Thursday, December 30, 2010

Finally: A Plan

I've wanted to sew a SWAP for years, but  I knew I couldn't sustain the motivation to sew up to eleven! count 'em, 11! pieces that worked together.  I settled on a mini-SWAP as an alternative.  Even with the bar lowered, I didn't have patterns that cried out to be sewn into a collection.  But then, the stars and planets aligned and the patterns fell into my lap - or out of my mailbox, to be more accurate.  The January 2011 issue of BurdaStyle contained a pattern collection that just might work!
The colors are actually much richer than shown.
I already had the main fabric.  Way back in March 2010 I bought five yards of a crepe-looking wool blend.  At the time, I had no idea what I would do with it, but it was on sale at JoMar for  $1.60 a yard and I couldn't walk away.  The quest for the blouse fabric took me back to JoMar and I found a coordinating solid.   I wanted to include a simple collarless blouse or knit top to wear under the jacket.  I thought I'd found the fabric – a solid cream colored silky polyester, similar to the mauve.  When I got home from JoMar, I realized I was missing that cut of fabric.  I laid my fabrics down while Annette, Karen and I searched through three bins of buttons and I must have left it next to the bins and gone to the register without it.  I learned two lessons from that little mistake:
1. pay closer attention to what I'm doing
2. the cream color was just too boring.
I really wanted a knit anyway. 

So, my first mini-SWAP wardrobe collection has been added to the queue!  For me, a SWAP or four or five pieces is motivating, while eleven pieces is downright frightening.  Hopefully, I'll get to it before Winter ends.

Parting shot:
This photo shows the fabric colors better, but there was a big, gray piece of fur on the fabric that I couldn't edit out.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Hack:  1. Someone in the film industry, usually a director, who works on projects solely for financial reasons, rather than creative reasons.   2.  a person who is a professional at doing some sort of service, but does crappy work.
edited from Urban Dictionary

I'm in danger of becoming a "sewing hack".   I'm churning out countless garments without stretching my skills or creativity.  It's time for a change.  Currently, I'm working on another pair of fly front pants.  Only this time, I'm using new-to-me techniques from Making Trousers for Men and Women (Coffin, 2009) and from Easy Guide to Sewing Pants (McIntyre, 1998). 

The first challenge was a modification on the hip yoke pocket.   I based my technique on that described in Easy Guide to Sewing Pants and I extended the pattern piece all the way to the cut edge on the fly extension. 

I've done this before and I'll use this modification again, but with a shorter extension. If I'm using self-fabric, the extension doesn't need to be as long as the zipper opening.  That just adds more of the bulk I'm trying to remove.  Another option would be to use the method described in Making Trousers for the front pockets.  The front pockets are made of lining fabric and faced with self fabric only where the facing/lining would be visible. This would also remove bulk.

Next, I wanted to reduce bulk at the waistband.  Coffin recommends petersham ribbon rather than self-fabric to face the waistband.  Real petersham ribbon (not grosgrain ribbon) wasn't easy to find in the local brick and mortar stores.  I found two online sources:  Judith M and Vogue Fabrics Online Store. 

The petersham makes a great waistband facing.  It's firm and provides a good deal of support.  I was so eager to sew, I didn't remember to shape the petersham at the ironing board first.  This resulted in a little wonkiness on the outside, but it's a negligible wonkiness. I like this technique too, but I need to work on it a little more.

I intend to up my game and try new techniques to avoid becoming a hack.   Maybe my mojo occasionally leaves me because it's bored.  Instead of blindly following the instructions, I need to look at every project and decide the best way to construct the garment.  A funny thing – when researching online for information on the new methods, I found references to books already on my bookshelf!  I had all the information I needed to avoid hackiness (hacknicity?), but I wasn't using it.  Sewing is a journey and I've been on the same road much too long.   I can continue to use familiar  methods over and over or I can challenge myself and actually learn something! 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Check Me Out!

My serger had to go into the shop for a little maintenance, so I've been working on a quilt.
But ……… my sewing room is featured on Blue Gardenia's Blog!  What an honor! 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Open on Saturday!

