Monday, July 30, 2018

And The Winner Is...

The LUCKY winner of Kate's book "Making Life More Beautiful" is...

#19 - Maria!

Maria - would you send me an email at cnorman underscore 98 at yahoo dot com and I will forward your information to Kate. She will contact you and get the book delivered to you.

Thanks to everyone who participated and if you want a copy of Kate's book, please use this link to purchase it from her blog!

Saturday, July 28, 2018


As noted in the Baltimore DeStash blog post, I gave away 45.5 yards and as a I rumbled through my fabric collection, I realized that I was ready to let go of quite a bit more of my collection.

There are several reasons for this:
1. I've run out of storage space.
2. My daughter who has always eagerly anticipated getting my fabric collection looked at me a couple of weeks ago and told me that this was too much for her to handle getting rid of...what?!
3. I've admitted to myself that I'm NEVAH going back to Corporate America especially since I love my day job and hope to retire from this amazing workplace.

So while I only donated 45.5 yards to Baltimore Destash, I made arrangements with someone from a local high school to donate 150 yards of my "corporate fabrics." I did make sure to include some knits, poly blends and shirtings, fabrics young people would like to sew.

The bags sitting in the dining room waiting to leave!
One of the fabric shelves rearranged and with room on them!

Honestly this was a larger task than I'd anticipated. While I thought I would be ruthless going through the shelves, I was actually more attached to some of the fabrics than I realized. *sigh* So initially it took a lot to comprehend that even though it's beautiful fabric and I love needed to go. As I said, I love my fabric collection but it's supposed to be a resource that I use and am inspired by...not just a place for fabric to come and die.  

First bag of donated fabrics

Now I know some of you have never understood the collection and why it was necessary to my creative well-being. I'm sure you're also thinking you were right about me having too much but in all honesty, the bulk of the collection is going nowhere. I'm just pruning and making it more usable for me and future sews, sorta like what a good plant owner does to their plants. I'm also determined that I can access all of the fabric that presently lives here which I was unable to do before losing the 200+ yards from the collection.  As I type that I totally understand that this is the amount of fabric in some sewists stashes.

Second bag of donated fabrics - including some 
beige/brown fabrics not shown

While I was determined to get some of my fabric piles from behind the cutting table onto the shelves that didn't happen. I did gain a lot of space on the shelves but not an entire shelf as I had envisioned.  I've had denim sitting in a corner on a box that I would rather have shelved, so I know what I have. While that didn't happen, I think I've found another portion of the cave that I can clean up and move the denim. Now to take some precious sewing time to make it happen.

Last pile of fabrics before bagging

I wanted a shirting space since I'm inspired to sew more shirts and shirtdresses now. I would like those pieces to be more visible and not scattered across the shelves. I did manage to accomplish that!

Included in the donation bags are some ITY knits because I'm admitting that I truly hate ITY knits on my plus size body and am donating quite a bit of them.  See this is about knowing who I am at this stage of my life and doing something about it...hahahahaha!

My challenge going forward is not to add huge amounts of fabric to the collection. I need to seriously use what I have on hand because there is some beautiful fabric on the shelves. Now I'm not saying that I won't buy pieces, I'm just not buying because it's pretty, because I'm emotional (mad, sad, stressed out), because there's space on the shelves for more or just because. 

I want my fabric buying to be as strategic as it's been in the last 18 months, things that I want in my wardrobe now...not in the future. So not only am I pruning the collection but I'm changing my buying habits too. My goal is for the collection to be a third to half less of it's present size by the time I retire. Long term goals yes but still in line with this post I wrote several years ago. 

Here are my monthly fabric in/out totals for June and July:

Fabric in 35 yards
Fabric out 53.5 yards
As of June I had 16 more yards out than in 

Fabric in 13 yards
Fabric out 169.5 yards (153 yds donated + 16.5 yds sewn)
Total yards out for July = 156.5

Finally I'm 172.5 yards more out than in for the year - thank goodness for that donation! I've given away 200 yards of fabric this year and am looking at another local high school to make another donation too. One of the things I loved in high school was the fabric pile that was donated for when I didn't have money to buy fabric. Hopefully I can provide that for another budding sewist.

