Wednesday, August 31, 2016

End of Summer Recap

I usually don't "Cry Uncle" on summer sewing so early but I really want to spend September or at least the first three weeks of it sewing for the girls. Even though September tends to be warmish, I'm good with a month of repeats while I do a little unselfish sewing.

However, I did want to take this opportunity to recap my spring/summer sewing. The best of which was that I got to sew dresses again. I'm sure if you've been following along here for a minute you know how much I love a dress!

I love the denim dresses I made for spring and I fully intend on wearing them during the fall season.  Even though all of them wore well and I'm glad to have them in my wardrobe, my favorite was "The Denim and Faux Leather" Dress.

I started the summer thinking that I would make a load of McCalls 6559 dresses both the short and maxi length versions since they wore so well last summer. However, after sewing a few dresses from my TNT pattern, I realized that I really wanted a more full skirted, flowy maxi dress. So a series of those emerged from the sewing machine.

However, remaking Simplicity 1621 became a priority after I wore last year's version and I ended up with my most comfortable dress of the season.

I wore that pink one every where until I had to remind myself that I had other dresses to wear! It has been one very hot and humid summer here so anything that was loose and flowy was a win!

The stars of the summer were the t-shirt dresses ~

They were such stars that I should have made five of them as I originally planned! They dressed up and down, went to work, to church and out to the movies. They worked with heels, flats and sneakers. I will be making more of these with longer sleeves for fall!

My all-time favorite dress of the summer though was the maxi I made from McCalls 7385 ~

This dress was fabulous and made from fabric from Joann's. It totally blew me away that they had such great fabric and that it sewed up into this amazing dress. I got compliments every time I wore it.

I really wanted to make another one before the season ended but time got away from me. However, I did pick a rayon crepe fabric with an autumn feel that if I can find some time, I just may sew it up before fall is over. It would be great with a cardi and some booties.

My total spring/summer sewing breaks out like this ~

10 dresses
5 maxi dresses
5 skirts
2 tops

Equals 22 garments in total - not great but not bad either! Actually I'm thrilled with the variety that I added to my summer wardrobe especially when mixed with what I sewed last summer and what I'd already had on hand.

So a few weeks of unselfish sewing and when we get back to me, I will definitely be sewing fall items! always more later!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Well I'm Not Sewing...

...and it's hard to blog if you have nothing newly sewn to share! And I hate to leave this space blank for too long ~ so what to do ~ why share what I'm thinking about, plotting, deciding of course.

See I've pretty much lost my desire to sew summer clothing. I feel like I have quite a bit of variety now. It doesn't help that for most of the summer I haven't worked Fridays. So only having four days to dress for work makes me feel as if I'm okay...definitely not how I felt last year this time.

However, I'm moving into another season of selfish sewing. Even though my daughter has sewing skills with four small children and a full time job, she really has no time. I've volunteered to sew for the girls for back to school. So I'm knee deep into planning and plotting about 10 pieces for each girl.

Then my daughter has a black tie event to attend and I offered to make her a black sequin mini dress for it...more unselfish sewing. It will be a good month before I get back to sewing for no sewing posts yet.

Here's what I've been doing instead ~

One ~ 
Even though I've really tried not to buy any fabric, every once in awhile, a sale gets me and I buy a couple of yards. I should really learn NOT to open the emails from Fabric Mart. These jacquard pontes were just $4.40 per yard so I bought a few yards.

Two ~ 
I've bought a couple pair of jeans since the Labor Day weekend sales have started. I know that everyone is making their own but I'm not ready to do that yet. I'm not sure if I'm ever going to be ready but I'm learning not to say never concerning my sewing especially since my life has changed so much in the last couple of years. 

I bought the jeans because I know in what direction I want my sewing to go this fall/winter. Since I already own so many sweaters, turtlenecks etc. from my former life that wore well last fall/winter, I want to add more vests, toppers and long dusters to my wardrobe. There will probably be a couple of tunics and button down shirts, and a dress or two added also. Now that I have a plan and I've started a list, I'm fine waiting until October to sew for me.

