Monday, December 5, 2011


Where did the time go?  It's been a month since I've posted anything.  Blogging seems to have slipped off the radar while I wasn't looking. So, I've decided to put blogging aside for a while.  I'm fully aware that my little blog is just a speck of dust in cyberspace, but I've come to know people in the blogosphere and in real life who might have noticed my absence, if only as a passing thought.   I'm still healthy; still sewing; still reading blogs and boards (and occasionally commenting).  Just as maintaining a blog slipped off the radar, when the time is right, it will slip back on.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pivot and Slide with Side Pocket

I use the pivot and slide method to make pattern adjustments.  When making pants with a side pocket, as 99% of my pants are, I usually ignored the pocket and adjusted only the hip yoke.  I read about a method for handling side pockets in Fitting Finesse (Zieman, 1995).  I missed it because it was hidden in the chapter on skirts.  This method used waxed paper and a tracing wheel to trace three layers of waxed paper at one time.  I couldn't use this method since I don't use waxed paper.  The marks made by the tracing wheel on my tracing paper were barely visible.  But, I realized I needed to adjust all three pieces (pants front, side hip yoke and pocket lining) and I modified the method to suit me.  The important part of this method is what I call "The Master Pattern".

1. Trace pants front master pattern.  Layer hip yoke and pocket lining pattern pieces into position, matching notches and dots.  Trace lines for hip yoke and pocket lining pieces onto the master pattern.  For easy identification of pieces, use a different color for each piece.

2.  Make adjustments to hip yoke.  Lay tracing paper over master pattern and trace hip yoke piece and side and waist seams (red).  Mark adjustment point measured distance from side seam.  Pivot to increase and trace new lines.  Be sure to trace side seam and waist line differences (red colored-in sections).

3. Make adjustments to pocket piece.  Lay tracing paper over master pattern again and trace pocket piece and side and waist seams (green).  Mark adjustment point measured distance for side seam.  Pivot to increase and trace all new lines.  Be sure to trace opening edge and waist line differences.

4. Increases appear on front, hip yoke and pocket lining.  Adjustments are made to the center front, center back and side back as usual.

So far, I've only tried this method on paper.  I'm eager to make my next pair of pants so I can try it out.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Finished: BSM 04-11-138A and BSM 09-10-135

Top: Burda Style Magazine 04-2011-138A
hate sewing knits prefer sewing wovens.  Lately, I've been more selective when choosing knits and I've been more successful.  I purchased this knit from Gorgeous Fabrics and sewing it really wasn't that difficult.  The only difficulty was choosing the correct needle.  A jersey needle worked better than a stretch needle on this fabric.  Usually, it's been the other way around.  I don't know why it made a difference, but it did.

Pattern Description:  
This top is actually an amalgam of two tops.  The body is BSM 04-2011-138A and the neckline is Pamela's Patterns #104.  The original Burda neckline showed too much skin.

Pattern Sizing:
The BSM body comes in Plus sizes  44 - 52.  Pamela's Pattern is XS - XL

Were the instructions easy to follow? 
Since I used two patterns, I used two sets of instructions. Both were very easy to follow.  The original BSM top called for a turned under seam allowance at the neckline. I preferred a bound neckline, so I used the instructions from Pamela's Pattern.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
The fabric was slightly busy, so I wanted a simple design. This long sleeved t-shirt had no design details to conflict with or get lost in the fabric.

Fabric Used:
I hastily selected this fabric from Gorgeous Fabrics.  All I wanted was a black and white knit.  It was easy to sew and I'm slowly changing my mind about knits.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I tried making the changes to the neckline without using another pattern but I lost my nerve at the last minute.  Good thing.  When I compared my neckline adjustment with Pamela's Pattern neckline they were vastly different.   My neckline would have looked really strange and I probably wouldn't have worn the top.

There will be other times when I want a no-frills long sleeved knit top.  I'm certain to sew this again.

Pants: Burda Style Magazine 09-2010-135
How many pairs of black pants does one woman need?  According to my closet, several.   I've made yet another pair.

Pattern Description: 
These are typical fly front pants.

Pattern Sizing:
This is a Burda plus size pattern, European 44 - 52

Were the instructions easy to follow?

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
These pants have a partial lining on the front. I didn't know that when I decided on these pants, but I like the idea of a partial lining. The front lining was basted to the pants front and the two pieces were treated as one (technically, an interlining).  Even the fly guard was lined.  It makes a very neat appearance on the inside of the pants.

Fabric Used:
I bought this wool blend last year on a field trip to FabricMart.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I did not make any alterations to these pants, but when I make them again, I will add maybe an inch to the waist.

My next pair of pants is likely to be this pattern.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sewing Mojo v. Blogging Mojo

I've been spending more time in the sewing room and less time at the computer.  I'm glad my  sewing mojo is back but it's been difficult to find time or motivation to document my sewing progress in a blog.  I finished this outfit over a week ago, but I didn't take the time to photograph or write about it.  Really, there isn't much to say.

Tank Top - Burda 3215:  Piece of cake!  The instructions called for a turned under finish on the neckline and armscye.  I used bias binding instead.

Pants - Burda Plus Fashion SS-2010-426 : These pants have an elastic waist and a mock fly.  I think the concept of a mock fly is a little silly.  It's just as easy to install a zipper – so I did.

