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.
My first Marfy pattern – and there really is no excuse for not finishing this a long time ago. Despite the silk chiffon, this is one easy and well-designed pattern. One UFO done! (And I’m already looking at other chiffon and georgette in my stash for another version of this pattern.)
This pattern is a free trial from Marfy – though you have to register to get to the pattern and description. From the Marfy website:
Fabric required: about mt. 0.80 wide 1.40.
Free sewing patterns to download available in sizes 42 to 58.
This soft top has a blousy hemline with drawstring and inset armholes, the ring collar holds a light gathering. Suggested fabric: Jersey, crêpe de chine, chiffon or satin.
It can be combined with the jacket 1756 and the skirt 0757.
The top is a passepartout that is great for day and evening occasions, depending on fabric chosen. In the description we suggested jersey, crêpe de chine, satin or chiffon…this last one would fit perfectly with the tailleur, single color or in fantasy just like the jacket lining.
The chiffon fabric has the ideal lightness and hand for this top, it falls great without “swelling” at gathering and, due to the fact that the pattern covers neck and decolleté, it’s nice and slightly sexy to have a transparency on them.
Some tips about Marfy: they don’t have pictures, line drawings or directions with the download. I recommend printing one or two of the views from the website for reference. Marfy patterns don’t come with seam allowances, facings, etc, so plan for that. Marfy basically allows you to use your knowledge of sewing to come up with your own sewing plan. That having been said, the pattern is well marked, and if you read the pattern well, everything is there to put this together successfully.
So what did I do? I used a vintage-y looking dusty black floral silk chiffon from Emma One Sock in 2015. I first talked about it here in January 2016. I cut a size 44 (I wear a 12 usually in Vogue). And because this was silk chiffon, I was terrified. After all, silk chiffon has a notorious reputation. At the time, I felt that I had to stitch this thing BY HAND to control the fabric. I did the back slit opening, shoulders and collar this way before setting this aside. When I came back to it this week, I finished with the machine (though not completely).
Silk Chiffon? Not so scary. Three issues:
The grain is shifty. I found this mostly to be a problem with laying out and cutting, and less so during construction. The grain shifted some in my collar, so I’ll have to do better next time. Sewing by machine on the straight grain (with the narrow hole presser foot) was a breeze.
It snags easily – a very delicate fabric. This version won’t last long, and I’ve snagged it in many places. It’s not easy to see, but I know it’s there. New pins, new needles (size 8 sharp for the machine needle) and watch those finger nails and scissors.
It frays to look at it. No really, it does. I didn’t try fray block or anything else, but would entertain other sewers suggestions here.
Sewing choices I made:
I used french seams for the shoulders (by hand) and side seams (by machine and very narrow).
I decided against the drawstring/elastic casing at the waist, preferring a narrow, machine stitch hem. A hand-rolled hem probably would look better. I am considering the casing for a future version, as it is very chic (in the idealized drawing).
I used the bound slit tutorial from Frabjous Couture for the neckline slit, and adapted it to bind the armholes. Both were done by hand. Unfortunately, she did not move her tutorials to her new blog – and she doesn’t seem to be blogging anymore. I’m considering using silk charmeuse to bind the armholes, slit, and hem on a future version.
I used small black snaps to close the collar, though on a firmer fabric (or more interfacing), a button/button hole combination would be nice.
I interfaced the collar with black silk organza. With the chiffon, perhaps two layers would be better.
I used three rows of hand-done running stitches for the gathering (using silk thread). I can never get gathers perfectly even. These are better than my usual, but I still need more practice.
Order of construction:
The bound slit in the back.
Attach front/back at shoulders.
Gathers to the front.
Construct the collar and attach to the neckline (be sure to leave the tabs on either side).
Stitch front to back at side seams.
Bind the arm holes.
Snaps on the neckline tabs.
Fit: I did a muslin for this (but can’t find it and it was 18 months ago), but fit issues always come up in the fashion fabric as well. I had hoped to tuck this in, but it is a little short to do so. I usually add length to the torso with the Big 4; I’ll do so in the next version. The armscye is a bit tight, and it’s a tad too fitted through the upper chest and back – I could go up a 1/2 size. I have a small neck – anyone with a larger neck will want to take this into account.
