My mom used to sew.

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.

My mom used to sew.

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Birthday dress.
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Long story behind this dress. I almost didn’t get to go to my senior prom, because I had behaved stupidly (we were stationed overseas and my friends and I went barhopping not long after the Berlin disco bombing). But my mom relented and surprised me with this dress.
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Bridesmaid at my sister’s first wedding. Vogue 2797.
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Mom as mother-of-the groom. I know it’s Vogue, but can’t remember which one.
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Mom and dad, at some event in the 1980s.

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My niece, modeling one of my sister’s prom gowns. I wore this to the 1993 inaugural ball. It also had a bolero jacket.
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My niece modeling another of my sister’s prom gowns (wrinkled from storage). Vogue 1623.

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At my grandmother’s second wedding, around the same time the photo for this site was taken. I can’t be sure who made these dresses. All three were amazing with needle and thread and gave me my love of sewing. Sadly, all three suffered/suffer from dementia.
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My experience with McCalls 7542

Apparently, McCall 7542 is one of the most popular patterns of all time.  A simple boxy shirt with sleeve variations.  It’s the sleeve that draws you in and they are ever so popular right now.

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My first try did not please me, however.  I had misgivings from the beginning – mostly about my fabric choice.  I wish I had done a muslin.  Consider this a muslin, but not wearable.

The fabric is a nice crisp red shirting fabric from Gorgeous Fabrics.  I really like it, but it’s better suited to the Donna Karan shirt from Vogue 1440.  I knew this and proceeded anyway, after watching the little vignette on FB from McCalls that structured fabrics work well.  It’s my fault for continuing though.

Since the fabric is super crisp, I went with view C, the pleated sleeves.  I lengthened it the top, as the cropped version would not work for me.  I spent a great deal of time basting to get perfect pleats (and I got them).

Generally speaking this is an easy pattern.  Here is where I encountered problems:

  1.  The neckline.  It doesn’t call for stay-stitching, but I couldn’t get the facing to lie flat without lots of clipping, so stay stitching is a must.  It still doesn’t look great though it’s hard to see in the photo. IMG_2886
  2. The sleeves, part 1.  As I noted above, I took a  great deal of time basting, and executing those pleats perfectly.  I didn’t miss.  But the lower sleeve is smaller in circumference than the upper sleeve by about 3/4 of an inch.  Others have mentioned the need to ease here, and I did need some of that to ease the two, but I did take in the underarm sleeve about 1/4 inch first.
  3. The sleeves, part 2.  Even after taking out 1/4 inch in the armscye by bringing in the underarm sleeve, I couldn’t ease this sleeve cap properly.  Multiple tries yielded terrible results. I don’t think it’s because there is too much ease (I think it’s probably right), but here is where my fabric choice failed me – this fabric is difficult to ease.  Keep that in mind when you choose the fabric.  The photo shows my basting stitches as well.IMG_2887
  4. Fit – You can see on the model that the top doesn’t fit her well in the upper chest.  Mine doesn’t either, even though I’m narrow and shallow there.  I get pulling on the sleeve (not the bust – but above it).  The bust dart ends in the wrong place too (too low for me).  I think these are specific to me – I usually make a 12 (often a 10 in shoulders) without issues. I’m not really sure how to fix these issues – I may experiment with changing the shape of the armscye.  None of my fitting books seem to address this, except that that Vogue Sewing suggests making the changes to the bodice, not the sleeve.  It’s as if I need more width across the upper chest.  Hard to describe, and I could not get a good picture.  In the photo, on my dress form, it looks perfectly fine (though you can see the bust dart is too low).  On me, it pulls at about the point where the ease dot would be.  Note it pulls to the hip – I didn’t add circumference when I added length.  Another thing to fix. IMG_2888

I like the top enough to work on the problems, and to look for a more suitable fabric.  For now, this top is finished, while I turn to finishing another project.

Summer Dress #1: Vogue 8993 in linen

Or, I finally finished something.  Sewing has been taking a backseat to everything else.  On top of that, I’ve decided to incorporate couture techniques from Susan Khalje’s Craftsy courses. It’s taking a while to finish anything.