Now I just need a couple months of no fabric in with only fabric out stats and I will feel like I'm truly accomplishing my goal of sewing down the collection. Here's hoping I can accomplish that since I truly love fabric sooooooooo much!

BTW, I'm also letting go of about 30 pairs of heels that I couldn't release earlier too.  I wear heels to church only so I just need some basic pairs. Plus my sneaker collection needs somewhere to rest besides my bedroom changes, y'know. 

So how about you? As your life changes does your fabric or pattern collection? Do you hold onto fabric or patterns that you're no longer sewing? Have you thought about donating these to others?  This is my Question of the talk back to me and tell me your thoughts! always more later!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Making Life More Beautiful book by Kate Davies

I've "known" Kate for several years.  She's one of those online sewing friends that I've communicated with offline and would love to meet in person.  So I was really interested when I learned she was writing a book!

I'm always enthralled when someone decides to not only write a book but self-publish. That's determination! When Kate approached me and asked if I would review her book, it was a definite yes! 

I would call Kate's book more of a lifestyle book than strictly a sewing or crafting book.  It touches on a number of sections about beauty and making your life beautiful that add to the sewists experience which aren't normally found in sewing books.  BTW, I'm reviewing this book from a sewists perspective.

Let's dig into the book!  The first section is on Beauty which has four sections ~ your coloring, your body shape, your wardrobe & personal style and fashion.  As sewists, we need information like this to insure that we're making garments that not only fit our bodies but enhance our lifestyles.

The beauty section also contains an in-depth segment on colors and which coloring works best for our skin tones.  An important concept that sewists should master to make the best color choices for our garments.

There is a really important section on proportion.  Again a needed concept for sewists to grasp and understand, knowing how to incorporate it into their sewing projects.

Two additional parts in the beauty section that struck me were the wardrobe types and where Kate discusses capsule wardrobes. In wardrobe styles, which we know is not a new thing, the twist Kate gives it is what I loved most. She named the wardrobe styles by celebrity names, for example - the classic wardrobe style is called Jackie Kennedy!  Capsule wardrobes which are near and dear to my own heart, is detailed and how they work for a sewist in building a cohesive wardrobe that will be worn and loved.

Making is the next section ~

A really fascinating introduction which touches on why we make and the history of patterns.  Of course the first section is on sewing with several projects highlighted and instructions on how to create them.

The next two sections are on knitting (because if you've followed Kate's blog, you know she is an amazing knitter!) and crocheting where there are also several projects to make including the instructions. After the sewing, knitting and crocheting projects, Kate has included a section on making your own textiles.

Life is the final section of the book ~
This portion is all about building a beautiful life through your surroundings and developing a creative team to help inspire you to move forward in your creative journeys.

It is a well-written book full of breathtakingly beautiful pictures. It includes a resource center at the back of the book. In full disclosure I'm one of the people acknowledged and thanked. Honestly though, I read the entire book and found that at the end. I didn't know about it beforehand and was extremely touched.

So of course Kate is giving away one book to be won by one lucky sewist.  If you're interested in winning a copy of this amazing book, please drop a comment in the comment box below - only comments left here on the blog are eligible for the giveaway.  The giveaway is open from today until Friday, July 27th at 11:59pm EST.  The winner will be picked over the weekend and announced on Sunday, July 29th.

However, if you don't wanna wait to win the book, you can always purchase it directly from Kate via her blog or on Amazon UK.

Good luck to everyone entering the drawing! always more later!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Pinstriped Montrose Top + Full Legged Pants

I started out making just a pair of pants to wear with my black Cashmerette Concord Tee. Then I realized I had enough fabric left over to make another Montrose top so this is what I ended up making ~

The fabric is a linen/cotton blend that was one of the five pieces I bought from Fabric Mart during Sew Camp. I got four yards of it. I originally purchased it thinking that I would make a flowy waisted shirtdress. Well since I've sworn off waisted shirtdresses, I had to come up with another plan. These garments ended up being my "other plan."

As I stated above the idea for the pants was first. Then came the top, but for this post, I'm going to discuss the top first.

Montrose Top ~
This version is made with the pattern length added back to the pattern pieces and the two-piece gathered back. Also the stripes were manipulated to make it with some black ribbon added to make the black pinstripes pop.

