Friday, January 26, 2018

I'm still here! And now I'm obsessed with mermaids..

Ok, I know I've been absent FOREVER.. Life gets busy, and when I got back to this blog, I realized I had about 8 posts in draft form that I never published.  The truth is, creative sewing hasn't been something I've done much of lately, and the projects I have completed weren't blogged.  They were more quick and fun things, like a weird orange blouse with purple cats that I wear to work.. or the other cat blouse (even though I'm actually a dog person).

Anyway, if anyone still subscribes, I had a major inspiration lately, and it lead me to a crazy project and back to the sewing machine. I'm hoping to have it posted within the next week, and let me tell you, it's a doozy..  And this is the picture that started it all!

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Shirt Dress Obsession!

Once upon a time when I worked in an office, I almost exclusively wore dresses.  This was for many reasons: they're much more comfortable to sit in all day, it's one piece easy dressing, and I always felt cute and feminine in a male dominated field during a time when I was young and flirtatious!  Haha, well since joining a medical profession where I sit on the floor, work in a lab, and am on my feet all day, dresses have become a professional mirage.

I've been very blessed with a new opportunity to work for our local VA hospital in a more administrative capacity and my desire for dresses is certain returning!  While I won't be prancing about in sky-high heels, like in my younger days, the thought of a nice, easy, and comfy dress with professional flats sounds magical after years of slacks and Danskos.  For those who are unfamiliar, Danskos are the ungliest but greatest shoes ever created.  Walk around a hospital and every person not wearing sneakers will be wearing the distinctive clogs.  They are the ultimate in comfort and foot support and I often wear them with jeans because I can't bear to be without these spectacular shoes.  That said, you can't wear them with a dress without looking like Mother Superior.

The Salme Raglan Sleeve dress has really inspired my desire for buttonless shirt dresses.  The first version I made was a blouse (review still to be posted), and the second as a large floral print dress (yup, gotta blog that one too).   I would love an arsenal of solid colored shirt dresses that I just throw on with a great necklace and be out the door.

After obsessively stalking pattern sites, I'm at a bit of a loss.  There are far fewer options than an I would have anticipated and I'm hoping to avoid buttons and zippers.  It's not that I'm lazy, I can just never find the buttons I'm looking for and I would love the dress to be all about the fabric color and jewelry.  Please post some of your favorites, even if they're discontinued!  If you're looking to purge your stash, let me know because I may be willing to help :D  I would prefer patterns catered to wovens, that are not wrap dresses, and I really look forward to your suggestions and great results!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Anyone still out there?  I know I've been M.I.A. for quite some time and truthfully haven't done any garment sewing in over a year.  My sewing machine hasn't been completely dormant; I've done all the boring stuff, like hem pants and make curtains and pillows, but no real creative work.  Truthfully, my "real work" as in my job, has been dominating my life and I've allowed it to stifle my creativity.  I recently attended a webinar hosted by my alma mater, Northwestern University; the presentation was by a life coach (insert eye-rolling and thoughts of weirdos with more money than sense), but some of what she said really resonated with me.  She spoke about perfecting your present and participating in activities that enrich and energize you.  While I'm very blessed and grateful for my job, I've also been very unhappy in my work for quite some time.  I'm currently seeking a new opportunity, but also realized that I should be investing in making myself happy until that new opportunity is here.

Thus the sewing...  I realized that the last dress I made was for my sister-in-law's wedding last August!  I like to sew icing (especially dresses) and just buy my work clothes.  Those special occasion and vacation garments are what I love to make.  My husband and I were invited to a black tie optional wedding, but I wasn't sure if we would be able to attend with out of town holiday travel. Once I realized that we would return from Louisiana (where I'm originally from) in time, I decided to feed my creativity and sew something special.  I love McCall's 6833, and have had the pattern for quite a while but truthfully am somewhat of a collector and am unlikely to ever sew them all.

I would have loved to order a gorgeous dupioni from Silk Baron, but didn't have time.  I trekked to JoAnn's with only slight optimism of finding something that would work, and was thrilled to discover a gorgeous black and red rose pattern jacquard.  Truthfully, it's most likely polyester, but at that moment I didn't really care, and hell, it's one less thing that I have to dry clean.  I had a deadline that didn't include a muslin, but was excited to enjoy the process again.  I'm excited to say that I completed it in time (putting the last stitches in 30 minutes before walking out the door), but if anyone still follows this blog, pictures and details will be posted shortly.  I would love your comments if you're still out there!