I've always wished I could shop in NYC's Garment District more often.   I was operating under a misconception.  In my mind, a Garment District shopping trip meant taking a day off work because most stores were closed on Saturday.  I had evidence to back this up.  I was told many of the stores honor the Jewish Sabbath.  I'd shopped in the Garment District on Saturdays, but special arrangements were made.  Metro Textiles opened when Karen promised and delivered fabric shoppers with money to burn.   Then,  Elizabeth convinced  Metro Textiles and Elliot Berman to open on Saturday for a large group of eager shoppers.  Annette of FabriCate & Mira recently visited the Garment District on a weekday and she noted many more stores were open on weekdays.  So, based on my limited experiences and information, I assumed a shopping trip on any given Saturday would be disappointing. Thankfully, my eyes have been opened.  I don't know how or why I allowed myself to believe otherwise, but I can have a meaningful shopping experience on a Saturday.   I found this out by reading Lindsay T's Shop the Garment District website.   True,  Metro Textiles and Elliot Berman are closed, but eight out of the eleven featured stores have Saturday hours.  Most of the trim stores are also open.  I am no longer limited to the dwindling number of independent fabric stores in the Philadelphia area.  I can jump on a train any Saturday.  I'm sure I could convince the other Philadelphia fabric friends to come along.

See Shop the Garment District for more information.

It's funny how you get a wrong idea in your head and convince yourself that it is the truth.  I wish I'd  come to this realization sooner.  I don't see a shopping trip in the near future.  It's almost Winter and I do my best shopping when I'm not freezing to death.  But, another Spring is coming and if my budget implodes because of fabric purchases, I can always blame Lindsay T and her website.   I consider Lindsay T a friend and if you can't deflect blame to your friends, then what are friends for?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Finished: Burda Plus Fashion FW-07-404 & 405

This outfit represents the last of the fabric I bought during PR Weekend 2010. I can't believe I held on to it for five months!  I knew I wouldn't be sewing them until the Fall even though I bought them in May.  But still - five months?!?

Top  BPF FW-07-404 
The right side of this fabric has a velour-like pile and the wrong side looks like a knit.  It reminds me of a less beefy version of a velour bathrobe.  (I'm amazed at what I don't know about fabric!)  Patterns don't get any simpler than this: three pieces – front, back and sleeve.  This top was shown using a sweater knit so the neckline was not bound, but turned in.  I added a french binding to the neckline because I prefer that look.  I also move the neckline up about 1/2 inch.  Otherwise, this top would have been just too easy!  This is going to be a TNT top for me.  In the winter, I live in jeans and knit tops.  This pattern will definitely get used for more knock-around tops.  I'm determined to sew more knits and this simple pattern is a good one to use.  

Pants  BPF FW-07-405A 
For some reason, the designers decided these pants needed a sewn-on fly facing.  Since I  already took a walk on the wild side when I changed the neckline on the top,  I threw caution to the wind and decided against the sewn-on fly facing.   I just taped the extension pattern piece to the front and continued happily.  The fabric is rather heavy and a sewn on fly facing would have resulted in extra bulk at the fly.

A recent post on Nancy K Sews caused me to think about waistbands.  I pulled out Making Trousers for Men and Women (Coffin, 2009), read the information and studied the samples on the accompanying DVD-ROM.  More often than not, the waistband was faced with petersham or lining fabric rather self fabric.   Since I didn't plan for any waistband modifications for these pants, I didn't have any petersham or lining fabric on hand.   I used bias binding on the bottom the the inner waistband.  I like the look, but the waistband is still bulky.  I am definitely going to investigate further so I can produce a less bulky waistband.

I was able to finish this outfit relatively quickly.  I fought a cold for most of the long Thanksgiving weekend.  The cold won so, except for Thanksgiving Day and a few quick but necessary errands, I stayed home and spent most of my time in the sewing room.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Finished: Blouse BSM 02-10-137 Pants BSM 92-09-132A

Backstory: Karlin's in Philadelphia used to be a great independent fabric store.  Back in the late 70s/early 80s, when I subscribed to Butterick's pattern magazine, Karlin's was usually listed on the "Where to Buy" page as a store to purchase the fabrics featured in the magazine.  But, like many other independent fabric stores, Karlin's fell on hard times.  The store remained open, but the shelves and tables were nearly empty and I seldom found anything I wanted to buy.  Lately, things have begun to look up.  New inventory appeared and the prices were more than reasonable.  I picked up the dark teal stretch twill for the pants on a day I was in town for an appointment.  I didn't find fabric for a top, but I was so happy to find something worth buying, I bought the teal twill anyway.  Then,  I went to Elizabeth's Late Summer NY Garment District Shopping Day with very specific objectives, one of which was to find blouse fabric to match the teal twill.  I found the perfect silk oxford cloth at Mood.  (Thanks, Mood!)  That's how this latest outfit was born.

Blouse: I made this pattern before - as a dress and as a blouse.  When I made the dress, I mangled the bottom of the placket.  This time, I consulted  The Sewing Book (Smith, 2009) and I got a pretty decent placket.  (Sometimes I'm amazed at how little I use all the sewing books on my shelves!)  I marked and stay-stitched the seam line before attaching the placket.  After the placket was sewn on, I carefully clipped to the corners, which were reinforced by the stay-stitching.   The fabric is silk oxford cloth.  I never knew silk oxford cloth existed, but silk comes in so many weaves, I shouldn't be surprised.  This fabric looks like ordinary oxford cloth but it has a little sheen to it.  I omitted the pleated trim around the placket and cuff. 

