Sunday, January 25, 2015

pants fitting #2

Thank you commenters for the helpful advice in my last post about pants fitting.
Here is today's version of pants:

To refresh your memory, here is a pic of pants version #1:
Lots of under-butt-cheek wrinkles and
the dreaded jodphur effect on the side seams.

Big improvement, eh?

Here is how I approached it. I pinned out the excess fabric under the butt cheeks and this is how that looked:
This is the flat bottom adjustment explained here.

Then I pinned out horizontal wedges to get rid of the jodphurs:
This is the back pattern piece - I did the front the same way.
This shortened the side seams.
In the front, I also shortened the center front seam by taking out a horizontal wedge at the waistline. I never actually lengthened the back seam, though. Interesting business, this pants fitting! I bet the problem could have been solved with other alterations - this was the one I tried and it worked so I am going with it. The flat bottom adjustment is explained well on Style Arc's website (here). I don't have a flat bottom, but it works!

This was a very productive sewing weekend! I am still waiting for my lining and organza to arrive so I can't start on my Mother-of-the-Bride dress yet. Maybe I will sew some more pants now that I have a better fit. I'll tell you what, those Barb pants sew up really fast. It was nice to reduce the stash a bit, too. Hope you are having good times with your sewing projects!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

pants fitting #1

Hey there, sewing friends. Who is in the mood to critique pants fit? I am lucky in the sense that I can buy RTW pants and wear them just fine. Nevertheless, pants are so fast and easy to sew that I hate spending money on RTW.

I sewed up the Style Arc Barb pattern using stretch woven fabric:

I would really love to take a pants fitting class with Lynda Maynard. Margy has a wonderful pants pattern achieved from a fit session with Lynda. (I am so jealous!) Alas, I live on the East Coast and have no travel plans to California in 2015. Maybe in 2016? Must plan ahead!!

Here is the pattern I used:

Have you any ideas for me? Thank you in advance!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

thank you Vogue Patterns

 When I checked my email this morning, there was an announcement that the spring 2015 Vogue patterns are out. Approximately one zillion patterns caught my eye.

This sure does look like my MOB fabric and isn't it a lovely use of 4-ply crepe silk.
I love that it has 2 options for a cover-up on the top. I'd make the sleeveless shell from something fancy. And wouldn't you need a slit in that skirt for walking? That would be easy to add.
This is a dress - not a jacket over a dress. I don't care for the black and white, but I would use a dark color in the dress and a lighter /brighter color for the bodice as they have done. The darker color recedes, so it works for my figure type. Seems this would be very nice in a ponte knit.

I love the shape of the faux jacket - great for those of us with smaller shoulders.
oh this is pretty but modest

It would take some commitment to attempt a full bust adjustment, or to change the bust point.
But there are a lot of seams available for alterations. 
I'd wear this whole outfit just as it is. I am not usually willing to wear leggings as pants, but I could do it here.

I like the longer blouse under the jacket.
Oh I like this - because it is pretty simple but interesting and the seams in the back would make alterations easier for me.
What an interesting top with lots of opportunity for color blocking. I like view B with the little tuck in the front.
This neckline is pretty - love the combination of fabrics. I'd feel feminine wearing this.
Not now, though - it's too cold for the back of my neck!
This pattern would make an awesome MOB skirt for me. I love that it has pockets.
And my favorite:
Those shoes are so cute with this outfit and I love this pale yellow on this model.

I love all three pieces. That is a lot of time-consuming sewing right there, so not too likely that I will go after this,
so I am just enjoying the eye candy.

Have you seen the new Vogue patterns? Did you find as many appealing options as I did? I would like to see more women of color amongst the models and I hope that someday it is normal to see models of more average height, build and age. But those are minor quibbles. The hair and makeup are soft and natural, which I love. I really enjoyed shopping the new collection.