I also changed up the sleeves, cause why not?  I cut the sleeve pattern piece into two pieces.  Primarily because the sleeves were cut from fabric scraps after the pants and top body were cut out.

- I added a 5/8" seam allowance and sewed the sleeve pieces together - 2" down from the sleeve cap.
- Pressed open and then topstitched
- Added the 2" ribbon to the top of the sleeve
- After the top was finished and paired with the pants, I realized that I needed to add more of the black ribbon from the neckline to the bottom of the top to finish the top off.

- Rounded the edges off the end of the ribbons to finish

Supplies ~
2" black grosgrain ribbon from Joyce Trimmings
1.5" black grosgrain ribbon from Joyce Trimmings

I really like the black trim on the top. It adds something to the top and the black trim ties it to the bottoms.

The last thing is the darts are a little low on the top.  I didn't notice it in the first version of my Montrose because the lace hid the details. I will change the angle of the darts for the next version - because there will be more of these!

My TNT Pants ~
I'm describing these as full legged because I added some width to the sides of my TNT pants pattern to get a fuller leg but not so full that they are palazzo pants...but they are WIDE! 

I also made a change to my back pants crotch area based upon an alteration that I saw on EricaB's blog here. I've made a few changes to my pants pattern over the years as well as totally abandoning it when I lost the 48 lbs 3 years ago.  As with all things I'm back up 15-20 lbs., depending upon the day, so I'm finding it's easier to alter my TNT pants pattern again. 

Also in all honesty, the other alterations I'd made from various other sources, weren't working. Maybe I was misinterpreting the alterations...maybe it wasn't the right alteration for me...but since I'm always trying to improve my craft, I thought I would try Erica's alteration. 

The final changes to these is I added the same ribbon from the top's sleeve hems, down the sides of the pants.  Using a 2" ribbon with 1/2" seams on both sides so that I was adding an inch to both sides of the pants.

I took 1" of width out of the inner legs from 10" below the crotch because they were a little wider than I wanted them to be.  The waistline is finished with the Japanese elastic I like and found at Pacific Trimmings, as well as, Shams brought me some back from her trip to Japan. Sewing friends are the best!

Finally, when I started constructing the two pieces I thought they would work well together but I look like I'm wearing pjs when the two pieces are together.  So, they will be worn separately.

A few pictures ~

Wearability Factor ~
After these were made, I was wondering if I would actually wear the wide legged pants in the heat. However, we got a couple of days of warm weather that wasn't hot, humid and stifling. This was a great outfit to wear then. The back crotch alteration worked like it was supposed to and my pants cover my backside when I sit down now.  The pants were comfortable and I got a couple of compliments on them! 

I'm glad that I made both pieces. Both will get some wear this summer! I'm on a tear though and want to add a few more pairs of pants to my summer look for more of them on the blog soon. always more later!


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Simplicity 5075 - A Duster from Elliot Berman Fabric

One of the things preparing to attend the Baltimore Destash did, was it made me look at my pattern collection.  Like many of you, I have a lot of patterns.  However, in the collecting of sewing items, patterns are not my nemesis - fabric is! 

Lately I'm not purchasing as many patterns as I use to...partly because I use so many TNT patterns and partly because I own a lot of older unused patterns.  Sifting through them for the Destash caused me to touch almost all of them and I found some oldies but goodies that will be making their way to my wardrobe and the blog.

Simplicity 5075 is one of them.  It's a Khaliah Ali pattern from her partnership with Simplicity.  If you were sewing then, you know she helped design this amazing collection and these patterns went from a size 8/10 to 28/32W.  It was one of the first pattern lines that gave plus size women current and trendy patterns in our sizes. It was literally an earth-shattering moment in the Big4 and I collected quite a few of them.  BTW, none of the Khaliah Ali patterns made it into the Destash giveaway...some things need to be held onto y'know what I mean!

So all of that to say, that even though I have two or three current kimono/duster patterns, I went with this out of print pattern. This pattern can still be found online with a simple google search so if you like my version, there are patterns out there to be purchased.

Next - the fabric used in this project is from Elliot Berman and is part of my brand ambassadorship with them.  The last time I was in EB's NYC warehouse, I spotted this navy voile and loved it.  However, at the time, it was too cold to sew it. Plus I knew I would use it for summer.