I LOVE this dress.  Not happy with the fit…. because I gained weight between the time of the muslin and finishing.  You see, it’s not just sewing that’s taken a backseat, so has my diet and exercise program…  I went for a long walk today, and am going to make it a priority again.

pattern description:   Very Easy Vogue 8993 c2014.  I bought this for something else, but never got around to it.  Then I bought the linen, and it was a good match.  From pattern: dress has neck band, cut in armholes, close-fitting lined bodice with side front and back seams, front pleated skirt, side pockets, back zipper and stitched hem.  I made View B, the midi version, which is really closer to just above the ankle (and I’m 5’9″).  I paired it with a slender silver-tone belt.

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Vogue 8993, View B
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sizing:  8 through 16. I made a 12 in shoulders and bust and graded out approximately to a 14 at the waist and hips.  I also made my standard torso length adjustment of about 1.5 inches added.

fabric:  I LOVE the linens from Marcy Tilton.  I don’t buy much else there, but I love it when she has linen.  This one was a digital print, Copeland, which is now sold out.  It’s light to mid-weight, drapey (when washed), soft.  The weave is a little looser than I like – the grain shifted a bit on the collar, I’m afraid.  I underlined the skirt with cotton batiste (from Susan Khalje).  I underlined the top with silk organza (Gorgeous Fabrics) and lined the bodice with the batiste.

tips used during construction:  I was watching Susan Khalje’s couture classes on Craftsy and used the couture techniques for the bodice.  I did the skirt the “traditional” or pattern way (but really didn’t pay that much attention to those instructions).  I used the instructions for the neck band/collar.  I added a waist stay after an exchange with Ann at Gorgeous Fabrics.

instructions?:  I didn’t really use them, except for the neck band.  There has got to be a better way to attach the neckband for a better quality result.  Here you sew the band, right sides together, trim, press and turn right sides out, stitch to bodice, slip stitch to the lining.  Easy enough, but getting things perfect at the front – not easy.  I want a nice clean line from the bodice to the band at the join, and that is a challenge to do well.

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construction notes:  I used a hybrid approach – home sewer techniques for the skirt and neck band, couture for the bodice and attaching the bodice to the skirt.  I did machine stitch the invisible zipper.   I feel like I got better quality results on the bodice all around.  I was more accurate using stitching lines (instead of cutting lines) and I put in the best lining I have ever done putting it in by hand the way Susan shows in her videos.  I always have difficulties with the arm holes – here perfect.

Even though this pattern is suitable for a lightweight denim, think about it before you do that.  This is a light/mid linen, underlined with very light batiste.  All the weight of the skirt is in the front – deep box pleats and pockets.  When I attached the skirt to the bodice, the weight of the skirt pulled the front of the bodice down, causing unattractive drag lines and gapping at the arms.  Ann at Gorgeous Fabrics suggested a petersham waist stay, which did the trick. I later found her blog post on the subject.  The petersham, attached at seams and darts of the waist, takes on the weight of the skirt, relieving the pressure on the bodice and shoulders.

Speaking of stays, I used organza selvedges at the v-neck and shoulders to stabilize and prevent stretching in these areas. I also used a double layer of organza, sewn in, for the neckband interfacing.  I did not top stitch the hem.

comments:  I love this dress.  I feel pretty in it, even if it’s a bit snug at the moment.  Give me a couple of weeks on that.  I will likely make this again, in the shorter version, with some design changes.  One thing I’m going to add – lingerie/bra carriers.   I didn’t realize they were showing in the photos.

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When to set aside a project?

In this case, when I can’t muster the enthusiasm to work on it and keep thinking of the next project.  I’m afraid that I will be sloppy as a result.

I’ve been working on the top to Vogue 1213, in a beautiful, easy to work with 3 ply silk crepe.  I love the blouse and I will finish it – in fact I don’t have far to go and I’m not putting it completely away.

