It’s PSA Time, Folks!

I’ve been remiss this year in reminding you, but it’s still Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As you may know, I am a BC survivor. I had no family history, I had no risk factors, and I was good about getting my annual screening mammogram.

Then in December of 1999, there it was. A cluster of tiny dots on the mammogram that surrounded a Stage 1, estrogen-receptor positive growth in my right breast. The mammogram found it, people. So listen up…

If you are a woman over age 40, please get a mammogram once a year. It could save your life. I’m proof (touch wood).

In sewing news, I made a muslin of StyleArc’s Alisha Dress. It fits reasonably well right out of the envelope. It’s a little snug through the waist (sigh) and the bust, but not horribly so in either place. I’ll try making a muslin without darts, add an FBA and a slight sway back adjustment and see how that looks. Then I’ll start on the lace. I’ll update you as it progresses. ‘Til then,

Happy sewing!

Posted in Commentary | 4 Comments

Pattern Review: McCalls 6796

This is a bit of a palate cleanser after Wrapapalooza and before I start on my holiday dress.

I made this view

I wanted to make an easy top, one without a high neckline. Lately I have found that high necks bother me. I’m hoping that stops before winter sets in. This seemed like a good option, and it was sitting in my pattern stash.

Pattern Description: From McCalls’ website, Close-fitting, pullover tops have collar variations and narrow hem. C and D: button trim. I made View D, with bracelet length sleeves.

Sizing: 6-22. I made a 12.

Fabric Used: Cable style lightweight sweater knit (sold out, sorry) from Gorgeous Fabrics. Does it look familiar? Anyone? You might have seen it on the cover of a magazine recently. :)

Machines and Tools Used: My Juki MO654DE home serger and my Pfaff 2130 home machine. Shoulder press, silk organza press cloth, sleeve board and ham, along with Naomi the wonder iron.

Needle/Notions Used: Stretch 70/10. I could have probably used a jersey/ballpoint needle instead, but the stretch worked fine. 3 buttons from my stash. I’ve had them for at least 10 years. I’m not sure where I got them. They are light enough that they don’t weigh the collar down too much.

Tips Used during Construction: And Now, a Word from The Pressinatrix. In fact, just about anything by The Pressinatrix.

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes

How were the instructions? They were fine. This is a pretty straightforward pattern.

Construction Notes: First up, I made a FBA. After I did that, I cut it out on a folded piece of tracing paper, with the fold at center front, so I had a single complete front bodice piece. I wanted to do that so I would have complete control over the placement of the cable motifs. I used a single layer layout for cutting.
I serged all the main seams. I stabilized the shoulder seams with a strip of fusible interfacing. Instead of setting the sleeve in per McCalls’ directions (after the shoulders and side seams are sewn), I set the sleeve in flat. It worked just fine.

Originally I was planning to make the full length sleeves, not bracelet sleeves. But when I hemmed them, they got all stretched out and wavy.

Well that’s annoying.

I cut off the wavy part and used a scrap of fusible interfacing to stabilize the hem. I probably could have avoided the issue if I had hand-hemmed it, but I wanted to make this all on the machine. The fusible interfacing worked fine for the sleeves. I also used it on the hem, but it still is kind of wavy. The hem on this pattern is pretty flared out. I may take the sides in a bit at the bottom to get more of the look I prefer.

The collar is made from a single piece of fabric. I couldn’t get both the center front motif and the center back motif to line up, so I just went with the CF.

Here you can see the back on Shelley

Likes/Dislikes: This is a perfectly passable pattern. It goes together quite well and quickly. I like the collar detail.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? I probably won’t do it again, though I do recommend it. This is a nice piece that will look good in many wardrobes.

And while DH was doing the Wrapapalooza photo shoot, he got a quick shot of me in the top.

The wind was picking up as the photo shoot went on.

Conclusion: A good, slightly elevated basic that sews together easily. This can pair equally well with jeans as with a pencil skirt, and if you do it in, say, a sequined knit it will make a nice evening option.

My next project is going to be my holiday dress, a lace number. I have to muslin it, so I’ll have more on that as things progress.

Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, McCalls | 8 Comments

Wrapapalooza Wrap Up

Wrapapalooza Collage
Four dresses, 8 weeks and Wrapapalooza is officially a wrap! I made Very Easy Vogue 8646, StyleArc’s Tia, StyleArc’s Kate and Vogue/DVF 1549. First up, a table, since it appeals to the old Director of North American Sales in me.

Comparison of the four patterns

And below are my thoughts on each, upside and downside…

Vogue 8646

Comfy!

But it does run large

Upside:
Easy to make, well drafted, very quick to sew. Options including sleeved and sleeveless make it good for all seasons. And it has different bodice pieces for different cup sizes!

Downside:
Runs very large through the shoulders. I made a size 12 and it still is too wide at the shoulders. Go down a size, at least. The pattern uses the same bodice pieces for both the sleeved and sleeveless version, so make a bodice muslin to make sure you don’t get gapping at the armhole if you make the sleeveless.

StyleArc Tia

Comfortable

And easy

Upside:
Very well drafted, goes together quickly. Since it’s a mock-wrap there’s no danger of your skirt blowing up in the wind. The size runs true for me (AUS size 10) and the shoulders fit well without any adjustment.

Downside:
It’s more casual than the others, and less fitted. Also, since it doesn’t have a long-sleeved version it is a warm-weather dress, at least in Boston.

StyleArc Kate

Dog? Who you callin’ a dog?!

Solo

Upside:
Very well drafted. Sews up like a dream, and goes together quickly. Good option for both casual and dressier versions (think ITY and silk jersey).