The thing I love about Elliot Berman is the vastness of their collection AND how interesting the fabrics are - nothing dull or pedantric here.  So if you want to see their online selection of cotton voiles look here.  

I need to apologize now because there are alot of photos in this post. I wanted someplace nice to show off how awesome this duster is and how the fabric was THE PERFECT CHOICE for this pattern. My daughter chose the Douglas campus of Rutgers University. These are taken at the Student Union Building.

Supply List ~
3 yards of a cotton voile from Elliot Berman
gray foldover bias tape - Wrights
1 yard of piping from Joyce Trimmings that I used for the ties

Construction ~
This pattern has 4 pieces and was easy to construct. I made no alterations to the pattern and cut a straight 26W because I wanted a little more flow to the body. The one change I should have made to the pattern was to raise the bust seam up. Also making a straight 26 was a little bigger in the bust area than I am, using the size 24 would have probably worked better. You have to really look for this because the print hides alot. If I had made this in a solid it would have been more noticeable.

After wearing it for a couple of hours, the flowy sleeves is one of the things I like best about the pattern. Now this pattern is pretty distinctive and I do have a few other kimono patterns in the stash I still want to use, so I don't know if I will be making the pattern again.

A Few More Pictures ~ 

A Little More Info ~
I'm wearing this duster with a RTW tank that's been in my wardrobe for years and a new pair of pants from my TNT pattern. I've made a few alterations to the pants pattern and those alterations will be discussed in an upcoming post.

The pants are made from a navy linen/poly blend fabric. This fabric is from deep stash so I have no idea where it came from because the tag wasn't on this 4 yard piece. I know it's old because I haven't purchased a linen blend like this in over a decade.

I've made no changes to this pair other than the alterations mentioned above.  That's what's so good about using a TNT pattern...a new garment without a lot of angst!  I love that I'm wearing two made by me pieces together.  This doesn't happen often anymore so it makes me very happy.

Conclusion ~
This outfit is sooooooo me! I can see me wearing it in all aspects of my life. To work, to hang out with friends...with my wedges pictured above...with my sneaks and even with a pair of heels. I love this outfit so much!!! So please excuse me for spamming this post with so many photos but my Daughter took so many amazing ones.

Finally, definitely try out some of these high quality cotton voiles from Elliot Berman. You can follow them on Instagram to see photos of their stock and behind the scenes of the showroom. Or you can follow them on Facebook where they offer giveaways and Deals of the Day/Weekend!  Also if you're ever in NYC visiting the garment district, don't leave without going by their showroom and touching the amazing fabric in person. You won't be sorry that you visited them! always more later!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Embellished Shirtdress Series - Deer & Doe Myosotis Dress

I've wanted to make this dress ever since it debuted. I hesitated because the plus sizes are in pdf pattern form only and you know I only do a pdf pattern for a very special garment. Honestly as much as I liked it, this pattern wasn't special enough.

...but I really wanted my own version. After A Gathering of Stitches made her version, I thought maybe I could make the paper pattern work. I double checked the finished measurements on the website and realized they were within range of my own. So the next time there was a good fabric sale at Fabric Mart, I bought the pattern and yes that means I bought fabric too *sigh*

Then I saw a picture of a dress in my Instagram feed from Draper James. 

The fabric looked similar to mine and I thought I could use the Myosotis Dress to get a similar look. I know the dress has a skirt that buttons open but that was the element I could overlook for my version. This is where I started my Myosotis Dress Journey.

Supply List ~
- 4 yards of embroidered edge navy 'n white gingham from Hobby Lobby
- 3 red buttons from the button stash
- Interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply

Pattern Alterations ~
I started with a size 46 and made the following alterations.

1. For the bodice:
My first alteration was to the shoulders.  I narrowed them by an inch. This is a normal pattern alteration for me.

Then I added 1/2" to each side seam gradually from the armhole down to the waist. So that the 1/2" is widest at the waistline. This was done on both the front and back bodice piece.

Finally I slit the back dart open and spread it a 1/2" - to gain just a little more space. I did not add the waist darts to my finished bodice...side darts yes.