Blouse - Burda Plus Fashion SS-2010-424:   The blouse fabric was somewhat sheer,  but I chose not to do french seams.  A serged seam was good enough for this casual outfit.  I decided on a narrow 5-thread stitch with the chain stitch needle in the rightmost position  and wide three thread overlock stitch.  When I tried to insert a needle into the rightmost position, it just wouldn't GO!   The next day, I took my serger to the dealer for a little look-see.   I thought the problem was me, but it turned out there really was something wrong with the machine. The good news was it could be fixed while I waited.  The bad news was I had to wait while it was being fixed!  I love my dealer, but waiting for over two hours did get a little tedious.  It wasn't a total waste of time, though.  I got to read a few sewing books that were in the store and I advanced two or three levels in Angry Birds on my iPod.

The straight stitch needle plate made a big difference in sewing the lightweight fabric.  I paired the needle plate with the patchwork foot and I had no problems with the delicate blouse fabric. 

I worked on this outfit in 20-30 minute periods to give my mojo time to get unpacked and settled-in.  I'm happy with the outfit because it turned out just the way I pictured when I bought the fabric.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

If I Thought of it ………

……why didn't the Bernina engineers think of it?

Recently, I bought a straight stitch plate for my sewing machine.  I can imagine sitting down to the machine, switching to a utility stitch,  and ………wait for it ………… BAM!  The needle hits the the plate, breaks and scares me out of 6 months of life.  And let's not even think of the broken needle point flying toward my eyes.  As I sit at the machine, there is no easy way to tell which plate is in the machine by simply looking.

It's very easy to tell the plates apart when they are not in the machine.

Here's an idea:  Put the bright red warning decal on the FRONT of the plate when it can be seen!   Sure, I can mark the front of the plate with a permanent marker or a stick-on dot, but shouldn't someone at Bernina have thought of that?   

NB: I broke a needle before I even had a chance to edit and put up this post!!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

My Mojo: Gone But Not Forgotten

I always get a little disoriented during this time of year.  It's "Back to School" time and my mojo always gets out of the way because I can get quite bitchy when summer vacation ends.  This  school-year is different because, if all goes according to plan, I'll be retiring at the end of it.  My attitude about my last year working in a large and failing urban school district is not the best. Frankly, it sucks.  Trying to keep a rein on all that sucky-ness is stressful and the stress has leached into other parts of my life - including sewing.  But,  I don't worry anymore when my mojo takes a powder.  Eventually things will fall into place and I'll be a happy sewer again - even if I'm unhappy at work.

Recent sewing projects have been for my daughter.  She wanted more dresses and selected three Burda patterns.  Her tastes are very conservative for a 21 year-old. (I wonder where she got that from?).  She has no interest in the sewing process - only the finished garment.  So, I selected several patterns I thought she'd like and printed them out. Instead of searching through an entire pattern catalog, she had to search through only a few pages.
I liked 7798 because it was more youthful than the other two.  So naturally, she wanted 7602 and 7972 sewn first. I finished the dresses weeks ago.  Maybe my mojo sneaked into the box when I mailed the dresses to her.

Just when I thought my mojo was back, I started working on an outfit that will be totally inappropriate for the season by the time I finish it.   I ran into a little problem.  I'm using a soft, sheer fabric I bought during at Fishman's Fabrics during PR Weekend.  It's so soft and sheer, it bunches up under the presser foot and a glop of thread forms on the underside.  According to Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide,  I should be using a  small hole needle plate on my sewing machine.  I don't own a small hole needle plate, so a trip to my dealer is in order.  I was disappointed when I couldn't work on the blouse.  My mojo tried to come back to me but was prevented from doing so because I didn't have the right equipment.  I'm sure the trip to the sewing machine dealer for a new throat plate will be inspiring and my mojo will come back home where it belongs.

Monday, August 22, 2011

TNT Times Two

A few years ago, I remember lamenting I didn't have any TNT patterns.  Since then, I've established a few TNTs.  I just finished back-to-back versions of BWOF 03-2007-129, moving this pattern firmly into the TNT category.   It started with a fabric purchase impulse and a fabric purchase mistake.

When I dragged my daughter to Fabric Row to find fabric for a dress, I met and fell in love with the gold colored batik.  I wanted to get it sewn while it was still warm enough to wear it.  I first choose a sleeveless top, but it was getting late in the summer and I didn't think I'd get it finished in time.  My window for wearing sleeveless is very small.  So, I looked through my Burda index and selected 03-2007-129.  Serendipitously, the fabric matches a pair of pants I made a few months ago.

I didn't buy lining fabric for Lindsey's  dress during the first trip, so I went back to Fabric Row.  I was in such a hurry I left my brain at home on the dining room table.   I bought fabric that was totally wrong for the lining – but totally perfect for a blouse.  Time was still of the essence, so I chose #129 again.  (Actually, I was just too lazy to search for another pattern.) I don't like wearing white because I always seem to spill something on myself whenever I wear white.  But, there is always an occasion for a white blouse and now I have one appropriate for the summer. 

I like this blouse pattern because the seaming gives the blouse a little shape - a less boxy look.  I feel extremely fortunate to have found the buttons that were a perfect compliment to the gold batik. 

After these blouses, I'm going to make two dresses, in absentia,  for my daughter.  She won't be here for any trying on, fitting or photographing for blogs.  Before she left, I measured her from waist to hem so I could hem the dresses without her.  She was so funny!  She was worried that I wouldn't remember to add a hem allowance to the measurement and the dresses would be too short. Twenty-somethings really believe they know everything and their parents know nothing!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Burda 8227: DD's Dress

Finally, I got to sew something for my daughter!  I sewed dresses for her when she was young and didn't have a choice.  It's been such a long time since I sewed anything for Lindsey that I didn't really remember why I stopped sewing for her.  But she asked me to make a few dresses for her and I was happy to do it.  It's nice to sew something that is a regular size for a change.