Friday, September 13, 2013

McCall's 5818

When I discovered OOP McCall's 5818 (through reviews on of course), I wanted it!  The simple dress is exactly the type of garment I like to sew and wear.  I like the other pieces (except for the crazy large lapels on the jacket), but honestly, I doubt I'll ever sew them.  I bought this one for the dress.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, even though I used crazy fabric (see more below)

Were the instructions easy to follow?

Instructions are very detailed and have lots of information on fitting using the Palmer/Pletsch methods, however I don't like their construction process for this dress. I prefer an all machine clean finish. Nicegirl/Slapdash has an excellent tutorial on her blog. This dress is quite narrow at the shoulders, so I needed the long handle of a plastic cooking spoon to help push the fabric through.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

Talk about bang for your buck, this pattern has it all! I mostly bought it for the dress though since that's what I like to wear when I'm not working.

The lining for this dress includes the neckline pleats which seams odd to me because this could create unnecessary bulk.  Since this was my first time making it, I decided to go with the pattern.  I think for future versions (and given my satisfaction with the finished project, there likely will be more!) I will convert the neckline pleats to bust darts for the lining. 

McCall's 5818 line drawing

Fabric Used:

Not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed... It's a cotton/poly shower curtain (seems like a mid-weight twill) that I bought from Marshall's for $15, and I lined it with some lightweight white cotton from old sheets. I sew with lots of vintage silk saris, which doesn't embarrass me at all, but using a shower curtain is a departure from my normal projects.  I just loved the print though!  I wore this to my husband's cousin's afternoon wedding and hoped none of the guests had this shower curtain hanging in their bathroom, or it would have been a bit embarrassing.. HAHA

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I used a very large border print and spent HOURS agonized over the layout.  I copied the pattern so that I was working with full pieces, that were not folded.  This helped me more accurately determine the layout.  Since the print is so bold, I was concerned about inappropriate placement, and about transitions at the side seams, which I thought would be a bit jarring and detract from the design.  The best option I came up with was to invert the pieces for the back, so that I could semi-match the one side seam.  I hope the inversion is less obvious than having a drastic color change at both sides.  Since the blue flower was a bit more eye-catching, I chose to match it rather than the grey.  The center back seam is contoured, so only part of it could be matched.  I decided the very large flower on my bum was taking priority!

I thought the back neckline pleats were a nice design detail but they created quite a problem.  If you read the Palmer/Pletsch book, they do talk a good bit about how forward shoulders and high round back are becoming more common in younger people due to our computer work, and I think they've built this into the dress design.  While I technically have both, mine aren't severe, so I rarely adjust for it.  The pleats were too much in my heavier fabric and created a giant *pouf* over the shoulder blades that made me look like the hunchback of Notre Dame.

 My quick fix for this, since I didn't make a muslin, was to change the back pleat to a dart and create a seam joining it with the back waistline dart to eliminate the extra fabric over the shoulder blades.  This also revealed that the back neckline was a bit too large, so I then deepened the neckline pleat to remove the excess.  I also didn't like how high the back was (since this makes it difficult for me to zip) so I lowered it 1.5 inches.  I also prefer back necklines slightly lower in case I wear a necklace.  In future versions, I would probably attempt to redraft the upper back and neckline to eliminate the back neckline dart completely and avoid the extra bulk over the shoulder blades.  Mahogany Stylist mentioned that she normally makes a prominent shoulder blade adjustment, but didn't find it necessary in this dress, which confirms my findings.

lowered back neckline

after lowering neckline, increased pleat and merged with dart

I made a straight 10 and only hemmed it 1/4 inch more than the pattern suggested!  I was really excited to have something fit so well with no other adjustments necessary.  That never happens for me unless the skirt is full, because I normally must size the waist down to a 9 and the hips down to an 8 or a 6.  Consider this cautionary if you're pear shaped and measure carefully before cutting.

Since the shoulders are so narrow, I also added lingerie carriers to prevent bra straps from crawling out.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

Such a great basic but a bit more interesting than a plain sheath. I love simple dresses, usually because I like difficult fabrics haha. 


It's literally 2 pieces (front and back) plus a lining!  A simple sheath dress is a great staple and this one can be made with only 1 1/4 yards of 45" inch fabric (made in size 10 and not including your lining of course).  Once you work out any fit issues, this one can be a great canvas for indulging in expensive fabric.

