Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009: The Year in Review

I think I can honestly say that this year was the best year of sewing I've ever had!  I sewed more (over 100 yards according to my side bar) and I sewed better, which is exactly what I had hoped the year would bring.  I just finished 2 pairs of Burda pants (which put me over the mark), and will post on those later this week...

By far, the biggest highlight of the year for me was my trip to New York.  4 days of instruction from Susan Khalje and Kenneth King did amazing things for the construction of my garments.  My couture Chanel jacket turned out great, I'd never be able to do that on my own, without instruction and explanation from the experts!  I've got another fantastic boucle in my stash now, acquired in NYC during the trip, and I will do it all over again by the end of 2010.  The class also taught me patience for hand-sewing, and as a side effect, I know have much greather confidence (and speed) in that area.  Getting to meet LindsayT, Joanne, Laura and Ann also made 2009 a very special sewing year, and I'm so grateful for their friendships.  It's wonderful to be able to fire off an email with a particular rant or rave, and know that someone else will totally appreciate and understand.  Thank you, ladies... and we will figure out a "reunion" is some way, shape, or form! LindsayT summed the entire experience up here, far better than I ever could have!

My favorite garment of the year?  Hmmm, that's a tough one.  The Chanel Jacket was a landmark, but I know the next one will be even better.  The Homecoming Dress is my favorite formal dress to date (there's only been 3 or 4), but I got many positive comments on my Stunning Silk Dress.  The most commented on garment of the year was my Empire Jacket, but if I have to pick just one, I think it would have to be the Leather Vest.  I've never worked with leather before, and sewing on a vintage machine was also a first.  Working with leather is a challenge, but it came together so nicely, and the process of making such an edgy garment on such an old machine made construction even more fun.  "What would the original owner of the machine think about this vest?" kept running through my mind...  especially during the fun photo shoot DH organized.  I love my photographer!

In September, my black bamboo knit dress was selected to be part of the Top Ten PR Challenge Fashion Show at the American Sewing Expo in Novi, Michigan.  I modeled my dress in front of judges Sandra Betzina, Kenneth King, and Pati Palmer, and met Deepika and other PR members backstage.  It was exciting and fun, along with the classes I attended that day.  I didn't win anything, but being in the company of some of those amazing garments really was an honor.

In the blog world, I gathered 90 followers.  Whoa.  90?  That is such a compliment, and reaching the 100 mark in 2010 is a very exciting idea for me.  I think a giveaway will be in order!

I'm not quite sure what could top this year.  Christmas brought me some Jalie and Hot Patterns, which are new to me, so I'll keep working on expanding my sewing experiences.  DH's Christmas Shirt turned out great, and Little Miss Princess loves to dress up, so sewing for my family will continue.  I'd love to meet up with my NY sewing buddies, and would love to meet more of you.  Dawn, Angie, Bunny, Michelle, Somerset... someday, right?  Fine tuning some embroidery details/editing would mean keeping/expanding the embroidery business, so that's a must!  When the weather warms up, I'm going to give swimwear a shot, and would love to work with leather again.  It might be a cop-out, but as long as I'm sewing quality garments and continuing to improve, I'll be happy.

Here's hoping that 2010 brings good sewing projects your way, along with health and prosperity to you and those you love.  Happy New Year!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Given and Received...