This dress also comes in a sleeveless version and in two lengths. It comes in sizes 10 - 24, so if we were into that sort of thing, my DD and I could have matching mother-daughter dresses. The instructions were straight-forward.  I used a sheer stay tape to stabilize the gathers in the front.   The fabric is a cotton batik.  Lindsey said the colors reminded her of a friend from India.  I wasn't sure cotton was the right choice for this dress, but with the broadcloth lining, it worked. The lining is actually an interlining – two layers of fabric treated as one – on the bodice.   I didn't have to make any design changes and fitting wasn't necessary.

While working on this dress, I remembered why I stopped sewing for Lindsey in the first place. She doesn't enjoy selecting patterns.  In fact, I went to the Burda website and pre-selected and printed out several options I thought she would like.   She's usually too busy to shop for fabric with me and trying on clothes for fitting is torture for both of us.  But while we were in North Carolina, we survived a visit to Mary Jo's in Gastonia, NC where she selected two pieces and three patterns for future projects.

Bean and his proud Dad
And what were we doing in North Carolina?!?  We drove there to meet the newest member of the family –  my nephew, who has a perfectly good given name, but whom I lovingly call "Bean".  He also answers to "Love Buggy", "Pedro", "Prince" and "Asparagus"!  I guess I'll have to start sewing little boy clothes in the future!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Finished: BSM 05-2009-129

This dress came as a complete surprise to me.  When I bought the fabric,  I had no idea what I was going to do with it other than make a dress.  I got lucky when I married the fabric to BSM 05-2009-129.  I really like this dress! The silhouette is good for my body type; the full skirt balances my "top-heavyness".

The only pattern alteration I made was to lengthen the bodice to accommodate my low bust line.  (Gravity and age are merciless.) I used stay tape on the front gathers.  I marked the finished length on the stay tape, pinned the stay tape to the area to be gathered and adjusted the gathers to match that length. Finally, I sewed the gathered area to the tape.  The stay tape is sheer and adds no noticeable bulk to the seam.

Sometimes the Burda way of doing things is logical and make sense to me.  Other times, the Burda way of doing things makes no sense at all.  For example,  the lining is put in with the wrong side of the dress against the right side of the lining.  The  recommended fabric is chiffon, so I'm sure the reason for this is to prevent unsightly seam allowances and darts from being visible through the sheer chiffon.  That makes sense.  However, I didn't understand why the lining was not assembled as a single unit.  The bodice and skirt are lined separately and then sewn together at the empire waist.   I haven't made lots of lined dresses so I was confused and didn't see the rationale for this method.  I wished this lining were more conventional because I wanted to try a technique in the August/September 2011 issue of Threads (Sew Invisible Zippers Like a Pro p. 60) in which the lining is attached to the zipper tape completely by machine – no hand stitching!

I used my serger to make a rolled hem on the sleeve and skirt.  Burda's instructions suggest a "closely spaced zig-zag" and  I've used this method to finish edges on other Burda projects.   It works quite well if an overedge foot is used.  It was actually faster to use the overedge foot on the conventional machine than to set up the serger for a rolled hem with woolly nylon.  I heard my serger lament, "She never uses me enough!  I can do more than sew seams with a 5-thread combination stitich!  If she loves me, she'll use me!"  So, I listened to my serger and I used it for a rolled hem on the skirt and sleeves.

And, so ends the "Season of the Dress"  I've kept the promise I made in April and sewed several summer dresses! This one might just be my favorite.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

So Long, Kincus.

So long, it's been good to know yuh;
So long, it's been good to know yuh;
So long, it's been good to know yuh.
This dusty old dust is a-gettin' my home,
And I got to be driftin' along.

(Woody Guthrie, 1940)

My favorite Fabric Row store has closed.  Everyone would agree Philadelphia's Fabric Row is not what it used to be.  I've seen the slow demise in the years I've lived in Philadelphia.  Kincus was one of the "old guard"  Fabric Row stores.  The store was owned by the same family for generations.  Several years ago, half of the sales area disappeared.   Several months ago, my favorite sales person was laid off.   Now the whole store is gone.  I'm very sad.

This means I'm going to have to change the way I buy fabric.    I used to make spontaneous trips to Kincus and other Fabric Row stores after work to pick up one or two nice pieces for an outfit.  I could take a modest amount of money to Fabric Row with no guilt.   Now, there will have to be more planned trips to the Garment District in New York, which is having it's own survival problems.  A major shopping trip to the Garment District is not a bad thing.  I've enjoyed my trips to Metro and Mood.  But, a two hour train or bus ride is not as easy as a quick trip to South Philadelphia.  I'd have to spend considerably more money in New York just to make the trip worth the time and effort.

I do my best to support independent fabric stores.  I've watched to slow death of other independent fabric stores (and other small businesses), but this one really hurts.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Finished: BSM 04/2011 #135

Elizabeth made New Look 6022, which was really cute and which was very similar to BSM 04/2011-135.  Her dress was so cute, I was inspired to try something similar for myself, knowing that I'd need a dress  with more room.  This Burda version is less fitted than the New Look version.  This dress has raglan sleeves and in seam pockets.