Congratulations on a beautiful collection Vogue Patterns!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

gown muslin #2 - Burda Classics 1/2012/0004

Here is Muslin #2. If this were an ordinary dress, I'd move on and cut from my 'real' fabric and fix as I go. But 4-ply crepe silk is too special to risk messing up, so I will make the final tweaks and sew up one more muslin with facings and everything.

In this version, the armholes need work and I have added a princess seam to the front bodice - that needs a little work, too.

Let's talk about foundations! Miss Celie told me she was in a local lingerie shop where they do alterations to bustier bras and I think I need to go there! See, here is the thing. When I tried on the bustiers I bought online, they were really hard to get into. Of course, that makes sense - you need a snug band for a bra to be effective. In a bustier, that snug band is long and being in the back, it is pretty hard to reach, much less identify alteration solutions. What hadn't occurred to me is that a lingerie shop can perform fitting adjustments to a RTW bustier. Duh. Consider this information to be filed away for future consideration. I'd love to wear summer tops with interesting details on the shoulders (more lace!) and I'll be wanting a strapless solution for that.

For my dress with straps, it is a Spanx situation:
Skinny Britches - I criss-crossed the straps in the back to work with
my rounded & sloped shoulders. And at the risk of TMI, there is access
for use in the Ladies Room. I think you know what I mean. I've had these
Spanx for a while - I can't remember if it came with the trap door,
or if I added it. But that is a necessity, you know?

OK, back to the alterations. Here is where I have actually learned something during my blogging years. Pre-blogging, I would have just taken in the side seams and wondered why the dress still fit poorly.

This is altered Muslin #1. I know the armholes still need shaving, but that's easy and I left that for last.
The very first alteration I made was a horizontal alteration where the bodice meets the skirt. In the back, that amounted to sway back adjustment and it continues around to the front where it tapers to nothing. Next I narrowed the front piece vertically, along the center front line.

After the garment was balanced, I proceeded to decrease the size of the bodice - both in the front and in the back. I just sewed along the darts until I had princess seams.

The vertical tuck along the bust apex was like doing a FBA in reverse.
Once I had all the altering figured out, I went back to my paper pattern and transferred all the nips and tucks back to paper. Then, I just sewed the whole thing up again. The front darts created little bubbles that displeased me, so I'm not sticking with darts - I am going to have princess seams on the front of the bodice.
The dart under the bust is not ideal for me.  The only way to prevent a pointy tip is to curve the dart to match my shape. I thought about making that dart smaller by rotating some of it to a side dart, but I still don't think it would give me the smooth shaping I am after. So - I am going to make a princess seam that goes to the neckline. That way, I can keep the neckline from gaping, too. Also, it's not a big deal, but I am going to shorten the back darts to leave a little more booty room in the skirt.
I do like this length. It works with heels or flats.

I am curious about how this fit will really work. There is still quite a bit of wearing ease in the area where the bodice joins the skirt. After years of unsuccessful fitting attempts, overfitting myself, this time I am NOT making a snug fit. All it does is make my butt look big. Yes, I still have a 14 year old girl in my head. I could even add lightweight boning to those skirt darts to keep them from collapsing. If it doesn't work, you will be the first to know. Right after I find out. If you have experience with this, please share!

Next steps:
Once I have the dress pattern fitted, I will make a muslin for the jacket. The jacket will follow the lines of the bodice in the dress - in other words, I am envisioning a cropped style. Bolero jackets seem a little dated to me, plus I don't think it's a flattering look for me unless the jacket has vertical front center seams. Therefore, I am thinking more of a layering piece that closes in the back. 'Jacket' is the closest word.

I admit I had a flash of panic over all this and briefly felt like "I CAN'T DO THIS! I am just not sure how this is going to work!!" But that feeling passed and I realized the process will provide the answers. If adding sleeves to the dress works better than having a separate 'jacket' layer, then so be it.