2 yds of striped cotton shirting + Simplicity 7030 = 1 happy husband

DH loves his "custom made" shirts, so I made one up this week, in secret! It's the same pattern I always use for him (this is the 4th version), but I've never done a long sleeved one before! The cuffs went together easily, and I will definitely be making more, since it really went together fast, and fits him perfectly. Here's a close-up of the collar, stand, and topstitching...
... and the cuff! If you haven't made your hubby a shirt yet, I recommend this pattern strongly, but with a word of warning! If the fit is right, he'll want more than just one! The fabric is a fabulous cotton shirting you can get from Gorgeous Fabrics (on sale right now, run! Go get some!), although I bought mine at Metro Textile in NY this summer.
Making this shirt made me wonder why I haven't made any button-downs for myself yet!!! But, since Santa brought me 4 new patterns...
I will definitely be working one up (using the Hot Patterns seen above) very, very soon! I also got an extension table for my Viking! I didn't realize how nice it is to have the full weight of your project supported until I sewed on my vintage machine in it's cabinet. So, I found this at Sewing Mates, put it on my wish list. Thank goodness I was not on the "naughty" list this year!!!
Santa left some other stuff under the tree, too, but who cares about that?!?! Just kidding, the kids were thrilled with their new toys, and my fingers are raw from transforming Transformers. Little Miss Princess got this cool little fashion toy called a Harumika, which is a tiny dressform she can wrap fabric around and lock into place. She's had a lot of fun with that, and I just can't imagine where she gets that interest from??? The package only includes 3 tiny scraps of fabric though, so we'll go dig through the scrap box, er... uh, I mean "treasure chest", for more pieces to add.
I hope your holiday was also wonderful, and please do share, What Sewing Goodies Did Santa Leave Under the Tree for You???

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Empire (State of Mind) Jacket

Burda Jacket, August 2009, #118 (Click above pic to enlarge.)
Fabric: 2 yds of blue/grey wool and 2 yds of blue lining, both from Paron's in NYC.
Notions: 5 large pewter snaps, from Pacific Trims in NYC.
Here's my review at PR.
This was my first project using one of the New York fabrics I bought in August during the Sit and Sew class. I really took my time making sure I did things right (rather than just getting to the finish line), so it took a lot longer than expected, but came out very nicely.

I made 2 muslins to un-petite the sizing, ending up adding an inch to the length (above the waist), scooping out the armscye a bit, and letting out the side seams a pinch. I am very, very happy with the resulting fit (doesn't the back look amazing?).
The pattern went together nicely, I only had to refer to the directions for the shoulder placket placement and the sleeve vent construction. I pretty much put it together my own way, and used Claire Schaeffer's book to confirm my interfacing suspicions. I don't like how Burda shows a "ring" of interfacing around the armscye, and ended up interfacing the whole top-half of the back pieces as Schaeffer recommends. I suspect I should've used a higher quality fusible interfacing, as this one was slightly too heavy for the weight of the wool. The other issue with this wool is the thickness of the seams were allowances were doubled up. I used a lot of steam and pressure (aka hammering/clapping) to flatten out the hem and collar bumps. Below, you can see how the plackets curve over the collar and attach at the lining seam.
And above, you can see the inside of the sleeve vents where the sleeeve facings and lining meet.

My biggest headache was the should placket parts. I placed them incorrectly 2 or 3 times, having to rip and restitch them. Then they wouldn't lay nice and flat (like the magazine photo), so I really steamed and slapped them around a bit. A few extra stitched to tack them down in certain places, and I'm finally happy with those lil' buggers.

Overall, I'm pleased with the appearance of this unique jacket. The snaps are little big for my taste, but I love the color of them with the fabric, and couldn't bring myself to cover them. Susan Khalje showed me how to correctly stitch them down in class, so I used her method. I adore this shade of blue, and plan on wearing this with grey dress pants or jeans, and I also have a piece of grey doubleknit from Gorgeous Fabrics that wants to be a sheath dress to match.
I won't be updating again (probably) until after Christmas, so I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. This year, Little Miss Princess got to help me set up my Swarovski Snowflake collection. I started in 1995, my first Christmas with DH, and have every one made since. They are so beautiful, and thankfully I have this super safe curio to showcase them in (where little hands can't reach, and balls can't hit and tails don't wag...). The back of the cabinet is mirrored, so it may look like more than 15 ornaments! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Stunning Silk Dress

I worked right up until the very last minute, but it's finished. And, I absolutely love it! (Click to enlarge the photo above!)