Pants: When I bought the fabric for the pants, I didn't realize it was only 45" wide.  I couldn't use the pattern I originally selected.  My Burda index really came in handy.  I flipped through the pages and found a pattern that required less fabric.  The pants have a simple design and their construction presented no problems or surprises.

What I Learned:  I don't have to buy coordinating fabrics at the same time.  I worry about having garments that can't be worn with anything, so I try to prevent that by buying coordinating pieces of fabric.  In this case,  I bought the two fabrics months apart and in two different states and the sky didn't fall.  Hmmmmm. I wonder if this is how stashes get started.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Guess What I'll Be Sewing!

My brother-in-law took my niece to visit her paternal grandmother in New York last weekend.  See what happens when you go shopping with Da and Gran-Gran?

I'm actually looking forward to sewing
American Girl clothes.  Jada has about 1,826 Build-a-Bears (well, it seems like 1,826.) In the interest of full disclosure, I'm pretty sure I bought the first bear (my sister still blames me) and I haven't made one outfit for any of them.  I would have had to draft a pattern for a bear!  I'm not that good yet.  But there are already so many patterns available for American Girls.  I bought a pattern as soon as I learned Jada was going to American Girl Place!  Gran-Gran is an extremely talented seamstress, so I'm sure Jada's American Girl will be the best dressed doll in North Carolina.

My own daughter never really played with dolls.  She had a couple of Barbies and a Cabbage Patch Kid but she was more into sports and science when she was doll-playing age.  I made Barbie clothes one Christmas when she was about three.   I had mixed feelings about the project because I object to Barbie on certain levels.   And, it's not easy sewing clothes for a doll with a three inch waist.  But now I finally have the chance to sew real doll clothes!  I'm so excited!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Couture Techniques Workshop

This may become my favorite sewing DVD, which is not surprising because Claire Shaeffer is one of my favorite sewing experts.  Couture Techniques Workshop: Basics really demonstrates the difference between home sewing and couture sewing.  I've heard about professors at design schools using "home sewn" as the ultimate put-down.  Now I understand why.  Home sewing, even when done by the most talented and skilled practitioners, and couture sewing are two different animals.  In the introduction, Shaeffer stated she rarely has time to make a garment using only couture techniques.  Instead, she recommends using the techniques where they will make the most difference.

Two discs are included.  Four of the seven chapters on Disc One covered various hand sewing techniques:  Basting Stitches, Permanent Stitches, Slip Stitches and Hemming Stitches.  On Disc Two, Shaeffer demonstrated marking, pressing, shrinking, stretching and how to make bars and chains. Thanks to excellent camera close-ups,  I clearly saw how various stitches are made.  Shaeffer used many couture garments to illustrate the various techniques.  In addition to her own designs for Vogue, she opened up pieces from Chanel, Valentino and other couturiers of the 60s and 70s.  Shaeffer used wool crepe to demonstrate most of the techniques.  That has always been one of my favorite fabrics and if (I mean "when") I make a jacket using some of these couture techniques, wool crepe will be my choice.

Many current and popular sewing books and videos teach how to make clothes "fast and easy".  I look for resources that teach how to make clothes "well" and this DVD does exactly that.  Using even a few of the techniques will make the clothes I sew look like expensive ready-to-wear, if not couture. I'm okay with that. This DVD inspired me to incorporate couture techniques into my home sewing and improve the quality of the garments I sew.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Obsessive Sewer Obsesses About Thread

Most basic books on sergers advise against trying to match looper thread to the fabric.  A more economical approach, these books say, is to buy cones of neutral colors that can blend with, rather than match the fabric.  An Obsessive Sewer like me cringes at such a suggestion.   Matching thread is the latest obsession I've chosen to indulge.

It started with the Gutermann thread sale at Atlanta Thread Supply.  When sewing woven fabrics, in addition to the conventional machine, I use the five thread stitch on my serger:  two-thread chain stitch + three-thread overlock.  I thought the 1100 yard spools (sale price - $1.85) would be a perfect way to buy matching thread to be used for the overlock stitch.   I'd have over 700 colors from which to choose.    I downloaded the color chart from the ATS site, but I didn't trust it.  The colors changed from monitor to printer and neither matched the color chart printed in the catalog.  So, I spent $18 on the Real Thread Gutermann Color Chart.  My plan was to use the Real Thread chart to select matching thread to be used for the overlock stitch and get thread for the chain stitch and conventional machine by shopping my thread stash or buying it from JoAnn.  I'd have five spools that matched the fabric and each other perfectly.