The reason I am sharing that feeling of panic is because it is part of sewing; it is part of my sewing anyway. It can be stressful to buy expensive fabric and make something you don't wear every day. After all, a t-shirt that doesn't work out is not a very big loss, is it? But an outfit for a daughter's wedding HAS TO WORK OUT. It is a one shot deal and it needs to be right. Otherwise, her marriage vows won't stick! Ha ha, just a little reality check there - of course it will all be FINE.

Maybe I will have a jacket muslin to show the next time I post here. I hope so!
Are you doing anything interesting this weekend? Howie and I are celebrating TEN years of wedded bliss and we will have a fancy steak dinner downtown this evening. I sorta wish I had this jacket NOW. I'd dress it down, of course, but I wouldn't mind sparkling this evening.

Happy Sewing!

Friday, January 16, 2015

gown muslin #1 - Burda Classics 1/2012/0004

I sewed up a size 46 with no adjustments and I am happy with this first pass. I took photos in order to study the fit and here's a shot depicting the narrow width - which is my mistake because I didn't leave the slit high enough in the back.
The bodice needs to be narrower to prevent gaping in the neckline when I move around.
There are no seam allowances on the neckline or armscye of this muslin - I cut those at the finished edges.

The slit in the back still needs to go higher so I can walk easily.
There are no seam allowances on the neckline or the armscye - and the back of the bodice needs to be narrower.
There is excess fabric in the bodice under the arms, so overall, it is just too big.
Ordinarily I would have cut a size smaller, and it would fit the shoulders a bit better, but then I would have to do a FBA.
Eh, six of one and half dozen of another, right? Need to alter it regardless of which size I start with.

There is a LOT of excess fabric in the back (above the level of my elbows) but I don't plan to over-fit that area.
 I think it looks more balanced and proportionate to leave a "suggestion" that my back area is a little bigger there.
Also, it keeps the dress from getting too snug around my belly, which wouldn't look so hot either.

I like it on me better than I expected to. 

I have a couple ways to approach this and it boils down to choosing whether to make a dress or separates.


  • add the 3/4 length sleeve
  • make the sleeve from the embellished tulle
  • body of the dress in solid 4-ply silk
  • embellish bodice with beaded tulle, adding an illusion boat-neck neckline

I blurred out the embellishment on the lower part of the dress - I only want bling on the bodice.


The dress would be sleeveless and sewn in the 4-ply silk. The jacket would have an organza base layer to support the embellished tulle.

There are so many ways to sew a jacket - here is just one inspiration pic:
Isn't that gorgeous? 
And, of course the jacket could have fasteners in the back instead of the front. Imagine this with 3/4 length sleeves:
I think I have just talked myself into separates. 
Way back in the past, I was a working musician and we generally wore black for gigs. I had a wardrobe of black separates that I mixed and matched liberally. I guess that's why I lean towards wanting separates. I could imagine shortening the dress later and I can imagine wearing a beaded jacket /top with a leather skirt or slim pants.

So yay for blogging! This is helping me make decisions. Before I started writing this morning, I made the mistake of looking at the internet. Anne (the Clothing Engineer) just posted lots of pictures from the new Marfy catalog. Just having a piece of beefy silk on deck makes me susceptible to images that take advantage of the amazing drape in 4-ply silk. And it makes me think "Oh I should make something more interesting than a column dress!!" but that is not helping me move forward! There are always a million ways to do something and it doesn't have to be the ULTIMATE, BEST, MOST PERFECT DRESS EVER. That kind of thinking will paralyze me!!

I need to keep moving forward!
hmmm, cute blinders
I could make some like that ....

Saturday, January 10, 2015

sewing for the Mother of the Bride

I will make my own dress to wear to my daughter's wedding. The ceremony will be outdoors and the reception will be held in a [beautifully renovated] "barn". The bride's gown comprises a big tulle skirt, Chantilly lace on the bodice front and beaded lace on the bodice back. All 4 bridesmaids will wear blush pink gowns, also featuring tulle. It will look something like this:
This image (via) shows the basic color scheme - but the venue is on a farm.
These colors were finalized on New Years Eve when we found the bridesmaids' dresses at Garnish Boutique in Baltimore.