Vogue 8382, using 2 yards (60" wide, cut on the cross-grain) of ombred silk from Gorgeous Fabrics. I also used 2 yards of silk organza for added structure (the silk is lightweight and a little sheer) and 2 yards of Ambience lining. When I first saw this fabric, I knew I had to have it. Get on Ann's email list, become a "Facebook Peep" and you'll find out about the great sales (I saved 26% on this one) early! Here is my earlier post explaining the pattern challenges of working with a ombred fabric of this weight. Ann, thank you so much for carrying such a fabulous fabric! I got more compliments on the unique-ness of the fabric, than anything!
The finishing touch was the beaded segments to turn the center front "notch" into a keyhole opening. When I was finally able to put it on, the opening wasn't too deep (I raised it a couple inches from the pattern), but anyone sitting/standing to my side would get a free show. Albeit, not a great show, but nothing I wanted anyone to see! So, I ran to the local bead shop (5 hours prior to party starting) and found a few pretties to close the gap......and make earrings to match! (The beads are smokey black, not brown, and the stones in the center are pinky-mauve. $10 for everything!)You can also see above that my "handstitching the lining" skills are getting better! The pattern has you just line the bodice, but I needed it lining all the way through. Between the silk and the beads, no one would ever guess this dress is homemade!
The fit of the pattern was great, I'll make it up again in spring with a cotton or rayon, and ignore the center front notch. There are only 4 pieces, and it "should" go together very quickly. My fabric and structure choices added on a lot of time in handstitching, but it was worth it. The cap sleeves are very comfortable, not too restricting. I would recommend making a muslin though, if you have large upper arms and to perfect the front neckline.
If I had a formal event to wear it to, I would've made up this BWOF dress from the April 2009 issue. The color gradation and drape of the silk is perfect for the silhouette and the style, so if you have a daughter who needs a prom dress, it would also be stunning!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sneak Peek

It's late. I should be in bed. But, I'm giddy...
Wouldn't you be, too? This is just the outside and the side seams are pinned since the lining isn't in it yet. Just have to assemble the lining, insert it, add the zipper and hem. I should be done Friday night or Saturday morning. See you then!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Works in Progress (Picture Heavy)

Burda Jacket, ready for lining insertion...
Here is the inside of the front, the front yoke is pulled open so you can see the seams.
The wool and interfacing is a little bulky, and I wanted my seams to lay flat, so I pressed them open and catch-stitched them down.
I've never made sleeve heads before, but these really do help pull the cap flat nicely. The shoulder pads are the thinnest available, 1/4" I think...
The end of the sleeve have inside facings since the slit allows you to wear them down, or turn them up. I had to re-read the instructions a few times to figure out the stitching!
Now, for the big decision! Leave the snaps uncovered (pewter color, the 2 on top) or color with the lining (the 1 below)??? Yes, they are the world's largest snaps, and Ann new exactly where to find them, at Pacific Trims in NYC! I'll probably wear the jacket open more than closed, so they will be visible.
Here are the shoulder yokes, which really give this jacket it's unique appearance. I wish I could get them to be a little thinner and lay flatter. Ideas???
I'm close on this one, but the silk dress needs to be done for Saturday night, so the jacket will wait for a few days.

Vogue 8382 dress, ready for cutting and construction...
(don't you love my "pattern weights", aka Yankee Candles and pantry cans!)
The silk is beautiful, but nearly a chiffon. You can see below that when held up to the light, it's nearly sheer (that's my countertop under the fabric). So, I did a little research (back issues of Threads) and found a recent article by Kenneth King about interlining/underlining. He recommends silk organza to add support and weight to the lightest fabrics. I had 2 yards of sand/nude silk organza in the stash, but no black. With no time for a trip to the fabric store (Haberman's is 45 minutes away, you know that Joann's organza is polyester), I grabbed it and it worked perfectly.
The added bonus with this color organza is that I was able to use my carbon paper and tracing wheel to transfer all the darts and grain lines easily. By basting it to the silk, the 2 together will now behave like a single layer of heavier fabric (good-bye "indecent exposure"), and I can stitch right on the darts marks!

You might not be able to see the transfer markings above, but you can definitely see that my hand-stitching. I stayed inside the seam allowances all the way around, and used a single length of embroidery thread, since the silks are both so fine and to keep the stitching smooth.