I went to JoAnn and bought regular spools of Gutermann for my next project.  When I got home, I compared the thread I'd just bought with the samples on the chart.  The label on the spool said #639, but it did not match the sample #639 from the chart on which I'd just spent $18.  I started to get nervous.  Using the chart,  I'd just selected and ordered eighteen spools (for my next several projects) and spent over $30.  What if none of the thread matched the fabrics?   I had no choice but to wait for the thread to arrive from ATS.  It was an obsessive sewer's nightmare.

I needn't have worried.  The threads I ordered from ATS matched the colors on the chart, and therefore the fabric.  The threads I bought at JoAnn did not match the chart, but more importantly, they matched the fabric.  I can't explain why the thread I bought at JoAnn's did not match the samples on the color chart.  Apparently the numbering systems are not the same.  But all of the spools  matched the fabric and my obsessive soul was happy.

Now, how would I store all of this fantastic matching thread?  The answer was in my supermarket.  I bought small square snack storage containers that are the perfect size for keeping three matching spools together among the cones of thread in a large bin. 

Now, if I could only convince ATS to have the 1100 yd spools permanently on sale, life would be perfect!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Burda Plus Fashion: FW-10-413

Pattern Description: Long sleeved blouse with front and back waist darts and notched collar.

Pattern Sizing: European plus sizes: 46 - 54

Were the instructions easy to follow?   I was concerned about the directions for the notched collar.  I remember reading on another blog how to handle this type of collar. Unfortunately, I didn't remember the blog and I had to figure it out on my own.  My solution was very simple.  I sewed the notch first and then trimmed the seam allowance rather than try to trace the seam allowance onto such a small notch.  This is the point where tracing pattern pieces was a disadvantage.   I'm sure if the pieces were already printed, the collar pattern piece would have looked just like the piece I traced.  Instead, I had to look at the notch and wonder "How the heck am I supposed to add a seam allowance to that!?!" before I realized I didn't have to add a seam allowance at all. It goes without saying: Burda directions offered little, if any, help.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I liked the collar.  I also liked the more fitted silhouette.

Fabric Used: I bought this fabric at the Fall PR Shopping day at the end of August.  According to the sales associate at Elliot Berman in NYC, this fabric is French cotton.  It had a stiffer hand than I expected in a cotton.  It reminded me of chintz and the needle left holes in the fabric.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:One of the things I love about Burda is that I usually don't have to make any pattern alterations. I might have given myself a little extra room in the belly, but it was more of a preference than a necessity.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I'd like this blouse in a solid color. I'm sure I'll sew it again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How Far is Too Far?

Back in the olden days, when cigarette advertising was everywhere, Camel had a popular slogan.  I thought about this slogan while I planned my most recent fabric shopping excursion.  Just how far would I go to shop for fabric?

Fabric Mart's brick and mortar store is in Sinking Spring, PA.   According to Mapquest, this is 64.88 miles from my door.   Sixty-five miles is a little far to drive to a fabric store.  I needed additional enticement.  I found just the lure I needed when I looked more closely at the map and realized Sinking Spring is right next to Reading, PA, the home of the original outlet mall.  Discounted fabric!  Outlet shopping!  Suddenly 65 miles seemed a lot closer!   Fabric Mart is not open on weekends, so I was forced to ditch work for this outing.  My rationale (as if I needed one to ditch work) was I'd be getting some Christmas shopping done early at the outlet center.  While the plan was in the back of my mind for weeks, the actual execution came about suddenly.  The workload of my second job decreased unexpectedly and I was able to adjust my schedule and travel to Reading.

The Fabric Mart brick and mortar store is not big and glamorous like the chain stores, yet it's not dark and cramped like some of the stores on Philadelphia's Fabric Row.  Many of the Fabric Mart's online offerings are on the sales floor.  The organized shopper can peruse the web site, jot down numbers and take the list of numbers to the store.   Additionally, I was invited to look in the back room where the online orders are filled.  Most of these fabrics were not displayed on the sales floor.  

I found a few basics to take home with me.  I bought two pieces of worsted wool gabardine  and coordinating shirt fabrics.

Navy Blue wool – Blue & white stripe

Charcoal Gray wool – burgundy, pink & gray stripe
So, how far is too far?  If Fabric Mart were closer and open on weekends,  I'd be there once or twice a month.  While 65 miles is too far for me to drive for casual fabric shopping, Fabric Mart is a good option for the times I want to buy several pieces of fabric in one trip.  

Monday, October 18, 2010

Finished: Burda Plus Hybrid Blouse

First, I need to rant just a little.