A cursory look at the design would make one think sewing this dress would be a no-brainer. But, noooo! Burda made things a little more difficult. The neck binding was narrow and was meant to be folded, pressed and sewn in like bias tape.  Trimming the seam allowance; sewing on the fold line and folding the binding over the edge.  A french binding would have been easier. Because the binding was so narrow, I hand basted it in place before machine stitching for a neater appearance. This is the kind a situation where an edge-stitch foot is invaluable.  The instruction said to use fusible  bias tape to hold the pleats in addition to basting them in place.  Since the seam allowance has to be trimmed off before attaching the binding, the fusible tape holds everything in place

I'm in the midst of my "sew-dresses-and-sew-up-fabrics-from-PR-Weekend-before-I-buy-any-more-fabric" phase.  I confess, I did not buy this fabric during PR Weekend, but I did order it from Vogue Fabrics by Mail in Chicago so it still counts, sort of.

The instructions specify a flat felled seam for the sleeves. I've been practicing flat felled seams, but even with the special foot my flat felled seams are a little sloppy.  So, I pressed the seam allowance to the back and top-stitched.
I like the simplicity of this dress.  The  simple design allows the fabric to stand out.  The next time I find very pretty summer dress fabric I'll use this pattern.

Tracing Tip 

Few sewers love Burda Magazine patterns more than I do.  Since Burda includes only one pattern sheet, tracing the patterns has become a challenge even for the most dedicated fan. It's easy to loose the line I'm tracing among all the other lines.  I couldn't put my hands on a usable highlighter,  the "pre-tracing" method of choice, so I used Post It ™ arrows to point out the tracing lines.  I placed them at various points along the pattern lines so that my eyes have an easier time finding the line if I happen to turn away from the pattern sheet.  Granted, a highlighter makes the lines more visible, but this method worked in a pinch.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Sew/Fit Manual

I've always preferred the Pivot and Slide method of pattern alteration over the Slash and Spread method. This method involves tracing, pivoting and sliding the pattern to make the necessary width and length changes. I first learned about this method by watching Sewing with Nancy, so naturally I bought Fitting Finesse (Zieman, 1995). For a long time Fitting Finesse was my primary resource for pattern fitting information. When Nancy Zieman published an updated version, Pattern Fitting with Confidence (Zieman, 2008), I bought that one too.  I purged sewing books a while ago and I decided to keep Pattern Fitting with Confidence, believing "newer is better" and it would be my go to source for pivot and slide pattern fitting.  I was wrong.  Fitting Finesse contained information that was left out of Pattern Fitting with Confidence. I had to re-purchase Fitting Finesse to fit a dress with princess seams.

I own several books by Nancy Zieman and I refer to them often.  But I find them a little "watered down".   I decided to search for the undiluted Pivot and Slide book and the search led me to  The Sew/Fit Manual (Oblander and Anderson, 1992).  I'm embarrassed to admit, this was another book I owned and purged some time ago. Now that I've re-purchased The Sew/Fit Manual, I've taken a more critical look at it. I think it is an excellent resource for P&S and I don't remember why I ever got rid of it in the first place.  It covers much more than either of Zieman's fitting books. In addition to step-by-step instructions on completing scores of P&S alterations, the book has several chapters on fitting theory. In fact, the actual P&S "how-to" instructions don't begin until Chapter 5, page 159.  Detailed step-by-step instructions are given for measuring and marking the pattern pieces and pivoting, sliding and tracing to make the adjustments.  Full figures, petite figures and princess style adjustments are also covered.  And if, after all this,  I still needed the Nancy Zieman seal of approval, I learned she worked with the authors on the first edition and was the first model.

I have one criticism about this book - the artwork.  Some of the faces of the drawn figures are downright scary!  (Maybe I got rid of the book to stop the nightmares. ) Others are simply amateurish. Luckily, these are just the fashion illustrations and they can be ignored.  The diagrams that illustrate the processes are clear and that is what is important.

The Sew/Fit Manual was last published almost twenty years ago. New copies are available through Hip/Line Media.  I bought a used copy from Amazon.   I hope  I've finally learned my lesson about purging books.  There is no guarantee I'll be able to replace them.

Note:  I did find one newer comprehensive source for pivot and slide.  Fitting and Pattern Alteration (Liechty, Rasband and Pottberg-Steineckert, 2010) compares P&S, the Seam Method and the Slash Method for each pattern alteration.  I would like to own this book, but it cost over $90.   I'd have to give it a good, long preview before I spent that much money.  I can't trust myself.  After spending $90  I might purge it within a few years. With The Sew/Fit Manual and two Nancy Zieman books, there is no reason for me to buy another book on Pivot and Slide.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Finished: BPF SS-2010-413

A mistake I make all too often is to arrange a bad fabric/pattern marriage.  I really loved this linen purchased during PR Weekend in Chicago and I didn't want to make a dress that didn't make me happy.  I actually put some thought into this decision.  My original plan was to sew BSM 4-11-135A with this fabric, but that would have been boring.   I realized the fabric, being a solid color, could tolerate design details like interior seams and edge-stitching.  

This is a half size pattern and is drafted for a shorter figure.  For most measurements, the difference between regular plus size and half size is no more than 3/4".  I added length above the waist to lengthen the bodice and below the waist to lengthen the hem.