I had to place the pattern pieces closely and carefully to make best use of the color change in the fabric. I don't want a noticeable black/purple line at the empire seam! I also made 2 pattern alterations: I raised the "cleavage notch" (all the reviewers said and showed it was really revealing) and added a 1/4" to the s.a. at the waist, just to be safe on the fit, since I'll be sitting most of the night. The lining was much, much easier to cut since it's just black Ambiance. The bodice lining will finish the neckline and sleeve hem, I'm so thankful I don't have to deal with facings!

Hope you're all staying warm. We got our first really cold winter night and woke up to a dusting of snow yesterday. I heard that Texas and Louisiana got more snow than we did, so hopefully that forced you indoors and made for a fun sewing day!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Distractions a Plenty...

Pardon the low quality of the photo, my only way of getting pics to load right now is via the camera phone. The computer won't recognize the memory card or the camera (via USB), so I'm left to this. Hopefully I'll have the problem solved soon, as I'm dying to show you my jacket progress. But, before I get to that, let me explain the beautiful silk above. It's from Gorgeous Fabrics, and I need a new dress for DH's work holiday party next Saturday. I was debating strapless or sleeveless, but realized that this (view B) would achieve the short flowy look without the discomfort (and boning) of a strapless. This silk will give this simple cut all the "Wow!" factor, as it is truly gorgeous, the way the color slowly changes from burgundy to black. But, it's a little light-weight for Michigan in December, so I'll need to work in another layer. Stay tuned, as I need this in 10 days! I'm thinking burgundy at the hem, and black at the shoulders...

As for my beautifully constructed Burda jacket... every seam is pressed open and hand-stitched down. There are the shoulder plackets I stitched upside down, ripped out, then stitched backward, then ripped out again. Third times a charm, right? I had to set the back of the sleeve cap 3 times, too. It just kept rippling, and when you search NYC for the perfect wool and don't know when you'll get back to do all again, you suddenly don't mind taking an entire day to set sleeves!

So, before I sew in the lining (which I had completely pinned wrong sides together) and collar, I will try a new memory card and take a new set of photos. It's been a bad week for sewing, just a lot of distraction at the house with the holidays and such. Seems like there just isn't enough time in the day, but I know I can find 30 minutes in there somewhere. Hoping that all of you are finding some much needed quiet time during this hectic time of the year!

*ETA*: After careful review of the pattern stash and the 2 yards I have to work with, I've decided to change patterns. Gathers at the waist (on me) may give people the wrong idea (aka "NO! I'm NOT expecting!"), so I'm seriously considering Vogue 8382 instead, the short version.Since I'm laying the pattern out on the cross-grain to use the color gradation, I measured the skirt circumference and it will work! The reviews I found are positive, with the recommendation to shorten the "V" in the front. As for lining, I'm using some black Ambiance. I will update you soon!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I remember being about 5 years old, and shopping for patterns and fabric in Kmart with my Mom. I remember a dark blue and white gingham and matching blue pants. I remember not being able to figure out where the paper pattern went when she made my clothes (I thought it became part of the fabric).

Although I don't remember it specifically, I'm sure my Mom bought this pattern to make me an outfit. It's dated 1979, and I was wearing a size 6 then, so it makes sense. I don't remember the vest that she might've made, since that's the only part of the pattern that was cut when I opened today to make my daughter a skirt to wear to Thanksgiving dinner.

I smiled when I emptied the envelope and saw that my Mom packed it away the same way I pack my patterns away now, with the most recently used pieces neatly folded inside the instructions for easy retrieval, should I choose to make it again. I silently thanked God and McCall's when I saw all the needed pattern pieces printed on the same sheet of paper (nothing like waiting until noon to start a skirt that needs to be done by 3 pm)!
I used a piece of black corduroy from the stash that I bought at Joann's last fall, in hopes of making her some nice pants for school. I had the zipper already, too. By 2pm, it was all done, and I could get myself ready for the 2 mile trek to dinner! It went together very nicely, and I will be making her a couple more of these before she outgrows the pattern (single size pattern in those days)! She can't work the hook and zipper in the back, but I don't mind helping her. It's a really nice skirt and she's really happy with it, too.
Thanksgiving always makes me think of the nights across the table from Mom, chopping celery and onions for the stuffing. Laughing and talking about the expectations of the following day, or just catching up on regular chit chat. It's been 11 years since I spent a night like that with her, and over 2 years since I heard her voice. I found great comfort today in the thought that she probably very much enjoyed watching me, her little girl, think of her Mom today as she sewed for her own little girl.
Hoping you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends, and found yourselves grateful for all the people past and present that have gifted you with their friendship and love.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

4th generation...