2. Skirt pieces:
Three inches was added to the last tier of the dress to gain some extra length to the skirt.

3. Collar changes:
To make this pattern more like the inspiration garment, I needed to add a collar. Since I'm not a patternmaker, I couldn't draft a collar piece. The next best thing was to find a pattern piece that would work. So I went with my TNT Butterick shirt pattern pieces. However, they were bigger than the Deer & Doe pattern pieces. 

I decided to shorten the collar piece by 5/8" in width so it would work with the shorter collar stand. I didn't want the collar to overwhelm the collar stand. Why did I choose 5/8"? Because that's the difference between the two collar stands.

I eliminated the sleeve flounce from my dress. I wanted to use the embroidered edge of the fabric like my inspiration picture. That meant the sleeve pattern had to be lengthened.  Again I turned to a sleeve pattern that I knew worked and fit my bodacious biceps.

The sleeve from my TNT shirtdress pattern - Vogue 2090 - was used to alter the width and length of the sleeve. Although after I cut the pattern piece out, I folded up an inch  before cutting the fabric out. This was so the embroidered hem would not creep into my elbow crease.

Construction Information ~
Getting the bodice to fit was my main challenge because the tiers are gathered and can be made to work. Besides the space I added to the bodice, I also used 1/2" seam allowances though the pattern tells you to use 5/8" seam allowances.

The Collar:
I added a collar based upon my inspiration picture. I was a little concerned if my shortened collar would work but it sewed into the collar band no problem using the sewing techniques that are in my Butterick shirt pattern. I think my collar insertions are so easy because I've incorporated information gleaned from other bloggers. 

For constuction - I notch differently after seeing Emily's version, which of course I can't find now because I'm not sure if I saw it on her IG account or her blog. And I use Cennetta's suggestion of basting the undercollar down, pressing and then topstitching from the right side of the undercollar.

I love the navy 'n white embroidered fabric but for the Draper James dress it's really the red embroidery that's eyecatching. So to bring that red to my dress I added red topstitching on everything...the collar...the front of the of every tier. Hopefully the red pops and adds to the embroidery and gingham fabric as well as reminds you of the Inspiration Dress.

When I make this dress again, I will lower the bust darts since they are a tad high. You have to look to see this but I know it's there. Also, I made my bodice with a closer fit than some of the versions I've seen on the internet. I was concerned that if I made a looser fit that the dress would look like a muu-muu on me since there is sooooo much fabric in it already.

A few pictures ~

Just me hanging out by the garage doors

That close fitting backside

Hands jammed in pockets that don't work

So a few things ~ 
One - I included the pockets and then assembled the tier wrong. I haven't removed them and sewn the seam shut in the pictures above. However, I think I will.

Two - while this is longer than pictured on the envelope and shown on the internet, I want to add at least another inch to the hemline to insure that it hits that sweet spot on me which is just below my knees.

Three - I didn't use the three tiers in the Inspiration Dress. I worked it out in my head but decided to baste the last tier on and if it was too short, then I would cut the middle tier. Since the two tiers worked and I was sick of gathering, I went with it.  I would like to try a three tier version, though.

Four - I'm trying to use my gathering foot more so I become proficient with it. The gathering on this is not as much as I thought it should be and when I used the foot, I ended up with too much gathering. I'm sure that there is an adjustment to be made but I need more practice with the foot. When I fell back on my normal gathering method, it worked just fine.

Five - while I added several rows of red topstitching to the dress, I'm not sure they are visible from far away.  But I'm glad I added them. 

Wearability Factor ~
I wore this to work on Monday and got a lot of compliments on the dress...from several strangers...just people on the Macys...even my Lyft driver. This dress is a winner! However, I had one challenge with the dress, when the wind blew up against the dress and raised it above my knees it made me self conscious. Although I did receive one compliment when standing at the corner waiting for the light to change and the wind blew up under the dress and created the nicest fullness. 

Conclusion ~
This is an easy sew and I recommend buying the pattern if you're looking for a loose, cool and flirty dress for summer.  I made a few alterations to the pattern to get my version of the inspiration dress.  However, about halfway through I thought if you're a plus size gal, it would be just as easy to start with the Lenox Shirtdress bodice and add the tiers. You'd have to do some math to figure out the tier length and width (why I didn't go that way) but it is doable.