Three ~ 
I saw this technique on Pinterest - Sharpie Tie-Dying and I tried it out. Examples of it are here in my Pinterest folder.

All the supplies together with a cup to try my tie-dye samples

First sample - just some circles with the alcohol added

Using circles and squibbles for second sample

I need to experiment a little more but I think I'd like to try this on some white ponte I have for a funky tie-dye tunic for fall. Especially since I want to try some of the techniques I've pinned.

So these are some of the things I've been working on INSTEAD of actually sewing. always more later!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Wardrobe and Sewing 2016

Back in 2008, during the third year of writing my blog, I wrote a post called "My Wardrobe and Sewing."  In it I talked about the fact that 90% of my wardrobe was made by me. I discussed what I sewed and why, and what determined a RTW purchase for me.

Several of you must have read it recently because it showed up in my "popular blog posts" listing on the sidebar. To be honest, I don't even remember writing that post but then I have been writing this blog for 10 years so that may be why.  Anyway, I thought I would update the post reflecting on my life now cause hey it never hurts to look back to help you move forward.

So in 2008 I said that I made about 90% of my wardrobe. I can say that's no longer true! Weight loss, job and lifestyle changes caused me to not only give away most of my wardrobe last year but it also changed what I wore and sewed. Presently I would put the percentage of me-made in my closet at 25-30%.

Which after years of having a predominantly me-made wardrobe is just astonishing to me...and was hard to handle during my first fall & winter at this job. Even though I'm sewing as fast as I can, it takes time to get to that number again...especially when you have to redevelop your TNT patterns.  

I have to tell you that I recently made a pair of pants and I'm not sure that I like them. The fit is close-fitting in the abdomen area and I hate the way it looks and feels. I think I've worked out a fix for a more comfortable fit but my pants pattern is still a work in progress. As of now, all of my bottoms are RTW with their inherent fitting issues. 

So let me ask you, how much of your wardrobe is me-made?  I know that since there are Me Made months held to highlight your makes, and there's more awareness/interest in sewing the majority of your own wardrobe ~ including underwear ~ how many of you have set a goal to sew the majority of your wardrobe?

This is the question of the day.  In 2008, there was a great conversation attached to that post.  48 people talked about their wardrobes and sewing.  If you left a comment then, I would love to hear from you now.  And if you weren't reading the blog then but would like to get in on the conversation, I would love to hear from you, too.

This is the Question of the Day - so talk back to me! always more later!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Pattern Collecting - Past Present & Future

About 8-9 years ago I was neck deep into collecting vintage patterns. My era of choice was 60s Jackie Kennedy style suits and 60s mod fashions. I was also highly enamoured of Sybil Connolly patterns. I spent a lot of time on eBay and Etsy tracking down Sybil Connolly patterns...A LOT OF TIME! I was also a regular on a couple of vintage pattern sites...always searching to add more styles that I liked to my personal collection.

I'm writing about this because I was looking for a pattern recently amongst the piles of patterns in the sewing cave searching high and low in drawers, containers and the plastic file cabinets. I would say that patterns are the second most abundant item in the sewing cave, right after fabric!

Anyway during the search, I found my stash of vintage patterns.  They are stored in several out of the way drawers, probably because I rarely think about them now that they've been bought, received and admired. I know that it was mostly the hunt for them that gave me joy because I only sewed a couple of the patterns. 

The pattern used the most was this jacket pattern ~ Vogue 2285:

I loved this pattern so much that I made it in 2008 as an Easter Suit and then again in 2013 and would love to figure out a way to add it to my wardrobe now. Can you imagine this in a great denim?

Another pattern that I used and would love to make again is Vogue 5265. 

I made this dress in 2008 and wore it quite a few times that year even with the belt! It was an interesting learning experience. The journey is detailed here.

So the trip down memory lane made me realize that there are still an abundance of Vogue Couturier, Vogue Paris Original, Vogue Americana, Simplicity, Butterick, McCall's and by no surprise Donna Karan patterns on eBay. It's the wonders of the Internet's Greatest Garage Sale. This is not meant to omit other older patterns of every era. If you're willing to look, they can be found. I did start a Flickr album of some of the vintage patterns in my possession. You can see them here.