My grandmother, born in 1902, sewed on a treadle machine, clothing her 8 children, and hand-basted every garment first, to perfect the fit.
My mother sewed on a Singer (that I broke when I screwed up the timing) and made her daughters doll clothes, even for my cabbage patch. She taught me how to sew when I was about 13.
You know my story...
And now, I'm teaching my daughter the ropes. She's great at working the pedal, and stopping to remove each pin as she sews. She's starting to get the hang of keep the edge of the fabric on the seam allowance line, and does a mean "runway" walk!

This week we worked a little each night on her nightgown, and today we finished it. I did all the gathering of the sleeves and the hem, but she ran the machine for the rest of it. It's our own version of Butterick 4647, and the fit is good (with room to grow). If the print (Strawberry Shortcake) wasn't so big, I'd make a matching one for her doll for Christmas.
I got creative with the back closure, as thread loops aren't very easy for a little fingers to handle. Instead, I used a short piece of beading elastic, knotted it into a loop, tucked the ends into the neck seam allowance, and stitched it in by hand.
Today, as we were finishing it, we had this conversation...
Her: "Momma? How far away is New York?"
Me: "Well, just an hour if you take an airplane."
Her: "Really??? That's not long at all!"
Me: "Yes, well... airplane tickets are expensive, though."
Her: "One day when I'm old like you, and have lots of money, I can go to New York and buy you some fabric, okay?"
Out of the mouths of babes!!!

When I finished this sweater vest, I emailed a "thank you" to Sandra Betzina (via her website) since I really enjoyed making it so much. A week later I got an email asking permission to post my photo and today it showed up at the "Garment Gallery"! Here's the link, it's part of Sandra Betzina's Power Sewing website. Kinda cool. Took her class at the Expo and she is so funny. I would love to really learn more from her first hand...
*****************************************Now that the nightgown is finished, I can finally re-thread my machine with blue and get some serious work done on my wool jacket. I looked at Claire Schaeffer's "High Fashion Sewing Secrets" and decided to add interfacing to the top of the back pieces. Burda showed strips of interfacing just around the back neck and armscyes, but after reading the book, I understand the purpose of the back interfacing, so went in that direction. I think I'll take an interfacing class next year at the expo, as there are so many different ones and so many ways to apply them.
I spent most of tonight hand-stitching the seam allowances down to get the seams to lay nice and flat. The wool is thick, even though it's not a coating, and I'm trying to reduce bulk. The shoulder and side seams were last to get sewn tonight, so I'll catch-stitch those this week. Here's another view of the front, all closed up. I bought some great snaps in NYC at Pacific Trims that are a perfect match, but I'm tempted to go the "normal" road and use buttons instead. Hmmm....
Hope you are all enjoying productive weekends and I'm looking forward to seeing what you're working on! I've made a new rule for myself: no sewing unless I've done my exercise for the day. So far, it's working. All week, I've only missed one work out this week, and I'm making exercise a higher priority than sewing. The soreness is also helping to keep me on track with lots of water and healthy food choices! No pain, no gain...
p.s. Salinda: Your fabric is going in the mail on Monday!!! Thanks again, so very much!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mail Call!!!

Two packages came in the mail today, but I had to wait to open them until Little Miss Princess when to bed!