These blouses are from Burda Plus Fashion Spring/Summer 2010.  It's evident that these three blouses are basically the same and, except for design details, would use the same pattern pieces.  The bib insert on 423 and 425 has pin tucks.  One would expect those tucks to be indicated on the pattern pieces.  One would think the bib insert pattern piece in 423 and 425 would have to be wider to allow for the fabric taken up by the tucks.  Apparently, Burda doesn't think so.  Burda has you tuck a rectangle they call a "dickey front" and the cut the pattern piece from that.  Sounds reasonable, but a few years ago I made a BWOF dress with pin tucks on the cuff and a similar technique was used.  I assumed (and I know what happens when we "assume")  the extra length would be drafted into the pattern piece.  But it wasn't.  Another part of the problem was Burda's use of the term "dickey front".  I defined a dickey as a false shirtfront, not whatever Burda had in mind.  This made understanding the directions a bit of a challenge.  I was really glad I opted out of the pintucked front.

Okay, rant is finished.

My blouse is a hybrid of the available designs.  I used the collar, cuffs and shirttail hem from 425, the non-tucked bib (without the pleated trim) from 424 and the topstitched front placket from 423.  I used a wonderful silk fabric.  It is so light and comfortable, it feels like I'm not wearing anything!  The construction was straightforward.  The cuff should have been tapered to a point.  Burda gives dimensions for a rectangle.  The last time I tried tapering a cuff, I got the proportions wrong and it looked a little strange, so I kept the rectangular shape.  For some reason, the buttonholes were horizontal.  I'm a "follow the rules" type, so I made the horizontal buttonholes.  It feels weird buttoning horizontal buttonholes when I'm used to vertical buttonholes.   If I ever see horizontal buttonholes again, I'm going to get really wild and adventurous and (gasp!) change them to vertical buttonholes.

This is just the type of blouse I like wearing to work and I would like to make this blouse again in a different fabric.  It would be nice to find a nice brightly colored silk.  I might even try the pintucks on the bib.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Finished: BS 04-10-140 and BS 02-10-136

The Shirt:  I like this shirt, but not necessarily with this skirt.    I think it's great as a knock-around shirt worn with jeans.  But, it might be too slouchy to work with the a skirt, even one as casual as this one.  Luckily, I have a RTW tee shirt that is more fitted and that I can wear with the skirt.  The shirt was very easy to sew; even with the eighteen buttons. It can be sewn in an evening.  The sleeves are a little long and are probably intended to be worn pushed up.  I do intend to make this shirt again.

The Skirt:  Those familiar with BurdaStyle know how much the designers love plunging necklines.  Knowing how low the necklines tend to be, imagine what those freaks folks at Burda do with a walking pleat/slit in the front and back of a skirt.   I solved the problem by sewing the inside of the front and back pleats closed for about three inches.  I can still walk comfortably, but I'm not "showing off the good china" as Peach on Project Runway so cleverly put it.  Once again, I chose a print fabric that obscured the design details of the garment.  I really like the cargo pocket, but I can't see it in the finished skirt.  I guess I'll just have to make the skirt again using a solid khaki.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Can't a Knit Be More Like a Woven?

Even though I don't agree with his opinion, I totally get Prof. Henry Higgins's frustration when, in My Fair Lady, he asked why a woman couldn't be more like a man.  I feel the same way about knit fabrics.

 Why can't a knit be more like a woven?
Wovens are stable, they're so easy to square.
A joy to sew! There's nothing to compare.
And when you move it, it's likely to stay flat.
Why can't a knit be more like that!
(Apologies to Alan Jay Lerner)

Knits and wovens are definitely different.  Sewers who can crank out knit garments are a mystery to me.  I can't get my knits to behave.  After successfully sewing a knit dress, I wanted to make a top from the February 2010 issue of BurdaStyle magazine.  I bought a red 2-way stretch knit that coordinated beautifully with a black and red denim print from my collection.  When I was ready to lay out and cut, the knit just would not cooperate.  I know (because I read it in Sewing with Knits by Connie Long) knits curl up at the edges and that they are supposed to curl toward the right side.  This knit curled toward both sides!  The curling subtracted 3 inches from the width of the fabric.  The pieces barely fit on the fabric!!!!!  In certain light, one side looked like the right side;  in different light, the other side looked more like the right side.   Even folding the fabric was a problem.  It was impossible to fold the fabric squarely because the edges were so rolled-up I coudn't find them, much less align them.  Grrrrr!

After about 15 minutes of trying to fold the fabric and cursing under my breath, I gave up.  Maybe I should have been more patient.  Maybe I should have researched ways to handle 2-way knits.  But, I was too frustrated to be patient.  I solved the problem by ordering a different knit, an interlock from Gorgeous Fabrics.   I've sewn interlocks before and I don't remember cursing so much and being so frustrated.  The new red fabric was easier to work with and was a better match for the red in my denim print.  Gorgeous Fabrics saved the day!