You see, when I started this project, work was calm.  Then it became a storm – a hurricane.  I think I may have found one hour in an entire month to sew.  And now that things have calmed a bit, I’m not interested in working on it.  Part of the problem is that my brain has moved on to the next project.  And part is that the formal part of my job has ended for a few months (I’ll be working from home) and I don’t need a silk blouse right now.  I need summer dresses.

So here it is, and I do plan to finish it:

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Why do you put something aside?

 

Opinions on a linen dress

I saw this linen on Marcy Tilton’s website and had to have it.  I had in mind a longer, perhaps maxi, dress.  I love the fabric even more now that I have it, but it has a tad bit of body to it (linen, after all).  I haven’t washed it to see if it will soften, but will do so.

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Copeland Digital print linen from Marcy Tilton.
But what to make?  Nothing with gathers, something sleek.  Not sure I want a full length maxi anymore, unless the dress is more a-line than full.

Here are options from my current pattern stash.  Thoughts?  Suggestions from patterns I do not know?  Thanks everyone!

 

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Vogue 8993, View B?
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Vogue 8997; view c is maxi, view b is knee-length.

 

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Vogue 2300

 

 

Rucci Suit Jacket & Skirt (Vogue 1437)

I’ve completed two muslins on the blouse for 1213. But I never finished this post.  I finished the jacket in December, and almost all of the skirt then too.  I was unhappy with  the waist treatment, so came up with something different last week.  Better, but not great, still needs some work.  This was the most challenging combo I’ve ever made, and I learned a lot.  I’m happy/unhappy, and this exercise had many expensive lessons. I blogged the blouse here. I can’t believe this is already out of print.

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There’s just something about this jacket – is it the challenge?  The unusual shape?  It doesn’t scream traditional suit, which I like. I decided to make this three piece outfit in parts, interspersing “quick hits” to give me a feeling of accomplishment.  When I was finishing the Tilton raincoat, I kept thinking about this jacket, and found it distracted me from focusing on the raincoat. I also wanted to re-design the skirt entirely, which I did.

I started with a muslin.  Some reviewers on patternreview suggested that the jacket ran small, and would fit a small back well.  This was mentioned of the blouse, but the fit for me was fine.  Still, I made the muslin not so much for the fit, for the techniques.  The fit across the shoulders would be critical on this jacket (and something I think is problematic with the Tilton raincoat, even cut a size smaller).  But I read the directions several times: with the unusual shaped pieces, slash to dot techniques, etc, I knew I needed a practice version first, to work out the kinks.

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On the dress form, before completing the skirt side seams.

The muslin revealed the following:  BASTE, BASTE, BASTE.  Precision matters – I marked the dots, slashes, notches etc before even cutting. (I usually cut downstairs, carry up and mark later, but fabrics do shift).  Mark with a color scheme (squares one color, circles another). Keep track of the pieces – face side, top etc. I also cut pieces as I needed them.  The actual assembly of this jacket, wasn’t too difficult, once I got going.  It made more sense with the pieces in hand than reading alone.

But when I did the muslin for the jacket, it wasn’t enough.  I only did the one layer (outer) and discovered additional challenges working with both layers.  In addition, because the jacket is self lined, it’s also a bit smaller than a single layer muslin.  It’s close fitting.

One one level, I learned a lot working with this more complex design.  I successfully applied a grosgrain waistband with an underlap in a way that is comfortable.  I learned that with patience I can do a decent job of hand top-stitching.  I feel more confident about tackling more advanced projects.  But I also learned that fabric choices can lead to other things.  Here, my fabric was a bit heavy, and nothing about this jacket is interfaced (it relies on the topstitching).  My wool gabardine needed silk organza underlining at the very least.  After hanging two months on my dress form, it’s sagging against those top stitches, creating drag lines that didn’t exist when I first finished it.

So here is the review, with some live action shots my assistant took of me delivering a lecture this morning.  I do not like this suit with the blouse tucked in on me – it blouses too much, creating even more of a tummy than I already have.