Friday, September 6, 2013

My first Burda. Burda Magazine 12-2008-103 Daphne Dress

This is my first Burda and the instructions are sparse. I didn't use them anyway due to a few changes.  Plus, there's the weird Burda sizing to deal with.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I love the one shoulder design and how the back portion of the strap extends to the front and the nice pleating detail.

Fabric Used:
This is an inside out dress haha. The fashion fabric is a linen cotton blend and its lined with leftover sari silk. The silk looks pretty, but the grain is so uneven that it isn't really suitable for many applications. Unfortunately I made a dress with it before this one and I'm not quite happy with the results due to the grain issues.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I made 1" wide interfacing pieces (that I fused to the lining) for all neckline and armholes to stabilize the fabric and prevent stretching. I like this approach better than their method which doesn't stabilize the armsyces.

I didn't pay close enough attention when I traced this pattern, so I didn't notice that the front bodice lining isn't a full lining piece, but a partial with a neckline facing. I figured this out when sewing the lining in, and everything wasn't matching up! I just ended up cutting the facing and sewing it to the lining rather than cutting a whole new one piece bodice lining.

I swapped the skirt for a variation on my TNT. I was concerned the pleats on the original would result in too much poofiness over the tummy. My TNT skirt actually has a CB seam, but I wanted to eliminate this since the back bodice is princess seamed. It's pretty close to the original TNT but with slightly less shaping.

This skirt is different than what's typically provided with patterns, as it is slightly bell/tulip shaped and has very small and shallow front darts. Often the conventional skirts make me look like a barrel because they have too much tummy and hip ease. If I don't define the hip curve, my waistline disappears.

When lining up my TNT with the bodice to match the pleats/seams, I noticed the bodice waist measurement was a little large, so I was able to adjust this before cutting.

I had to add a couple of small darts to the front bodice into the waist seem and deepen the skirt darts slightly because it was just a bit sloppy at the waist. I also took the back neckline a touch, but it still gapes unless the bodice is sitting at a very precise angle. It looks like the back neckline is stretched out, but it was stabilized with interfacing so I think it just needs to be adjusted. This dress is also slightly long in the bodice for me, but I didn't care enough to take it apart.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Meh. Maybe. Maybe not. It's ok, but I don't love it. If I make it again, I'll have to make a few additional changes to the pattern.

I wanted to sew this in a really vibrant duipioni for my husband's cousin's wedding, but wasn't sure if the one shoulder design would work with my body. I wanted to make a more casual version first to test the look since diagonal lines typically increase you in both height and width. I'm only 5'5" (ok 5'4 1/4" but I'm an optimist) so heigth is good, but with one shoulder, I'm drawing that diagonal line at my absolute widest part (my massive shoulders and ribs) so you can see why I was concerned with the width issue. By taking it in a bit at the waist and narrowing the bottom of the skirt, this helps to define the curve of my lower body and makes the dress much more flattering for me. Still not sure the one shoulder design is the best for my broad shoulders though.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

New Look 6457

I love New Look patterns.  I think it's partially their great everyday price and that they put all sizes in one envelope.  That said, I wish all pattern companies would do a little better.  New Look seems to be geared more for a basic sewer and takes a few shortcuts in construction.  They rarely include a full lining and rely too heavily on facings for my liking.  It's not a big deal in most cases to draft a simple lining, but for more complex or pleated necklines, this is not my strength.  My wish is that all pattern companies would offer you the OPTION of a lining.  Include facings and instructions for bias tape for unlined versions, but also offer lining pieces.  Sometimes the lining offers a unique opportunity for a different garment altogether with its alternate darts.  I like this as added construction option.  Pattern companies, I hope you're reading this!!

Now on to the dress I made with New Look 6457.  I've had this pattern in my stash forever, but just got around to making it.  Drafting is not something I'm good at or enjoy, so I'm somewhat of a pattern hoarder.  So is my mother, so it's obviously hereditary.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  I was impressed when I noticed that several of the bodices feature an all machine clean finish. Great job NL! Slipstitching stinks

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
With so many bodice options and the great price, this is a lot of pattern for your money.  I don't think it would have killed them to include one straight skirt option though... just saying

Fabric Used:
Poly cotton blend seersucker, lined with really high thread count (heehee ;) white cotton

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I swapped the gathered skirt for the slim fit straight skirt I developed for the 1950's dress. It's become my TNT skirt due to it's shaping. It's more bell/tulip shaped than a conventional skirt pattern which helps emphasize my shape. I have narrow hips and sometimes look like a barrel in normal skirts! Apparently I don't know how to measure (or shouldn't do so after 11PM) because when I stitched together the lining as a semi-muslin, the skirt darts did not line up with the bodice darts and had to be scooted over. No biggie

I cut 1 inch wide interfacing that I fused to the lining on the front and back neckline edges just to prevent it from stretching over time. I didn't self line the bodice, so I self lined the halter ends so they wouldn't look weird when tied.

