linen pant.  The blouses are currently UFOs, but I went ahead and made the trousers.  I didn’t start until after date night, and wore them to work yesterday (temps 85 degrees, a bit muggy).  Oh, my, I was in heaven – loose, casual and dressy at the same time.  They made me feel as if I could fly.  I will be making them again.

From Vogue’s website.  Vogue 1550.  I made view D.

The pattern is Paco Peralta’s view D of  Vogue 1550.  It’s tough to see the pants, hidden under that very long tunic, but I had a good feeling about the pants.  I made a muslin, and confirmed the following.  I needed a size 14, with 1/2 inch side seams and inseams above the notches.  I also wanted them for heeled/platform sandals, so I added 2 inches at the leg lengthen shorten line.  I fit is almost perfect.  At the last minute, I decided the crotch seam should also be 1/2 inch – I don’t need this, the pants are slightly too big.  I may go back and fix this.  As I have plenty of fabric to re-cut a waistband if need be.

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Ah, details.

About the fabric: a very fine weave black linen from Gorgeous Fabrics, purchased in 2015.  I had purchased some to make a color block dress, and loved it so much I ordered another 6 yards.  It’s perfect!  The black and white batiste for the contrast binding is the same that I used for my niece’s doll dresses.

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I love the width at the ankle.  Hard to see, but this hits at the bottom part of the ankle when standing.

The pattern:  super easy – no big issues.

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Photographing black, in low lighting.

I will make these again.  I also plan to make the culottes and tunic version as well, but not just yet.

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Bathroom selfies.  I can’t find my selfie stick. On top of that, I can no longer connect my iPhone 5 (new one please) to my PC, so I cropped and uploaded directly from the mobile.  And, thought I did a rear view, but didn’t.  Trust me, these pants are beautiful, but not meant for the camera.  They are a great basic that expands my wardrobe.

And, gratuitous shots of the orange blossoms.  The tree isn’t yet in full blossom, but in another day or so, the scent will be intoxicating.

 

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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.

 

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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