The pattern:  Vogue 1437, Ralph Rucci.  Fitted, self lined jacket has front extending into back collar, side panels, no side seams, side front slanted pockets, back seem detail and sleeves shaped at lower edge.  Semi-fitted partially lined skirt has yokes, insets extending into tie ends, left side front slit, very narrow hem.

Pattern Sizing:  6-12.  I made the size 12.   Mine looks both larger (longer) and smaller (tighter in the arms, and I’m skinny armed) than the model.  I made no adjustments to sizing the jacket, and I normally add two inches in length.  As you can see from the back photos, this cutaway style is long.  For the skirt, I think I added to the side seams a smidgen, but I can’t remember.  If I didn’t I should have.  Or I should start exercising more.

The Fabric:  I splurged.  Not because I wanted to, but my preferred fabric sources weren’t offering colors in tropical wool that I wanted.  And I couldn’t wait.  I should have, though they still haven’t offered what I had in mind.  The recommended fabric choices are tropical wool, linen, shantung.  I went with a very fine gabardine from NY Fashion Fabrics, in a blue/turquoise and black.  The lining for the skirt is Amsale black silk crepe de chine from Gorgeous Fabrics.

Look like the pictures/drawings:  Yes and no.  The jacket doesn’t hang nice like on the model (fit? fabric? both?) and I completely changed the skirt.

Pattern Alterations/Design Changes:  For the jacket, I only made two changes.  First, I eliminated the pockets.  The instructions weren’t very clear, and I wasn’t sure I was going to like the finished look.  The size was just big enough to fit a lipstick (the pockets are hidden in the front band).  The bust darts were finished after putting the lining in, so if the jacket flipped open you would see them.  I finished them separately, opened the darts and flattened them, and carefully lined the outer and lining up to stitch together.

I completely changed the skirt.  I liked the inset, hated the high slit and didn’t like the idea of a narrow hem.  It also seemed short.  I started to play around with the color blocking – my original choice was to put the blue at the bottom of the skirt.  In the end, I added three blue insets to the solid black and eliminated the ties.  The blue insets are the same size as the original one inset (3/8″).  The top two are separated by a black inset of the same size, while the third inset was placed in between the middle and lower skirt pieces.  This effectively lengthen the skirt, and made it more a-line.  I did have to edge stitch the black edges next to the insets to get the gabardine to behave.

Three other design changes to the skirt. I fully lined it.  I faced the hem.  And the waistband – the original simply had you sew the lining to the skirt, right sides together and flip the lining to the inside.  No support for the waist – no band, no interfacing, no facing.  Naturally, even with staystitching, it stretched out.  I applied a black grosgrain with an underlap, which helps, but I need to take in the waist, because it’s too big now, and sags in a not-so-flattering way.

Instructions?:  Not good.  The illustrator and the copy writer were definitely not talking about the same things at some points on the jacket.  I even emailed Vogue about some points and they said, yes, that’s wrong, but didn’t give me any clues to remedy things.  It’s been a while since I sewed this, but I will point out some places that were wrong or confusing or could have been done better:

  • The picture on step 7 appears wrong.  The directions say to put the pieces right sides together, but that’s not what’s illustrated.
  • I wrote error on step 11, but I don’t remember why. I think it has to do with the pockets, and one reason why I cut them out.
  • Step 17 shows a non-existent notch, so does 20.
  • Step 18 is not clear.  Same with 22 – I think I basted farther than I needed too, as I noted that I needed to rip the basting out later. (Another note about basting in 23).
  • I wrote wrong on the pattern for steps 25 and 26.  I’m not sure why, but I remember wrestling to finish the sleeve edges and doing it wrong, trimming where I shouldn’t have and generally cursing when I don’t normally curse.  I eventually managed it (using binder clips) but they are a bit wonky.
  • Step 30 has the darts going in weird, but not necessarily wrong, just leaves them unfinished in a place that will show.