Belt casing
I like Burda's unique design details and this dress had quite a few. The pattern has a belt casing in the back, a cuff at the hemline, sleeve tabs and welt pockets in the front.  I've convinced myself that the casing is subtle enough that it won't look strange if I don't wear the belt.  I think the dress is more slimming without the belt.  I was unsure about the cuffed hemline.  I decided to throw caution to the wind and include the cuff.  Somehow something went wrong when I was lengthening the dress.   The cuffed side front panels were too long and didn't match the uncuffed center front panels.  The cuff had to be eliminated.  One thing in particular I didn't like:  when drafting the patten piece for the sleeve tabs, measurements are given for a simple rectangle. In the sewing directions you are instructed to "trim one edge of tab to a point." I really wished Burda had provided that simple pattern piece.  It took a little bit of trial and error before I could draft a point of pleasing proportions.  I didn't have any other tab pattern pieces to use as a guide.   Turns out, the best looking point was a simple right angle.  You really do learn from your mistakes.  After drafting so many strange looking acute angles, I'll remember to use a right angle to draft attractive points.  I decided to eliminate the welt pockets.  The placement of the welts, in addition to the belt, called too much attention to my belly.  

I'm glad I took the time to make a good fabric-pattern match.  The fabric I loved so much is now a dress I love.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Finished: Pamela's Pattern #104

After finishing BSM 06-2008-128, I wanted something that would require only 14 or 15 brain cells and no hand sewing.  Pamela's Pattern Perfect T-Shirt was just what I needed.  Besides, the serger was already threaded with the right color.  Whenever serger sales people said "You can sew a t-shirt in two hours!" they must have been talking about this pattern.  It is so basic you can sew it with your eyes closed.  An instructional DVD (purchased separately) is available for this pattern.  The DVD is easier to follow than the written instructions.  If you watch the DVD, you won't need the instructions. This is a very easy t-shirt and if you've made a t-shirt before, you can sew this one without any trouble.  This is Round 3 for this pattern and me.  The first try was just a tiny bit tighter than I like so I pivoted an inch more room into the bust and waist and I'm much happier with the fit.  The shirt has optional bust darts, which are recommended for larger sizes, and what Pamela calls "essence of waist".  These features yield a flattering fit for a t-shirt.  In her instructions, Pamela recommends "Heat 'n' Bond Lite" to prevent a wavy hem.  I used my serger's cover stitch and differential feed and waviness was not a problem.

This t-shirt was easy to sew because the knit fabric was cooperative.  It didn't shift and move every time I turned my back on it.   I bought it at The Needle Shop during PR Weekend 2011 - Chicago.  It cost more than I would normally spend for a knock-around t-shirt knit, but I was in a PR-Weekend-induced-shopping-frenzy. Coincidentally, while fooling around on the computer and googling random names, I recognized my fabric on a website.  Turns out it was designed by Jay McCarroll , the winner on the first season of Project Runway.   No wonder it cost so much! But, it behaved so nicely, it was worth the price.  I've learned the more selective I am about the knits I buy, the easier they are to lay out and cut.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Finished: BSM 06/2008 #128

This dress was the most labor-intensive project I've taken on in a long, long time.  I really, really wanted it to turn out well.  In order for it to turn out well, I had to commit to making a muslin and taking my time.

This dress came with a few challenges.  First was the band placement.   Since the  high-waisted band echoed my high-waisted body and I thought it would not be a challenge.  But, I'm large-busted in addition to being high-waisted.  My bust would raise the band even higher.  If ever a pattern cried out for a muslin, this was it!  Just as I expected, the muslin told me I needed to lengthen the bodice.  It also told me I need to increase the bust circumference.  This lead to the second challenge.

I'd forgotten how to make pattern adjustments to princess seams and I no longer owned the book, Fitting Finesse (Zieman, 1998) that addressed how to make those adjustments.    The simplest, albeit not the best,  solution was to order another copy of Fitting Finesse.  Luckily, I found a copy at Alibris for $2.45 ($6.44 including shipping – the shipping cost more than the book!).

The decorated waistband presented yet another challenge.   I wanted to duplicate the beading shown on the model, but I couldn't find large, flat beads in a matching color. So, I chose smaller beads and used decorative chain stitching to fill up the space.  I was torn between tone-on-tone and contrasting beads.  I chose tone-on-tone because that's my personality, but all those beads I sewed on one by one are barely visible.

Here's what I love about Burda Magazine instructions (she said sarcastically):   60% of the construction was condensed into the first sentence – "Stitch side front and side back seams on skirt and bodice of dress."  Once you've done that, add the waist band, sew the shoulder and side seams and the dress is practically finished!   Then, the instructions say: "Sew lining as dress."  Everything you need to know is there, but I'm amazed so much of the instructions are contained in two sentences.

This dress required more work than I've done in quite a while.  I sewed the lining to the zipper by hand.  Each and every bead is sewn on and back stitched to make it more secure.  Once I found the rhythm to the bead sewing, it went reasonable quickly.  I enjoyed working on it and it gave me a chance to take my sewing outside on the porch.  I wish I'd spent more time fitting the bust. The muslin fabric fit differently than the linen, so the bust is a little bigger than I expected. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sometimes, I'm My Own Worst Enemy

Every once in a while, I get fed up with the clutter and conduct a purge in the sewing room.  Most often I purge patterns;  sometimes I purge books.  Purging patterns isn't a big problem.  I use lots of Burda Style Magazine Patterns and if I absolutely have to,  I can always retrace patterns hastily purged.  Purging books is another matter.  Mistakes are not so easy to fix.  I got rid of several books a few years ago and I lived to regret it.  Gwen warned me, but I didn't listen.