If they had gone for a mismatched look, I was eager to sew the bridesmaids dresses, but who wants to sew the same dress 4 times? Not me! I will do the alterations, though. There was an interest in having skin-toned organza applied in the straps of the bodice - so that the girls can wear regular bras. That is something I can do, and probably worth blogging about, right?

Now that we had the wedding figured out, I was able to focus on something for myself. I came very close to choosing navy blue, but when I walked into my local fabric stores (I have 2 really good ones) both of them had amazing gray laces. At A Fabric Place in Baltimore, Michael has this:
This photo doesn't do it justice - the lace has a lovely pattern that isn't too sparse or symmetrical
and it is embellished with sweet twinkly sequins.
And down in Rockville, at G Street Fabrics, I found another amazing gray - this time a beaded tulle. It is not really lace at all - it is tulle encrusted with a whole lot of bling:

This was displayed over lavender silk organza - so gorgeous!
I liked the overall pattern of the first lace better, but I liked the glitter of the embellished tulle better. I might have waited and mulled it over, but one of my favorite salespeople was there at G Street and she did a good job meeting all of my needs :)
What I mean by that is she asked me what I would make. I answered that I'd use this to embellish a dress made from 4-ply silk, or, I'd make a jacket out of the beaded tulle, and wear it with the 4-ply silk dress. My reason for 4-ply silk is the weight - it is heavy enough that it doesn't really need to be underlined, and it isn't shiny like satin. I prefer the matte finish because it doesn't broadcast every lump or bump in the figure.

As fast as my little brain could absorb it, she produced with a glorious silk for the dress, Ambience lining, and silk organza to line a jacket. She strongly encouraged me to make a jacket so I could wear it again in the future. Also, how can you resist a beautiful woman wearing clothes she has sewn for herself? She is maybe a little older than I am and always looks so amazing, AND clearly her sewing is exquisite, too. I think she is actually a buyer, in addition to helping customers like me. It was a treat to walk out with everything I needed to tackle this project. G Street does not carry nearly the selection they had just 10 years ago, but what they have is delicious. I also appreciate how clean and tidy the store is - with nice bright lighting.

Next: what to make? Well .... I had this idea to make something strapless out of the silk. To keep the sewing as fast & easy as possible, I ordered several bustiers (like this) as opposed to making my own (like poppykettle did). They arrived yesterday and they are already in the return mail, because the fit just didn't meet up to my admittedly high standards. Someday I will take time to sew a bustier, but for now I will just wear a regular bra and sew a dress that works with it. I have more sewing projects after this and I don't want to make a big thing out of it. I want to get it done!

Here is a pattern I found in the Autumn/Winter 2012 Burda Style Special magazine:
This pattern comes in an impressive range of sizes, from 36 - 50,
it has a sleeveless, short-sleeved and long sleeved versions,
AND it comes in short or long. I know you can make all those changes yourself,
but it's nice to have all the options there.
My thought is to sew a muslin of the sleeveless version this afternoon. I can then decide whether I will be making a plain dress or an embellished dress. If I embellish the dress, I will use the beaded tulle for the sleeves and I will apply the beaded motifs directly to the bodice of this pattern. In my imagination, I will crowd the motifs together to get a really dense bling-a-licious look.
Or maybe I will decide to sew a separate jacket - we shall see!!

More pics of the silk and the embellished tulle:
sorry about the bedhead ... my Christmas tree hasn't been taken down either :-O

yummy 4-ply silk - I got what was left on the bolt

I can't decide if I like that edging or not. I adore eyelash fringe on real lace,
but this is embroidered onto the tulle. It looks OK ...
I AM sure I like the southern exposure - the light in this room is amazing.