I also added purchased piped trim to the neckline and waist seam. It was my first time not making the stuff! Too bad they don't offer a million more colors and fabrics, cause purchasing it is so much faster.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
This pattern has so many bodice options and it's very easy to swap skirts for lots of sewing opportunities.  On my semi-muslin the bodice fit seemed fine, but when I wore this I noticed it's a touch roomy at the top bodice edge.  If I make another version, I'll probably taper it in 1/4 inch at the underarm for a slightly snugger fit.

I wanted something cute and comfy for summer that was nicer than wearing shorts. This fabric shouldn't wrinkle much so it will be quick and easy to grab for casual dinners out or nicer BBQs.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Dress for a wedding... the saga continues

When I planned this project, I had no idea how big of a PITA it would be!  I was very confident that Vogue 9668 view C would be flattering to my figure type (inverted triangle).  It seemed simple enough to showcase my fabric, complex enough to not be boring, and classic enough for a family wedding.  I've never had so much trouble with a pattern!  I'm normally a straight 10 bodice and all of my alterations are the waist and below (to account for very narrow hips).  I'm even a standard B cup.  The only change I make is a very smaller cheater version of a broad back adjustment, by sewing the center back seam with 3/8 inch seam allowance instead of 5/8.  That's it!  That's all I normally do for bodices, and you can see from my pictures, that fit is normally pretty good.

This pattern called for a redo of every single piece.  The back neckline gaped and required me to take out a wedge, the midriff was ever so slightly too long and tight in the waist (normally I take the waist in to a 9, not let it out), the back midriff had to be re-contoured as it was riding up at the lower edge, the front bodice had major bullet boob thanks to that large dart, and the skirt was a disaster.  It was poofy in all the wrong places.  It had weird ease in the lower back (above my butt) and really puffy in the tummy area.  My husband commented that I could easily be 3 months pregnant and still wear it...

I made at least 2 muslins, which I NEVER do, and then even decided to create a version in cheaper fabric before cutting my silk.  Not that the silk was very expensive, but since everyone knows I'm making the dress, I wanted it to be perfect.  I hate when people know I sewed something because then I'm never sure if the compliment is based on the dress itself or if they're just surprised I can actually sew something that doesn't look like a dress an Amish girl would wear to feed the chickens.

I just don't love it though... While the fit is technically OK, I just don't think it's very flattering, or as flattering as I would like it to be.  The midriff proportions seem off.  I'm only 5' 4 1/4" and it seems like too much, but I don't know how to reduce it without messing up the boobs.  Speaking of  the boobs, they aren't quite right either and I'm not sure how to fix them.  I'm sure it's my fault since I converted the dart to a princess seam, but I didn't change the position or volume.

This dress has to be ready for next weekend and I happen to work for a living...  So this past weekend I went balls to the wall and lived in my sewing room.  I thought they would have to send in a search party.

I've always loved the Burda Starburst dress and thought it would be lovely made in my olive green dupioni.  The muslin was a total and complete disaster though.  The starburst pleats complicate the alterations.  Given enough time, I think it may be fixable, but I don't have that kind of time for this project.

So on to plan B.  I've always loved New Look 6401 that I bought many years ago as a starting point for the wedding dress that I didn't have time to make..  Anyway, here's the line drawing

I had planned to make it knee length and maybe add some ruching on the front and back bodice for texture and to sort of disguise the gathers.  I made my usual size 10 and the thing was HUGE.  I probably need a 6 in the bodice alone!  FYI the pattern only goes down to an 8 and I just don't have time to deal with it... Another wadder muslin.

So in a fit of desperation, I did something crazy.  I pulled out a pattern that I've never used and cut the silk.  I'm insane, especially given all the crap going wrong.  Mazzygir on PR did a review on bodice A and eliminated the waist overlay and full skirt.

She used a beautiful turquoise silk dupioni that's a bit shinier than mine (mine is handmade and a bit nubbier).  I thought her dress was lovely and flattering.  Just when you think I couldn't be any dumber for cutting something given my current luck, I have to be honest and say that I further complicated the issue by eliminating the midriff and merging it with a fitted skirt... Cross your fingers and pray for me!