Monday, September 20, 2010

BurdaStyle Magazine 05/10 #137

Those folks at Burda are sadists.  They love to torture their most loyal fans.  And maybe we Burdaphiles are masochists because we keep coming back for more.  When I decided to make this dress,  I thought the collar was the same Burda collar I recently mastered and I was looking forward to sewing it again.  But, Burda had a different idea.  This collar construction was totally different from the typical Burda collar, yet equally frustrating.  Lucky for me, Karen figured it out first and I was able to learn from her frustration and avoid my own.  Thanks, Karen!

If Karen  hadn't figured out the collar first,  I might have given up on this dress.  Just for fun, I compared Karen's instructions with Burda's.   I couldn't make much sense out of Burda's instructions even when I already knew what to do!  I haven't complained about Burda instructions in over a year, but this dress brought back all the bad memories of my struggles with Burda's instructions.

To me, this dress had a "vintage feel".  It reminded me of the shirtwaist dresses worn by Eisenhower era TV moms, but more updated.  I knew I would have to wear a belt with this dress, and I'm not particularly fond of wearing belts.  I think a dark gray belt might look better than a black one.  However, the woven fabric doesn't cling to my body and gives the illusion of a waist.  That's the look I was hoping for.    I used a lightweight twill - pobably a cotton/poly blend – and it worked out well.  The dress was shown in denim.  The twill has the same hand as a lightweight denim.

I tested one of my "great ideas" while sewing this dress.  Burda uses numbers to identify seams.  It wasn't really necessary for this dress, but this information is particularly useful when assembling panels in a skirt and the panels look almost identical when they are separated from the paper pattern.  Rather than write the numbers on the fabric, I used removable color coding stickers.  It turned out, this  "great idea" was only a "good idea". The theory behind the idea was good, but the removable stickers didn't adhere to the fabric very well.  Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?

I wanted the music to play on forever.
Have I stayed too long at the Fair?
I wanted the clown to be constantly clever.
Have I stayed too long at the Fair?
Billy Barnes

The lyrics to this song reflect how I've been feeling about Burda Magazine.  Burda has gone through a lot of changes lately and I'm wondering if I should stay with my favorite pattern company.

First, there was the name change.  Burda World of Fashion to Burda Style was a minor change and easy to accept.  If only they'd stopped there.  But then, the Burda Fashion website was mercilessly killed.  I have tried, but I just don't get the English BurdaStyle website.  Apparently, English-speaking women who sew from the magazine is not the demographic this website is after.   And if changing the website wasn't enough, the magazine itself has also changed.  The magazine now has only one pattern sheet for all of the styles included, which makes tracing a real challenge.   I used to find relaxation in the mindlessness of tracing, but that's gone now and  I have to concentrate more while tracing.  Finally, to add insult to injury, the last issue of Burda Plus Fashion repeated three of the five collections.  I paid a second time for something I already owned.

Burdaphiles are frustrated with the changes.  Some are talking of not renewing their subscriptions.  But, I'm part of a very small niche:  plus size women (and I don't mean size 14) who want to sew their own clothes.    Burda still offers the best variety of fashion forward styles for the larger woman, as shown by these examples.

I don't know of any other pattern company that offers such a variety of plus size designs – certainly not the Big Four.

Giving up on Burda is hard for me.   I am not ready stop my subscription.  Even with the unwelcoming website, vexing pattern sheets and pattern reruns,  Burda still offers the most fashionable plus size patterns. As long as Burda continues to offer this variety of plus size garments,  I will stay at the fair a little longer.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Burda 7671

I don't sew a lot of knits.  I always seem to get wavy seams and hems even though I use a serger and reduce the presser foot pressure.   So, I avoid knits like the plague.  But, I found a discontinued pattern I really liked for $2.00, a knit fabric I really liked, and I had an occasion coming up for which the pattern was appropriate.  So, I sewed a knit.

Burda 7671 – Dress

Pattern Description:
Long sleeved or sleeveless wrap dress that is gathered along the shoulder and down the sleeve.

Pattern Sizing:
US 18 - 30
European 44 - 56

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The instructions were easy to follow.  I had to read some sections more than once, but that was probably because of my state of mind at the time.  I was so worried about working with a knit I didn't give my full attention to the instructions.  There were no unusual techniques involved.