When I wrapped the silk around me like this, I wanted to change all my plans and make a long skirt!
Another question on my mind is whether to go long or knee-length? If I go long, the shoes don't matter too much but if I go short, the shoes need to look good. Since the wedding is outdoors, I am reluctant to wear spiky heels.

Also, I am a little concerned that I could end up being overdressed for the occasion, so I have thought hard about wearing Palazzo pants. That would take the formal edge off the ensemble, right? But then, do I really need to worry about being overdressed? It is my daughter's wedding - if I can't go nuts for that, when can I?

How about this option:
I feel like this could happen to me if I am not careful.
Because, people, I love to get fancy and SEW!

Off I go to trace off that pattern and get that dress muslin started. I really hope this doesn't hurt the Ravens. The last time our football team was in the playoffs, I sewed purple stuff during every game and they won the Super Bowl! But I can't wear purple to my daughter's wedding, so maybe the other fans can help them get the job done this year.
And with that, I'll sign off!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Bring on 2015! Happy New Year!

This will be the winter of comfort. The last time my laundry basket contained cotton interlock in juvenile prints was 25 years ago and they were for my daughter, not me!
This knit is by Anna Maria Horner. I used a pattern I printed out from Bernina My Label software several years ago. I had to add a small FBA (with side gathering as opposed to a dart) and I enlarged the neckline just a bit.

Here is another cotton interlock - this one is by Amy Butler. The pattern is something I copied off a mens' t-shirt that was too small for my husband. It has a V-neck, a boxier fit and slightly dropped shoulders. I found the dropped shoulders worked well for the dartless approach. It doesn't form dart-like folds in the armpits like the other pattern does.
But both patterns are fine, I think. 
This is a print by Anna Maria Horner and the pattern is the one from Bernina My Label.

I wear my t-shirts with fleece vests or scarves. See what I mean? This winter's wardrobe is casual and comfortable. Maybe I am reacting to last year's epic winter. I needed to make sure I had cosy things to wear, but so far, this year had been quite crisp and agreeable. I do love fall and winter.
I still have one more piece of fabric by Amy Butler and I think I will try a different pattern for that one. At the rate I have been sewing lately, it will be ready to blog in another month. *smile*

Birch Frolic Girl - I gave this one to my tawny blonde niece because the colors weren't right for me. 
There are so many reasons why my sewing slowed down so much, and part of it had to do with a loss of mojo. Today I feel inspired, so it must have something to do with my daughter's wedding. I have been in limbo, waiting to see what, if anything, I would sew for the wedding.

Yesterday we went shopping. Her stepmom, most of her bridesmaids and I met up to look for the bridemaids' dresses. This wedding planning sure is going smoothly, and it is mostly because my daughter does her research and she makes decisions easily. We went with the first venue we saw, the first wedding gown she tried on and yesterday, the bridesmaids gowns were selected within an hour. Oh I love being the mother of this bride! If it were me, I would be trying on every gown on the east coast, and it would be exhausting! And, I would have asked for 4 unique gowns for each bridesmaid.

Back to my mojo, though! I am off the hook for the gown or the bridesmaids dresses, so now I am excited about the possibility of sewing a dress for the stepmom. It feels so good to use my sewing skills this way. For women our age, shopping can be such a nightmare of inadequate sleeves, cheap fabrication and style compromise. I can get silk jersey or a nice ponte and maybe some trim (I feel a trip to the garment district calling me) and sew a lovely wrap dress, or maybe a fit-and-flare style that she will love wearing. We shall see!

For myself I am wide open. When else could I go dramatic and fashion-forward, right?
This isn't a good color for me, but boy is it luxurious.  hhmmm... well, OK maybe it does look like a bathrobe, but I maintain my right to think outside the box when it comes to my MOB outfit.

In the meantime, I think I need to dive into organizing. My sewing nook is still pretty thrown together. I've got lots of time off (well, a 5-day weekend seems like a lot :) and creative energy, so off I go!

I hope you have a happy new year. Got any edgy ideas for a Mother-of-the-Bride? I am all ears!