Wouldn't you know,  I needed one of the books I so foolishly tossed aside in 2009.  Gwen is entitled to a big, fat "I told you so!"

My current project (BSM 06/2008 #128) needed a little enlarging in the bust area.  The dress has princess seams.  I forgot how to pivot and slide princess seams and I got rid of the book that would have helped me.    It wasn't all my fault.  Nancy Zieman should take some responsibility for my problem.  Her Fitting Finesse (1994) had information on using pivot and slide on princess seams.  The updated version, Pattern Fitting with Confidence (2008) omitted that information.  I believed having both books was just a waste of space, so I got rid of  the older Fitting Finesse.  When I needed to refresh my memory,  I discovered I didn't have the book I needed!  Who leaves important information out of an updated version of their book?!?  Thanks a lot, Nancy!

Did I buy a replacement?  I plead nolo contendere.  An observant reader will notice the photo above was taken in my own sewing room.  Please,  don't let me purge again.  Friends don't let friends purge sewing books.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Finished: Burda 8379

If I stick to my promise to not buy any more fabric until I sew most of my cache, the next four garments I make will be dresses.   I bought navy linen late last summer, but the weather got cold before I got a chance to use it.   Since it had the most seniority, it was next in line to be sewn.  When I bought it, it was supposed to be pants, but I decided I needed dresses more and choose Burda 8379.

This dress was very easy to sew.  The neckline is faced, the sleeves are finished with bias tape and it has a center back zipper.  That's it!  Nothing more difficult than a center back zipper.

I originally planned a different dress for this fabric, but I didn't have enough of the fabric for that dress. While the style is perfect for summer, navy blue isn't really a summer color unless it's paired with white.  The simple styling make a very comfortable dress to wear in hot weather.

While photographing this dress, I auditioned a few necklaces to wear with it. I like the length of the necklace pictured, but I think I need a necklace that is a little more substantial.

Better Late Than Never

Two years ago, Faye showed off the pattern weights  she made by wrapping ribbon around large, flat washers.  I've wanted to make a set for myself ever since.  I finally got around to it!    I adapted Faye's design by using single fold bias tape instead of ribbon and wrapping two washers instead of one.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Zippers – The New Old Way

I needed a 22" navy blue invisible zipper, so I went to my local JoAnn Crafts and Fabrics. There was no 22" navy blue invisible zipper, not even a 16" navy blue invisible zipper, so I bought a regular zipper.  Yes, I could have purchased another color because only the zipper pull would be seen, but I'm too obsessive for that.    I hadn't inserted a conventional centered zipper in ages.  When I did, I basted the center back seam, pinned the zipper over the basted seam and sewed it in from the right side.   The pins sometimes prevented the zipper from being sewn smoothly, so I thought this was a good time to try something different.  I found this method in The Sewing Book  (Smith, 2009).    It uses more hand basting than I'm used to, but I have learned to "embrace the baste."

I realized I've become too dependent on invisible zippers and  I decided to work on installing conventional zippers.  I was never completely satisfied when I inserted centered zippers the "old" old way.  Even using this "new" old way, the zipper teeth show a little more than I'd like. But then I'm used to invisible zippers where the teeth don't show at all.   There is a slightly different method in The Illustrated Guide to Garment Construction (2011) that still involves basting the zipper tape to the seam allowance.  Installing zippers better is a worthwhile goal for me.  It gives me an excuse to buy Bernina's zipper foot #14, which has a guide to insure straight top stitching when inserting the zipper.  Both The Sewing Book and Garment Construction were originally published in the UK.  Maybe this is the way zippers are done over there.  This method takes a little longer, but I'm willing to sacrifice speed for a neatly inserted zipper.  I'm sure the time will come again when I can't find the invisible zipper I need at JoAnn Crafts and Fabrics.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Finished: Vogue 7636

I had three items in my queue before I added eight pieces of fabric to my small fabric cache during PR Weekend. I plan to sew two of those items before starting on my Chicago Collection.  The third piece is being pushed back for fall sewing.

The first project was Vogue 7636, a Today's Fit by Sandra Betzina blouse, which I believe is out-of-print.  I've had this pattern for quite a while.  I made the long sleeved version, but I didn't like my fabric choice, seldom wore the blouse and forgot about the pattern.  I'm glad a gave it a second look.  I like this version a lot better.

My original plan was to cut the straight hem.  When I tried the blouse on, I thought it was too short.  If I'd made a muslin, I would have known about this situation before it became a problem.  Luckily,  I had enough fabric left to cut just the shirttail bottom and use it as a separate extension.  It was just a matter of adding a seam allowance and sewing it to the bottom of the shirt.  The side and shoulder seams were finished by pressing the allowances to one side and topstitching them down.  I used the same technique to attach the extension so the horizontal seam echos the seam connecting the yoke to the front.  My hope was that it would look like a deliberate design detail and not a mistake.

Added bottom extension

Today's Fit pattern instructions are personally written by Sandra Betzina.  The instructions for the yoke were a little confusing.  Two options were presented: one that involved hand sewing and the other was sewn entirely by machine. I've used the "entirely by machine" method countless times, but the instructions in this pattern still confused me.  The instructions mentioned something about reaching through the shoulder to pin the inner and outer yokes together, but that really wasn't necessary.  I just sandwiched the front and back between the yokes as I usually do.