The gathers on the sleeve and shoulder had to be a specific length.  When gathering the shoulders and sleeve, I cut a piece of stay tape to the finished length + 1 inch or so to make "handles" on the ends.  I pinned one end of the stay tape to the beginning of the gathers and the other end to the end of the gathers.  Then I adjusted them to fit the stay tape and pinned the gathers to the tape before sewing.  The stay tape is very thin and doesn't add bulk to the seam.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I needed a dress for a specific occasion and this pattern was perfect.  Now that the dress is made and I've had it on, I realize I can only wear it if it is chilly in central NY state at the end of the month.

Fabric Used:
I used a cotton/poly jersey knit.  This knit was easier to handle than other knits I sewn.  I didn't get the waviness that discouraged me from sewing knits in the past.  Maybe it was a better quality knit than I'm used to sewing.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
This was an easy dress to make. The style is classic.  I would most certainly sew it again and recommend it.

I learned I have to be gentle with knits.  Knits are like toddlers – they don't always stay where you put them.  But, if handled gently, they are less frustrating.  This pattern has been discontinued and I'm glad I bought when I did.  Now that I'm determined to make more knit garments, I'll probably be using this pattern again.

• § • § • § • § • § • § • § • § • § • § • § •

Sometimes, I feel guilty about leaving the cats alone while I'm shut up in the sewing room. This is what happens when I weaken and let them in:

Tangi oversees construction.

Soleil waits to get in the way of layout and cutting.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Burda 7666

Pattern Description:
Lined dress and jacket.

Pattern Sizing:
Plus sized
US:  18-24
European:  44 - 54

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, exactly!

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The directions were very easy to follow.  I'm glad this is a Burda envelope pattern with illustrated directions and not a Burda magazine pattern.  The organza overlay is gathered and not the actual front bodice.  The illustrations were particularly useful when constructing the bodice. 

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I thought the design was flattering on a woman of my size.  I also like the jacket - it makes the dress seasonless.

Fabric Used:
The dress & jacket are crepe-backed satin.  The bodice overlay is organza.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
After making a muslin, I lengthened the bodice by 3/4".

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I have already recommended it!  Snuzal asked for plus size LBD recommendations and I recommended this pattern. 

I loved working on this dress!  I haven't sewn a dressy dress since my daughter's senior prom.  In fact, I referred to this dress as "my prom dress."  It required lots of hand sewing, but I find that relaxing.  I made this dress for a fund-raising Gala and I can't wait to wear it!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Quilt in the Queue

Charm squares and yardage
Every once in a while I need to reaffirm the value of online sewing resources.    I'm so grateful for the information and support I get from Online Sewing Buddies.  And shopping online is so convenient.  The most recent inspiration came from Lori of "Sew Forth Now" podcast and "Girls in the Garden" blog and Fat Quarter Shop.

Lori recently made a quilt for her daughter.  I admired the design and emailed her about it.  She told me the quilt was made using "Disappearing Nine Patch" blocks.  (This link includes downloadable PDF directions).  This is my kind of block – very easy!  Anybody can make a nine patch!  I found help with coordinating fabrics by going to Fat Quarter Shop and ordering charm pack sets and coordinating yardage for borders.  Just like that,  I have everything I need for the quilt top. 

Lori led me to an easy quilting pattern and I found a source for coordinated, pre-cut fabrics.  My quilting-bug has been re-born.   I may actually achieve my goal of finishing another quilt.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Final Fabric Fling of the Summer

Elizabeth organized a Pattern Review Shopping Day for Aug. 28, 2010, just days before my summer vacation ended and I was due to go back to work.  It was a wonderful way to end my vacation on a high note. I always have a great time fabric shopping with the friends I've met through Pattern Review and it was wonderful to add new friends to the list.

Metro Textiles (265 W 37th St) and Elliot Berman (225 W 35th St ) agreed to open on Saturday especially for us and judging by the full bags and rolling suitcases, everyone found something to purchase at those stops.  There was no way we all could have fit into Metro Textiles at one time so we divided into two groups and conquered Metro Textiles and Elliot Berman separately.  Then we reassembled and went to Mood for more shopping and to practice our Tim Gunn "Thank you, Mood!" impersonations.

Half the group at Elliot Berman
Remembering how overwhelmed and exhausted I was after PR Weekend 2010, I came with a very short To Do List.

√  1.  Get fabric to make a dress for my best friend's retirement party.  I found this jersey knit at Metro.  The party is at the end of September, so this project moves to the beginning of my queue.

2.  Find blouse fabric to match bottomweight recently added to my collection.  It's hard to tell from the photograph, but this cotton/silk blend is a perfect match for the teal bottomweight.

3.  Get eighteen red buttons for a knit top that's been in the queue for months.  I've been wanting to do more with knits.  This fabric has been pushed back many, many times because I prefer sewing wovens.