Why am I discussing this? Because patterns have been around for decades! Indie designers are nothing new. I found loads of indie patterns in my collection from the 80s & 90s, Purrfection (now Dana Marie Design Co.), Lois Ericson, LaFred, Loes Hinse Design, L.J. Designs - shown below.

Patterns like fabric, needle & thread, scissors and a sewing machine are all essential to making an item...whether it be a garment, a quilt, a toy or an accessory. Being an active member of the online sewing community, I'm often amazed at how "in the present" we are and how we seldom look back at what came before.  

Yes, there is an active vintage sewing community who focus on certain eras that they admire and sew from but that's just a portion of the community. What about the majority of the community?  Do we look back and recognize the past? Do we realize that some of those cool boho looks that indie designers are selling now have already been around?  And that those patterns can still be found at the great internet garage sale?

Sometimes as someone who's been sewing for over 46 years, its hard to reconcile. It's also hard not to sound like a dinosaur or the old lady under the tree telling history lessons in the middle of the village. Many times I just want to say if we love this artform so much, why don't we take the time to learn the history of it.  To appreciate the journey of those who've come recognize the transformation of the pattern companies and how they've made the journey through the eras to still be here today providing inspiration for us?!

This post isn't to bash anyone or to praise the Big 4 pattern companies ~ though I do believe they are doing an admirable job these days reaching out to their customers ~ it's more to say, recognize the past.  Honor it and realize that we are standing on the shoulders of the sewists/sewers/seamstresses that have gone before. Don't be so quick to dismiss the past in your enthusiasm and realize that we ARE rooting for you to succeed and to carry our combined love of sewing forward to the next generation!

I would hate for 100 years from now that a sewing machine (in all it's forms) along with patterns and fabric are relics in a museum highlighting a dead artform. always more later!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Vogue 7271 - Maximized

After I made Vogue 7271, I knew I would make it again because I always saw it as a maxi dress. I even pulled a couple of fabric contenders...but there were other patterns and more garments to make, so it took me a minute to circle back around to this pattern. I'm just happy that I did before the summer ended.

Supplies ~
1/2 yard of white ponte that was gifted to me for my birthday
Black/White/Grey rayon from the fabric collection via Fabric Mart
22" white invisible zipper

Pattern and Construction Info. ~
The first thing is that I made the corrections to the pattern pieces from the alterations I made to the first dress.  Then I cut the bodice out of the white ponte fabric.

These are the alterations made to the bodice:
- added an inch to the bodice of the dress 2" below the armhole to lengthen it from the weird empire length of the original version. This was done to the front and back bodice pieces.

- raise the front and back darts 1/2" to make up for the additional length added to the bodice

- scooped out of the neckline 5/8" to make it a little deeper because it felt tight when I tried the dress on

- added small darts in the armholes to ease out excess fabric

- because I used a knit fabric for the bodice I took the side seams in an additional 1/4" so that the top fit closer to my bustline.

- added bias binding to the neckline and armholes to finish them

The second thing is that I didn't use the skirt pieces for the maxi portion of the dress. 

The skirt was cut from the rayon print:
1. I cut two pieces of fabric 43" long and the entire width of the fabric - 54"

2. After I had two pieces, I cut one piece in half lengthwise.

3. The three pieces were serge finished.

4. Then the two shorter pieces were sewn on either side of the main piece to form the side seams.

5. To gather the top seam, I used my favorite method - zig zagging over dental floss. Then the dental floss was gathered, spreading the gathering equally around the skirt.

6. I used lots of pins to hold the gathered skirt to the bodice

7. The bodice and skirt were carefully stitched together. The seam was pressed down into the skirt and the gathers were pressed flat.

8. I cut 2" off the hem after I let the dress hang for a week allowing the rayon fabric to grow. Hemmed the dress with a 1" hem allowance and three rows of stitching.