I particularly liked the in-seam pockets on the front.  The sewing was a little fussy, but the pockets are worth the effort.
In-seam pocket
Betzina's instructions include encasing the seams on the pocket.  Encasing the seams is what made the construction so fussy, but it was a nice touch.

In spite of the extra touches, this blouse went together quickly and easily.  I'm sure I'll be making in again.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Several times during PR Weekend, I overheard conversations like this:

"Is that Vogue 7636?"
"Yes! And you're wearing McCall 2094, aren't you! I have that pattern, but I haven't made it yet!"

I am amazed that people have the ability to recognize garments and blithely refer to them by pattern company and number!  I usually have no idea of the pattern numbers of the clothes I make.  Is it just me?  When I used Big 4 patterns, I remembered the number only long enough to find it in the drawer.  Case in point, Rose asked me about the top I was wearing and all I could say was "Burda".  She told me that was like being asked what I had for breakfast and answering "eggs".  Were they scrambled, poached, over easy – what? After searching my brain, I did remember that the issue was from 2011, possibly February, or maybe March,  and that I mentioned it in my blog.  Woefully inadequate, I know.  I can't say from now on I'm going to try to remember the names of numbers of the patterns I use.  My post-menopausal brain won't allow that  But, I will be more diligent about putting identification labels in the garments – just in case.

Monday, May 16, 2011

PR Weekend 2011: Chicago

When my daughter told her little college friends her mom was going to Chicago for a "sewing conference", they all laughed in that condescending, parents are so lame kind of way.  But I bet every one of the over 100 PR Weekend attendees had more fun than those little college kids have ever had in their short little lives.  And we didn't have to binge on alcohol to do it!!! (Although I did enjoy a very tasty sangria in the room next door!)

PR Weekend was great!  The Chicago team did and excellent job of organizing events and allowed for just enough down time to socialize and prepare for the next fun event.  The organizers added up the total yardage bought by the entire group.   I don't remember the exact number, but it was a lot.  And people bought even more fabric after the total was posted!  I did my part to contribute to the grand total by buying eight pieces.  

I just loved the way the colors undulated across this fabric from Vogue Fabrics.  I'm not sure if it's rayon or cotton, but it will make a perfect hot weather dress.  I plan to e-mail a picture to Vogue and ask about the fiber content.  I bet I'll get an immediate response.  Vogue has such great customer service.

This piece, also from Vogue, will become a dress.  It was a recent offering in Vogue's swatch mailings and I didn't order it at the time. But, I have it now!  I'm not sure about this content either, but it's a good weight for all seasons.

I love sewing linen and these two pieces, purchased from New Rainbow Fabrics, will also be dresses.  I stalked Karen Teel, one of the organizers, and dragged her back to New Rainbow so she could show me exactly where she found the blue Italian linen.

I couldn't resist this cotton knit.  It's a knit that will stay put for layout for cutting.  I bought this at The Needle Shop, which had the best atmosphere and Feng Shui of any of the stores we visited.   Every piece of fabric was cleverly displayed and visible. The store appeals to the new generation of sewing enthusiasts as well as more experienced sewers.

I wouldn't be me if I didn't get some matchy-matchy coordinating pieces.  First, I bought the sheer cotton print (along with several other shoppers!) at Fishman's Fabrics.  Later, at Vogue Fabrics, I found the bottom weight poplin and silk for a tank to be worn under the sheer cotton.

Needless to say, I am very happy with my Chicago fabrics.  My goal for the weekend was to buy fabric for dresses and I definitely did that.  One of my Online Sewing Buddies (and she knows who she is!!!) who didn't attend this PR Weekend teased me about not using bright colors or prints.  These purchases should make her take back what she said! (wink)

On Saturday, we got up close and personal with several of Angela Wolf's couture pieces from her own personal wardrobe.  I've always wondered about the quilted lining on Chanel-style jackets. Angela brought two examples and I was able to examine the nearly invisible quilting.  Angela does a lot a beading on her pieces and I already have some ideas about adding beads to a dress I'm planning.

PR Weekends are special for many reasons.  Of course, the shopping was fantastic.  We got discounts at every store.  I shouldn't have to buy any more fabric until September!   And, I love that we gave a boost to independent stores.  I'll never forget the big smile on the face of the owner of New Rainbow Fabrics.  I'm sure we made a difference in his quarterly bottom line.  Attendees spent over $1500 at Soutache Embellishments.   And I met so many amazing people!!  Cynthia and Karen were a hoot!  Cennetta gave me parenting advice.  Iris and Renee understood the awe I felt when I walked into Mood for the first time and made me salivate for Britex in San Fransisco.  Sherrill and Ody hugged me every time I saw them made me feel like I had two lifelong friends I just hadn't met yet.  I wish we could all get together more often.  Anyone who has reservations about PR Weekends should definitely attend one.  It's an incredible experience.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Illustrated Guide to Sewing: Garment Constrution

I bought this book months ago after buying and loving two other books in the "Illustrated Guide to Sewing" series.  I delayed my purchase of this book because I thought it would contain the same information as the introductory books I already own.  Well, it does and it doesn't.