At first I thought I wouldn't make this dress again.  Then I tried it on and oh my goodness, the heavens opened, the choirs sang and I was a convert. This dress is EVERYTHING! I want another one in rayon and a tunic top. Just have to figure out how to make it not look maternity.

I know I can sometimes seem anti-indie BUT if you create an amazing indie pattern that I can purchase in a plus size pattern, I'm there for you. I don't mind making normal alterations, I just hate having to grade up a pattern after paying the patternmaker for said pattern. And yet again, may I state I'm not a PDF woman. There is no conversation/argument that can convince me that paying to download a pattern, printing, taping and cutting out or sending it out to be printed is cheaper than buying one of the Big4 on don't waste your breathe...I'm solidly in the paper pattern camp.

Okay after that, may I say I love this pattern and the subsequent dress and there will be more of them in my future! always more later!

Sunday, July 08, 2018

The Embellished Shirtdress Series - McCalls 7470 in an Embroidered Fabric

My plan was to start my May Sewcation with this shirtdress first but I made the failed B6333 shirtdress before this one. See, I was a little put off when I opened the pattern instructions and there were four pages of instructions on how to alter the pattern. While this is a good thing, it took me for a loop...probably because I was opening the pattern at 1am!

After going back to the pattern and reading the alterations, great info on those pages btw, I went with my TNT method of altering a pattern...using a garment I'd previously sewn and knew worked for my body.  I used Vogue 2090 last sewn in 2013 (before it became part of the Embellished Shirtdress series) to assist with making the alterations. 

Supply List ~
- Embroidered striped fabric purchased earlier this year from Emmaonesock
- Yellow gingham from Fabric Mart (recent purchase from Sew Camp)
- Fusible interfacing from Farmhouse Fabrics
- 12 yellow buttons from Lauren Trimming in NYC Garment District
- 1/2 yard yellow piping from Daytona Trimmings
- 1 yard of yellow bias binding from the notions stash

Pattern Alterations ~
I made considerable alterations to this pattern since the finished hip measurements were 50.5" so not my finished garment hip measurement. Also the waist/abdomen measurements were about 6" less than my own.

As I stated above, I altered the pattern pieces using my TNT pattern. Although when I reviewed the pattern, I realized that I ended up altering the front and side back pieces just like the pattern instructions suggested.  But by using my TNT pattern, I didn't have to guess at the amount of inches to add.

The other pieces that I altered was the back yoke piece and the front top yoke - just to make sure they fit the newly altered body pieces.

Construction ~
I'm one of those sewists who serge finishes all of her cut out garment pieces before I start construction but for this one I finished the seams as I sewed them. I'm trying something new and was scared the entire time that the dress wouldn't fit because I just couldn't imagine taking out the serged together edges if I needed to make some fit alterations.

Some more info:
  1. All the body seams are sewn using a 1/2" seam allowance.
  2. The fabric was difficult to sew at points because of the density of the embroidery.
  3. So I omitted all of the topstitching so it wouldn't be wonky when it hit embroidery.
  4. There's a lot of handstitching in this since I couldn't topstitch the seams...undercollar to dress and the front button bands.
  5. The handstitching let me maneuver through the dense embroidery easier but took FOREVER!
  6. The buttonholes had to be carefully placed so that I wouldn't hit any of the dense embroidery. I knew my sewing machine wouldn't like them. So I was going to take them to Jonathan's in NYC to make them instead.
  7. However, when I went to mark the buttonholes I noticed that the majority of the buttonholes were in a space that did not have embroidery.  So I gave it a try.  Some were a little challenging but my machine I got through them all!  I love my sewing machine!!!
  8. This is why this is the last garment being shared from the May Sewcation.
There were a lot of pattern pieces to this pattern so it took some time to sew. It was the perfect pattern to use during the sewcation. It allowed everything with all it's frustrations to be completed at one sewing instead of being stretched over a couple of weekends.

A few pictures ~

Conclusion ~
I will make this pattern again. It's the perfect summer shirtdress. I have fabric for a shorter length version so I need to schedule that into my sewing to do list. However, it may make an appearance in a fall edition too! always more later!


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