A few pictures of the finished dress ~

Dress without the ribbon belt

Dress worn with a RTW cardigan

Conclusion ~
Due to the fact that my photographer has been very busy this summer, I wore this prior to blogging about it.  So here is the wearability report. I wore it on a really hot and humid day and it was perfect both inside the office and while moving around outside. I love the flow and the width of the rayon skirt. Using the ponte for the top gave me a close but comfortable fit. I've photographed it with & without a black grosgrain ribbon, however, I didn't wear the ribbon to work.

This year I really wanted several full flowy skirted maxi dresses. This dress more than fulfills my desire, especially since I can feel the difference when wearing the two different styles. If I get a chance to make another maxi dress before the summer ends, it will be another flowy skirt kind. I've really loved wearing these maxi dresses this summer and would like a few more. always more later!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A High Low Skirt

I'm greatly influenced by what I see on the streets where I work.  There's probably so much inspiration because I work near the garment district and walk through the district every evening on the way to the Port Authority. 

This week's inspiration was an amazing high-low skirt on a pretty young thing that was walking towards me. Her high-low was so obviously high as in thigh length which made the low so dramatic because it was ankle length. Now I knew I couldn't pull that look off but I could a regular high low skirt.

I came home that Thursday evening aching for one, especially since I've worn the pink version of Simplicity 1621 to death because it's so comfortable...the most comfortable thing I've made this summer! I knew I should have looked for a pattern for this skirt but Simplicity 1621 was still on my mind. It was really easy to adjust the dress pattern to make a skirt from it.

Here's what I did ~

1. Folded both the dress front and back at the waistline markings on the skirt.
2. Laid the pattern pieces down on the fabric and added 1" to the top of the
    pieces by marking with chalk.
3. Sewed the front and pieces together and pressed the seams open.
4. Added 2" elastic to the waistline.

Sewing order ~
  • measured the elastic around my waist, pulled and cut it 3" shorter than my waistline
  • Sewed a 1/2" seam in the back to work with the elastic in the round
  • Placed pins at the 4 edges of the elastic
  • Elastic was pinned to the skirt at the four points
  • Then stitched to the skirt by slowly sewing and stretching the elastic and fabric to match.
  • After the first row of stitching, I stitched it again all the way around to insure that the stitching would hold.
  • Pressed the gathers flat
  • Stitched it down
I turned up 1/2" hem and stitched it down. The skirt was done. I used a lightweight linen that I bought from Marcy Tilton's booth at Expo in March. I'm determined to use as much of that fabric purchase as possible this year. The 2" elastic for the waistband was in the collection. I have it in white and black. It was bought a couple of years ago to make skirts like this.

A few pictures ~

...and worn with a RTW yellow sweater...

Conclusion ~
I couldn't believe that the skirt made up so quick and easy! It's nice to have a trendy, yet age and work appropriate piece. If you want to make one of your own and don't have Simplicity 1621, try one of these...

This will go into rotation this week cause it's still hot here! always more later!

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

McCalls 7385 - A Flowy Maxi Dress

I've had this pattern since it was first released because I love maxi dresses! However, I made so many versions of McCalls 6559 last year, that I have absolutely no desire to sew any more of that pattern this year. 

I've fallen hard for long, flowy maxi dresses because a maxi with a lot of fabric keeps you warm in the manufactured air...yet handles a nice breeze outside with a gently flowiness. So the desire for more flowy maxi dresses is why I ended up sewing this pattern.

Supplies ~
Floral linen purchased from Joann's with a birthday gift certificate
Blue rayon suiting from Fabric Mart via the fabric collection
22" lt. blue invisible zipper
blue bias binding

Pattern Alterations ~

Before I talk about the construction of this dress, I need to say that I HATE the main front pattern piece for this dress. I have NO idea why it was necessary to make the center front bodice and skirt the same pattern piece. It's a recipe for disaster. Cause matching, cutting and clipping that front insert is a beast and not easy to do. Making separate pieces would have made it soooooo much easier to construct!

Construction Info ~
This is a cup size pattern so between that the fact that there is soooooo much fabric in the skirt, I didn't need to make any alterations to the pattern pieces. Seriously, I made NO pattern alterations with this dress. I sewed a size 22 straight out of the envelope.