Overall: I like this pattern! The chiffon is very light and comfortable. Yes, it’s sheer, but with the dark fabric it’s not as obvious. It’s relatively easy – a basic to be sure, dressed up or down by the print or fabric.
This dress took a while – not in terms of actual time sewing, but due to interruptions and distractions. Even though I used mostly only couture techniques, this dress goes together quickly and well. That having been said, I’ve incorporated a number of changes.
The Pattern: Vogue 1089, which was released 2009 and is now out of print. It’s a basic fit and flare, with shaped midriff, and princess seams.
The Fabric: The pattern calls for cotton canvas, linen and lightweight denim… but I used a cotton sateen that I purchased from Gorgeous Fabrics in 2014 (for a different project). I underlined it with silk organza and lined it with blue silk crepe de chine. I only interfaced the midriff, using carefully trimmed muslin. The organza, CDC, and muslin are all from Gorgeous Fabrics as well.
The Instructions: Well, since I didn’t use them, I can’t really tell you about it. I used this pattern for Susan Khalje’s Couture Dress class on Craftsy (it’s very similar to the one she uses for the class). In this case I followed her instructions to the letter. It was very freeing to think about constructing a garment this way, from muslin to organza underlining to hand inserting the lining. She’s a wonderful teacher and very easy to follow. I learned quite a bit (some things are obvious, now that I’ve seen them). However, if you don’t like hand-stitching, it’s not the class for you. I like to hand-stitch, and find it very soothing. I found every step of making this dress very enjoyable.
Changes I made: I can’t recall every change I made as a result of the Craftsy class, but I’ll highlight the major ones. I cut a size 12 in the bodice, tapering to a 14 through the midriff and waist. If I lose weight, this dress will be too big, but oh well. I also took up the shoulders 1/2 inch. Finally, I needed to accommodate my longer torso: I added half an inch to the bottom of the bodice and half an inch to the bottom of the midriff.
In construction, I took a cue from Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics, who noted that the midriff doesn’t need to cut in half horizontally (unless you are going to add the jewels). I also moved the zipper to the left side and hand inserted a lapped zipper (I’m losing flexibility and finding back zips a challenge). The lining is hand inserted, using the technique from the class. That means I cut the lining from the pattern pieces, not the separate lining pieces. It also means I eliminated the facings, and included a jump pleat for the hem.
Thoughts: I really like this dress and plan to make another one in a solid color for fall. It’s flattering, easy and fun. Most of all, the class taught me to slow down and enjoy the process and the art of constructing a garment. For once, I paid attention to all details, including the finishing.
As always – apologies for the photos. On top of my usual selfie with an iPhone photos, I sustained a serious knee injury last week (still can’t drive or walk properly). Though I’m much improved, I really didn’t feel like make-up, hair, and heels to go outside and take pictures with the mosquitoes.
Whenever I talk to my mother now about sewing, she says the same thing: “I used to sew, but I don’t anymore. It’s easier to buy.” Every once in awhile she’ll admire something I’ve made, or even offer a bit of advice, but it always ends in the same refrain.
She has dementia, at 76. She’s too young, but isn’t everyone? I made my peace with my mother’s condition about a year ago and now I try to call and talk to her and treat her with as much respect and dignity as I can.
But this weekend, when she was returning home from a trip out west with my dad, there was a new development. During an extended layover at the Atlanta airport, she claimed that the man traveling with her (my dad) was not her husband and she didn’t know him – her husband and life-mate of over fifty years. For those of you who have been here, you know what a bitter moment this is. From what I understand, the Delta personnel, both on the ground and their flight crews, were a god-send to my dad, helping him navigate this new challenge.
My mom and I shared sewing – often making outfits together. She made my high school gowns and many of my sister’s as well. I wore one of my sister’s gowns to the 1993 Inaugural Ball. She always did the difficult work – I mostly assisted. But I think sewing was more of a necessity for her, as much as she wanted it to be more. And I think that’s why she eventually gave it up.
I sifted through old photos and here are some of the outfits she made in no particular order. I wish I had more photos, and probably do somewhere. Some of the patterns are known, but most I do not know. My apologies for the poor quality – the photos haven’t been stored well and were meant to capture moments more than anything else.