Recommend? Do it again?  Maybe. I don’t like the blouse tucked in with this.  I’m proud of my ability to tackle it and finish it, even if it is far from perfect.  I will likely wear the blouse and skirt as a pair more often (and not the jacket). I may try the jacket with jeans.  I’m not sure I’ll make it again, partly because it is so distinctive.  But you never know. Maybe when my skills improve, and if I found the right fabric…

Action Shots (what better way to see an outfit and how it moves, rather than posed shots, though please excuse the microphone clipped to the collar and reaching under the jacket in the back):

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Action shot

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Survived the freeze…

Yes, yes, I know… world’s smallest violin. But this is not normal for this time of year in Florida. We get winter temps below freezing, but it hasn’t been winter here in a month.  We broke our  record low by more than 7 degrees on the Ides of March (25 degrees, and we’ve been below freezing three nights in a row).  This might not mean much to many of you, but we’ve got crops in the ground and the citrus are in full bloom.  So, if you like your veggies and orange juice, and it’s not coming from California or Mexico, it’s coming from here.

But we did okay! I covered my plants (though not the trees, too big).  Some cold damage, but we came out okay.  Here are some (iPhone) pictures.     More sewing later.

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Empress of India Nasturtium

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Mexican Midget Tomato

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Pentas (Egyptian Starflower)

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Cucumbers are up!

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Meyer Lemon

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Kaffir Lime

Updated Vintage: Vogue 1213, part 1

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So I fell in love with an embroidered linen, on line.  Bought it, and then had to consider how to use it.  I knew I wanted a skirt, but I needed a pattern with simple lines.  I had had my eye on the top for Vogue 1213 (Lanvin-Castillo) for some time (the jacket too).  I thought I could make a work and heat friendly version of the the skirt and blouse.  One day I will make the jacket, not for a suit, but for jeans.

Lo and behold, I went to make this, and was missing the directions.  I made an appeal and Kate of Fabrikated emailed me photos of the directions from London.  I love our sewing community!  Thanks Kate!

This is an easy, easy skirt: front, back, pocket, waistband.  I didn’t really need the directions for the skirt.  But it was nice to know that I had planned to do the pocket the same way.  You see, the pocket is hidden in that front pleat!!

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The pockets were cut in batiste. I’m basting the pocket to the fashion fabric, right sides together.  The center line with pins is the cutting line.

I still had to do a muslin, as the pattern I had was for someone teeny tiny.  I needed to add 4 inches of girth.  I ended up adding most of it to the side seams, but did shift the center back and center front off the fabric fold by 1/2 inch (one each each total) to shift the darts and pleats to the right place.

I was also watching Susan Khalje’s Couture dress on Craftsy and decided to try out a few things:  the way she cuts out the fabric and uses stitching lines – not cutting lines, how she marks the backing fabric/underlining, and her hand stitched lapped zipper.

 

So the details:

Pattern Description: Vogue Paris Original 1213 by Lanvin-Castillo. “Slim skirt has side front pockets.”

Fabric:  Embroidered linen (white on black) from Farmhouse Fabrics.  Underlining (and pockets) Japanese cotton batiste from Emma One Sock that’s been stashed for some time.

Pattern Sizing:  Size 12, but the old Vogue 12, with a bust of 32 and hip of 34.  I wish.  See above.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?  Yes, but the linen isn’t as drapey, and mine is shorter on me. I’m still not sure I like the length, but I’ve got some room to play – and when I do the blouse I’ll post a photo of me in the outfit for comments about the length (hits me mid/lower knee).

Instructions? Great – though I only half used them. I’ll really need them for the blouse.  I love the old school directions.

 

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The hidden pocket

What do you like or dislike about the pattern?  Clean lines, simple. The pocket hidden in the pleat is really cool – it’s not really on the side, but further in on the hip.  They aren’t that deep/big though, so don’t expect to stick your heavy keys or smart phone in there.  I also liked that this skirt is underlined, rather than lined.  I’ve come to prefer this treatment.  It gives the fashion fabric a little something extra, and with linen, reduces wrinkling. I forgot to add in the original post:  when I traced the stitching lines onto the muslin, I noticed the darts were ever so slightly curved – not straight angles.  It made for a much nicer dart, skimming over the curve of the body.