So here are the deets for making my version of this dress ~
  1. The neckline was a little to low so I raised it an inch and added seam tape to both sides of the seam to reinforce the seam then I went and lowered it after I added a front facing.
  2. All of that fabric had to be gathered. I used my new favorite gathering method, zig zagging over dental floss and all of that fabric that had to be wrestled through my sewing machine. That was an experience in itself!
  3. Originally I had the front slit in the dress skirt but after trying it on, I removed the topstitching and sewed the front seam up. I think it didn't work as well because I used the linen and not a drapier fabric like rayon.
Here is where I deviated from the pattern instructions ~
The pattern suggests that you line the sides of the dress front and back and then handstitch it to the center front and back pieces. You use those pieces to finish the armhole stitches.

However, I used the split neck version for my dress and I knew those pieces would flop open. I didn't want the reverse sides of the center front pieces showing. So I changed this. I cut another set of center front pieces and made a back facing piece.

I used those pieces to finish the neckline. Then I added some bias binding to the armholes to finish them off.

Also I always saw the top of the dress colorblocked.  So I used two separate fabrics to make the vision I saw in my head come to life. I'm very pleased with how the two fabrics worked together and how the finished dress looks.

Pictures of the dress ~

Worn with a white sweater...

Conclusion ~
Halfway through making this dress, I thought why am I branching out and using different styles? The dress was baggy and it seemed to make my hips look really wide!  And I thought I will never wear it alone, it will always need to have a cardigan over it.

Get to the end after making a few more fitting adjustments and I'm a little amazed at the dress. I guess it's okay to step out of your comfort zone every once in awhile especially since I got several compliments when wearing this dress.

I'm not the only one who's made this dress recently. Margo who authors the blog, Creating in the Gap made this gorgeous version. We chose different fabrics and Margo made the dress per the pattern instructions, however, I think we both ended up with great versions of the pattern. It also more than fulfilled my desire for a full, floaty maxi dress. always more later!

Sunday, August 07, 2016


Denim has been on my mind a lot lately and if you know me you've heard me speak about recently.  Denim is the fiber of choice at my company. So not being a jeans girl it's taken me a minute to rethink my thoughts on denim.

Back in the spring I made a couple of denim dresses.  You can see them here, here and here.  It's been so hot here lately that they've been shoved into the closet to await cooler weather in the fall. 

During the making of these dresses, I realized that I can make anything from denim.  So all of those dress and skirt patterns that I've been gloaming on thinking that I'd never be able to sew them now, have gained new life in my creative mind. Serious mike drop moment here!

Then I'd been hearing about the Refashioners Denim Challenge on IG and a couple of sewists blogs. The premise totally intrigued me so I tracked down the origins of the posts using #refashioners2016 on Instagram.  That led me to Portia's blog, Makery...random acts of creativity, where all of the information on this year's refashioning challenge using denim jeans is contained. There are some amazing outfits being made from discarded/unused and unwanted jeans.

I've collected a few items on my Pinterest board using recycled jeans to make maxi dresses but these new refashions are so imaginative and creatively stimulating adding more fuel to my creative fire. Not being a jeans girl myself, I only have two pairs of jeans that can be recycled. One is a pair that is a little too tight. I probably could wear them in another couple of months but I have an idea to "boho" them up a little so I'm going with that. 

My other pair is a brand new pair that are 3 sizes too large for me...they were accidentally shipped to me in an online order. These will definitely be cut up. I have no plans to enter the Refashioners competition, but I do want to do a little refashioning and reusing.

I have an idea for a new dress using parts of both of these jeans and the leftover scraps from my previous denim makes. Refashion and reuse, right?! Anyway, this isn't next on my cutting table. There are a new pair of pants cut out with coordinating pieces and I want to try McCalls 6886 in a couple of ITYs. It's still really hot here and probably will be into September. So while fall is on my radar, it's just on the perimeter.

There will be a lot of denim showing up here this fall and winter in a lot of different patterns both new and tried-n-true. I'm pretty psyched about that! always more later!


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