In my last post, I asked if any of you wanted to swap doll clothes patterns for fabric. Salinda quickly replied, and not only sent me a doll clothes pattern, but also included a pattern I've been wanting for so long! (Sorry, Blogger rotated them and I can't seem to fix it...) I was rather confused (but very, very pleased) to find 4 more patterns, too! Apparently, her daughter outgrew them before she had a chance to make them up, and knew I would be able to use them. Thank you, Salinda! You are amazing! You said you'd love some sweater knit, so I have these 2 to pick from: There are 2 yards of each, and both are 60" wide. Both are light (wear a cami under!), and will be perfect for you in Louisiana! Let me know which you prefer, but I should send you both since you sent me 6 patterns!!!
They are both poly/cottons and are both soft. The ivory has accents of taupe and the black has a nice amount of teal.

I also posted a classified "wanted" ad at Pattern Review, and also got a quick reply from Alice, who had 3 patterns, for the price of shipping. I love the internet...
So, there ends my happy tale, and I must keep them under wraps, as the doll clothes will be Christmas presents! Hope you all are just as fortunate in your sewing endeavors this weekend...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wanna Swap?

Wanted: Patterns for making 18" doll clothes. Santa is bringing Little Miss Princess her first American Girl doll (Julie) and I'd like to make her some outfits to play with. I have enough scraps and fabric for a million outfits, but could use a couple of patterns!

Up for Trade: Fabric. Patterns. More Fabric. Name your need, and if I have it, we'll swap!

Any takers??? Also, if you are experienced in making 18" doll clothes, what tips do you have to offer me? I've done this once before, but it's been about 4 years!
ETA: Found this website, that offers a variety of patterns for FREE. Actual American Girl outfits! 3 outfits for 6 different dolls! These are the older dolls and the outfits are more antique than I was hoping (Julie is from 1974, what a great year...), but with modification they will work.
If you still want to swap, I'm still interested though!


In other news, the blue wool for my Burda jacket is cut. The lining is cut. The interfacing has been applied and the darts have been marked. I picked up matching thread and shoulder pads this weekend, so sometime this week I will start assembly. Thanks to any of you that offered fit opinions, I really appreciate it. I know it's not nearly as much fun as pictures of finished projects, but you guys are the only ones that can offer me the best advice in this arena! I never would've thought to drop the armscyes without you mentioning it, so thank you!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Jacket Muslin #2

This morning I woke up with sinus issues and a very sore throat, so I decided to stay home. My daughter also woke with a runny nose and cough, so I had to take a day off, regardless. Since I couldn't sleep the day away with the kids underfoot, I modified the jacket pattern and recut a new version. Between the comments here and the assistance on the discussion boards at Pattern Review, I had some food for thought about my changes. I love the internet sewing community and how quickly I can see other versions across the globe!
  • Ana's version, she commented on the last post. Love her version, especially the buttons!
  • Okie2thdoc, from the One Wool Contest thread at PR
  • Phyllis C's version, from the reviews at Pattern Review, with details on how to do the snaps.
  • Burda Fashion: Petiting a Pattern (from the PR board "Patterns and Notions"), which is also great for un-petiting a pattern, just work backwards!
I decided to add an inch of length to the bodice, but I did it as two 1/2" increments, one above the bust dart and one closer to the waist. I grabbed the clear ruler and some construction paper, making a bunch of strips to speed up the process. I also decided to drop the armscye 1/2", since Bunny made such a good point about adding shoulder pads. I let out the side seams 1/2" on both sides to give myself a little more ease, too. Sorry about the funny camera angle, this is my first time using the timer!

I am happy with the new result, and think I will let out a 1/4" on each back princess seam from the armpit level down to give myself a pinch more ease, as it still gets hung up on my hips/butt. Although I plan on wearing it open, I may be inclined to snap/button it at the bottom, and wouldn't want a bunch of creases on my back/bottom!

I've never made 2 muslins before, but I'd rather perfect the fit than be done with the project. I love this fabric, and would rather take a day to make the necessary and correct changes than rush through and end up with a jacket that I never wear because the fit just isn't quite right. Since taking these pics, I've left the muslin on to update this post, and find the fit quite comfortable (unbuttoned), and look forward to the weight and warmth of it in lined wool!

Now, I must head to bed and get some good rest and kick this bug out of my sinuses! Do you think muslin #3 is necessary, or am I ready for the "final copy"?