The introduction says, "These instructions are no doubt more detailed and demanding than those you are used to seeing, or those you found in your pattern envelope."   These are probably the techniques my mother and grandmother used when they sewed.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  For example, if I were sewing a blouse out of delicate lawn or handkerchief linen, I might use self fabric as an interfacing rather than a lightweight fusible.  I would use the instructions for sew-in interfacing provided in this book.  Garment Construction gives sewing instructions for five basic garments: Classic Dress, Classic Shirt, Classic Blouse, Classic Skirt, and Classic Pants (men's and women's).  First, the order of assembly is given, then detailed construction directions for things like zippers, cuffs waistbands etc.  This book is different because the techniques and methods are not the newest, fastest or easiest.    As I read the book, I thought it would be a very good supplement for a beginning sewer who is brave enough to use the patterns in Burda Style Magazine.  When BSM says "insert zip in slit", the sewer can turn to pp 108 – 109 and follow the 14 steps and detailed diagrams and instructions for a centered zipper absent from BSM instructions.  Fourteen steps to insert a centered zipper isn't intimidating.  Step 9 is simply "Close the zipper and turn the garment right side out."

I think of the methods in the book not as "old-fashioned", but as "traditional".  These are probably the methods used by professional dressmakers of the past, when "ladies who lunch" had their clothes custom made.  I wouldn't be surprised if custom dressmakers of the past saw the introduction of basting tapes and non-woven fusible interfacings as a dumbing-down of standard garment construction methods.  However, I am tempted to try some of the methods.  People use vintage patterns – why not vintage techniques?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Path to the "Perfect T-Shirt"™

1.  It all started with a trip to London Textiles.  I'd taken a few days off to celebrate my birthday and ended up at London Textiles in Cherry Hill, NJ.  I bought three pieces of knit fabrics. I'm trying to get over my reluctance to work with knit fabrics. I bought two pieces off the bolts for $8.00/yd and one piece from the remnant boxes for $4.00/yd. 

2.  On Saturday mornings, I sometimes watch "America Sews with Sue Hausmann". (I don't like it, but I watch it anyway.)   On this particular Saturday, Sue featured a product called Sew Slip which is used to make a slippery surface on the bed of the machine for free motion sewing.  I've been practicing free motion quilting and I wanted the Sew Slip, but I didn't want to wait days for an online order to arrive.  So, I decided to make phone calls to find a local seller.  

3.  The first store I called was Steve's Sew-n-Vac and they carried the Sew Slip.  Steve's recently moved to a new location and I was looking for a good reason to go there and see the new store.   Before the move, Steve's carried only quilting fabrics.  They now have a small selection of garment fabrics.  As a matter of fact,  I  noticed the same fabrics I'd bought at London Textiles and they were priced considerably higher than I paid. 

4.  I can't leave any sewing-related store without browsing around and while at Steve's, I noticed the display for Pamela's Patterns.  I looked over the selection and saw #104, The Perfect T-Shirt.  The simple pattern would be perfect for the knits I'd just bought at London Textiles.  I decided to buy the pattern and accompanying instructional DVD. 

5.  I took my selections to the register and the associate thanked me for choosing the pattern.  I thought, "Wow! What polite associates!"  Then I found out why.  It was Pamela Leggett herself of Pamela's Patterns.  We chatted about my knit issues and Pamela reiterated what everyone has been telling me; knits aren't a big deal.  According to Pamela, if you're spending more than five minutes arranging your knit for lay-out, (and I was) you're doing too much. 

6.  I sewed the Perfect T-Shirt!  Well, maybe not perfect, but pretty darn good!  Minor alterations were needed.    Pamela demonstrates a "fit as you sew" approach on the DVD.  This approach works only if you need to make something smaller.  I used pivot and slide to add an inch to the bust area and I will enlarge the jewel neckline the next time (and there will be a next time) I make this top.  This is a very basic pattern with no design details so I could focus on the actual sewing techniques.  The pattern has three neckline variations and four sleeve lengths.  The instructional DVD was helpful in that it provided demonstrations and information that is usually not in pattern sheets.  For example, Pamela recommends blocking after sewing the neck band and the hem.  I don't think I ever blocked a knit.  But it makes a big difference that is evident on the DVD and on the actual garment.   My problem with knits was that I expected them to behave like wovens.   I now respect the differences and I feel more confident about sewing knits.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Shopping With A Purpose

My wardrobe has not evolved since I was eight years old.   In fact, my wardrobe is less functional and varied now than it was way back then.  When I was a child, my clothes fell into three categories:  school clothes, Sunday dresses, and play clothes.  In the early 60s, girls did not wear pants to school and my pants were considered play clothes.  But I had school dresses and Sunday dresses. Today, the lines separating the categories have blurred.   My work clothes and church clothes are essentially the same.  Since I wear pants to work everyday,  I own very few dresses.   I've gone backward.  It's sad. 

This realization came to me while I was standing in front of my closet on a recent Sunday morning, looking for something to wear to church.  I simply do not have enough dresses.  Really, what beats a dress for quick and easy church dressing?   A dress and necklace and I'm styled and ready to go!  To address this challenge, I've decided to dedicate PR Weekend to  dresses!    SWAP now stands for Shopping With A Purpose!  I can shop without stress because I'm freeing myself from my compulsion to buy coordinating fabrics for tops and bottoms.  Any and all fabrics are open to me, yet I won't be overwhelmed because I'll have a specific goal.   I've already identified several dress patterns, some for knits and some for wovens, so it will be very easy to assign patterns to fabric once I actually buy the fabric.  All I have to do is find fabric I like.  That won't be a problem.  If I happen to see coordinates, I'll snatch them up, but dresses are my focus.

Now that I have this new definition of SWAP, I can't wait for PR Weekend!