 

Pattern alterations or design changes?  I changed the sizing.  I hand inserted a lapped zipper.  I did serge the seam edges and didn’t give myself enough to do a proper lapped zipper, so I had to insert/baste in some grosgrain, which solved the problem, and stabilized the hip curve.  I also sewed the waist band on according to her out-of-print

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The lapped zipper, with grosgrain added to widen the seam allowance.

book.  There you staystitch the waist, baste grosgrain in place, sew the waistband on, fold it over the grosgrain and finish as desired. The inside of the waist band (facing) is serged, and I sewed it in place by stitching in the ditch.  I finished my edges with the serger instead of hand overcasting.

 

 

Would you sew again? Recommend?  Sure.  I haven’t made a skirt with an actual waistband in a while, so let’s see how I like that in the Florida heat.

Conclusions:  A simple skirt, with a fun pocket that allowed me to work on fundamentals in couture.  While I didn’t apply everything I’m learning from couture classes/books, I think what I did do helped considerably:  from the muslin to the backing to hand placing the zipper.  I feel I improved my skills and I’m happy with the final product.  Surprisingly, I found all that basting quite meditative.  The end process is a skirt that I really love that I feel I did a great job on.  Even though it took longer than normal for me to make, I enjoyed every step of it, which is nice.

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Pictures don’t do it justice.  It doesn’t fit the dress form; on me, the waist sits flat and does not flare out.  A new dress form?  Or just time to go outside for pictures? Or find someone to take pictures?

 

 

 

Help from the sewing community, please!

V1213

Does anyone happen to have the instructions for Vogue Paris Original 1213 (Lanvin Castillo)?  I’d like to make this, but the version I bought on e-bay is missing some of the instructions…

I’m sure I’ll figure it out – but there is an interesting pocket treatment on the skirt that I’m interested in…

Repeat: Butterick 6388, view D

B6388, view D, from Butterick’s website.

Pattern Description: Butterick 6388 (c 2016).  From back:  “Tops and dress have side front seams, shaped collar, and back yoke.”  I made view D, with long sleeves, omitting the pockets after reading other reviews.

Fabric:  Luxe navy french terry in cotton (sold out) from Marcy Tilton.

Pattern Sizing:  Size Y XS, S, M.  I liked the fit of the small in the sweater I made previously, but knew I would need to add for waist/hips/thighs to preserve proportions.  I made a size small, grading to a medium at the waist through to the hem.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?  Yes, mostly, but longer.

Instructions? fine, I think.   Didn’t really follow them this time, except for the order of construction.

What do you like or dislike about the pattern?  Clean lines, simple. A basic to accessorize.  I used a lovely blue/violet silk scarf the first time, though I felt a little like a flight attendant.

Pattern alterations or design changes?  Increased the size to roughly a size 14 through hips/thighs.  One of the things I didn’t do on the sweater was an adjustment for my long waist.  I always tug at the hem.  Since I wanted to maintain proportions, I added 2 inches at the waist fitting line.  I also added 1 inch to the hem to make this dress a bit longer (about 1-2 inches above the knee, all told).  While I top-stitched the front side seams, I got the ripple effect, even with a walking foot.  As a result, I hand hemmed the sleeves and dress.

Would you sew again? Recommend?  Sure.  This is my second take, though, so probably not for a while.

img_27431Conclusions?  A lovely dress that looks much better on. I felt amazing, professional and pretty in this simple dress. If you maintain the proportions, it accentuates the figure. I’m not as busty as the dress form, so I don’t get the pulling; adding the width to the lower half kept it from riding over the buttocks to pool in the lower back.  It’s plain, so it needs accessories.  It has a very different feel in the soft french cotton terry – very luxurious and dressy – than the wool doubleknit.  That having been said, the collar needs interfacing in the terry to stand up. And, yes, photos on the dress form are after being worn (and tossed in the closet after a long day at work).  I’d love to get photos with me in the garments, but then I’d never get the blog posts done…