Since I successfully checked all of the items on my To Do list,  I treated myself to this bonus piece:

I have no idea what I'm going to do with this French cotton from Elliot Berman.  I just liked it!

These PR shopping excursions are really fun.  There are few things better than spending time and talking with people who are as passionate about sewing as I am.  Kudos to Elizabeth for planning such a great experience and kudos to co-commander Carolyn.  I'll be watching the PR message boards for the next outing.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sewetta: Easy Come, Easy Go

I took Sewetta, my new vintage machine to a repair shop for what I hoped would be a good cleaning and lubrication.  The news wasn't good.   After the technician looked her over, he asked how much I paid.  When I said $30, he said, "You paid too much."  Ouch.  The bobbin case needed to be replaced and one of the gears was damaged.  The other three gears were okay,  but the technician thought they should also be replaced because they were as old as the broken gear and might break at any time.  I set a limit for how much I would spend on repairs.  If the repairs cost more than $120, I planned to wait until I had more discretionary funds.  I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a machine that would sit in the closet most of  the time.  Unfortunately, replacing one gear and the bobbin case exceeded my limit .  The bobbin case alone cost more than I paid for the sewing machine.  One day you're in, the next day you're out.  Auf Wiedersehen, Sewetta.

Since I said I was looking for a back-up machine, Mr. Tech pointed out an unclaimed machine he was willing to sell to me for $100.  I asked if he would take Sewetta as a trade-in.  At first,  Mr. Tech said no.  After hard negotiations, he changed his mind and decided to take Sewetta and sell the unclaimed machine to me for $80.  That was less than my limit and it got Sewetta off my hands.  I said yes.   The machine is a Singer 347 from the late 60s,  just about the time I learned to sew. That gave it sentimental value.   I named her  Green Wilma, which is the title of a book I read to my daughter when she was young.  The author is from my hometown.  More sentimental value.  Best of all, Green Wilma already works, so I don't have to spend any more money to get her fixed.  Her repairs are guaranteed for a year.  And to top it all off,  Mr. Tech threw in three metal bobbins and a package of needles.

Spending an additional $80  was not as much fun as spending the original $30, but I got what I wanted: a working back-up machine.   I plan to take Green Wilma to church when our Sewing Ministry meets.  I might have let a $30 machine sit unused in the closet, but not a $110 machine.  Green Wilma has to earn her keep.

Monday, August 23, 2010

LBD Progress Report

Second muslin without the bodice changes
Part One: The Little Black Muslin

My LBD isn't going to be so L.    According to the pattern description, this dress is "fitted".   I made the first muslin in my usual size and it was a little too "fitted"  so I went up a size.   After studying the muslin, I decided to make the bodice a little longer.

Part Two: New Attitude

I've had to change the way I sew while working on this dress.  My last several projects were cranked out in record speed.  This dress is the polar opposite.  I made two muslins, which means I traced all of the pattern pieces TWICE!   Things moved quickly once the tracing was finished.  I haven't traced the jacket yet.  I'm going to save that until the dress is completely finished.  Hopefully, working on the jacket separately will allow me to fool myself into thinking I'm working on a different project.

Part Three:  Sparkles!

I used a sparkly chiffon laid over the satin for contrast.  I love the look, but the sparkles are a bit of a pain.  Every once in a while, the glued-on glam got caught up in the feed dogs.   I'm going to give my machine a really good cleaning as soon as I finish sewing sparkles.  As a matter of fact, I'm going to do that cleaning the next time I sit down to sew.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Meet Sewetta

I was minding my own business.   I'd run a few Saturday morning errands  and by 1:00 PM  I was back home,  ready to relax and trace the jacket to my LBD.   The phone rang.

Ring Ring
Me:       Hello?
Karen:   Do you want to buy a sewing machine?
Me:        Hell yeah!  I'll be right there!

Well, maybe it wasn't exactly like that, but it was close.   Less than 30 minutes later, I was the proud owner of a new old sewing machine.  A thrift store on Karen's block was having a big sale and there was a lonely little Singer Touch and Sew in the back, waiting to be given a good home.   I mean, it was $30.00!  Anybody would have bought it!  Besides, if I didn't buy it, Karen would have.  I bought it to help out a friend.  I'm not starting a collection of vintage machines, although I do envy some of the vintage babies other bloggers have obtained.  I just needed a back-up machine. 

I got home and plugged her in.  The motor worked, the feed dogs moved back and forth and the needle went up and down, but she really needs to go in the shop to get the gunk cleaned out.  Plus, there's a lever that looks like it should move to the left, but doesn't.  My friend Karen to the rescue again.  She recommended a repair person who likes working on older machines.  Karen is a world-class enabler, but, as the kids say, "I ain't mad at her."  I needed a back-up machine and now I have one.