Downside:
Because it doesn’t have a waistline seam, you might need to add a little length if you do a FBA.

DVF/Vogue 1549

This is SO comfortable, sexy and amazeballs

Upside:
The classic. Beautifully drafted, the instructions are fantastic. The end result is gorgeous on everyone I’ve seen make it. And it is the original, cult-inspiring pattern. Ha! Suck it! Neener neener neener!

Oh, is that ungracious of me?

Downside:
Holy crap, the price! My son is going to take out a student loan because Mommy had to have this pattern.

A couple of things to know about wrap dresses…
One, you need to pay attention to the fit at the shoulder to get great results. This is one design that absolutely requires the shoulders to fit well, or it just doesn’t work. It is a forgiving design overall, but get the sizing right and it is great.

Two, do an FBA. I’ve seen a lot of wrap dresses recently where the wearer sticks a camisole underneath. That’s not bad, but all it takes is a good FBA to make it so you don’t have to “cover up”. It’s supposed to be sexy. Sexy as in, undo the belt to get the whole thing to fall off (bra-catcher and snaps aside). Putting a camisole under it kind of defeats the purpose. So fit the bust, folks. You and your SO will be glad you did. :)

Other Wrap Dress Patterns that are Available
I haven’t sewn any of these, so I can’t give you my opinions of fit, but these are some other ones that you can easily find in stores or online:
New Look 6349 – I lied. I did make this one years ago. Beloved by many, runs huge.
Christine Jonson Wrap Dress Loved by everyone who makes it – this is one that seems to always need a camisole.
McCalls Palmer-Pletsch 6986 – Interesting waist treatment and batwing sleeves. PP patterns have great fitting instructions.
HotPatterns Sarine Knit Dress – Reminiscent of the Tia, with interesting waistline and shoulder gather details.

As you can tell, I just love wrap dresses. I can see traveling with a week’s worth of these. They are easy, comfortable and chic!

In Other News…
Today was the annual Burger Burn at MICAA, a high school marching band competition. The UMass bands (Amherst and Lowell) perform exhibitions for this, and the parents make lunches for the kids, which is great fun. We got to see DS the Elder and his friends, and the band sounded great. However, after helping cook about 500 hamburgers, I don’t need to eat any for the next 6 months or so.

Today was also the annual Halloween parade at the town just north of us. DS the Younger marched in that, but he gave us the okay to go do the Burger Burn (next year we’ll skip the Burger Burn and watch him lead the band as Senior Drum Major). I think everyone had a great time. Lord knows we’re all pretty tired.

Last up, a couple of parting shots
First, Halloween is Friday, so my bat earrings are getting their annual fly-about

Hmmm, that’s a bit far away

A little closer. I’ve had these for about 20 years and I still love them!

Next, Gratuitous Hoover Shots!

Sit, Hoover!

Yes! I am the dog whisperer!

I finished my McCalls top, so I’ll review that tomorrow. In the meantime,

Happy sewing!

Posted in StyleArc, Vogue, Wrapapalooza | 15 Comments

Might As Well Stay In and Sew

Thar she blows!

Thar she blows!

That radar image doesn’t show the veritable gale that is blowing outside the windows right now. Here in Boston we had a beautiful weekend, with the fall foliage just past peak but still quite lovely. Something tells me that with all the wind and driving rain we’re supposed to get for the next two days, this weekend will be when we do the majority of our raking.

So what to do on a dark and stormy night, in the hours between dinner and “American Horror Story – Freak Show” (a truly twisted series, BTW)? Sew, of course! Tonight I cut out McCalls 6796, a cute and easy sweater. I’m making View D

I made the usual pattern adjustments, then I cut it out. The fabric is (of course) from Gorgeous Fabrics but alas, it is sold out. It might look familiar to you, and I’ll explain why when I post the review.

I’ve seen that knit before somewhere…

That’s as much as I care to do tonight. It’s late, it’s storming, and I’m tired so I don’t want to make any dumb mistakes. Time to call it a night.

Parting Shot

Hoover’s preferred way to spend stormy evenings

I’ll post more when I have it finished. In the meantime, stay warm and dry, and

Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, Sewing | 8 Comments

Vale, Oscar de la Renta

It is a sad day in the fashion world. A great man has passed.

Cribbed from Wikipedia, but I doubt they’ll mind

Posted in Fashion | 2 Comments

Some Better Shots of Vogue 1549 DVF Wrap Dress

Phyllis suggested I take pictures of the dress in the light of day, since the flash washes out the colors. So here you go.

Outside Shot 1

This really does show the color better. And how about that New England Fall, huh?

Medium Outdoor Shot

A slightly closer shot

Bodice Closeup

And a closeup of the neckline so you can see the fabric better.

This is going to be my Thanksgiving dress. It is amazingly comfortable on. I call it my bathrobe dress. There are some features that make it even more comfortable. To quote Phyllis, “I may not agree with her [DVF's] views on IP, but she is a great designer.” This dress looks great with boots, pumps and flats, so I’ll be able to wear comfortable shoes when I tire of killer heels.

I wore my Kate dress today, but I didn’t get a picture of that. The weather is supposed to go downhill until the weekend, but I’ll try to get shots of me in all the dresses when it gets better. I’ll do a wrap-up post this week. In the meantime,

Happy sewing!

Posted in Vogue, Wrapapalooza | 4 Comments

Wrapapalooza Finale: Pattern Review of OOP Vogue DVF 1549

Pattern Description: This is the original DVF Vogue pattern (long since out of print), of which the pattern envelope says: Front wrapped dress, 3 inches (7.5 cm) below mid knee or evening length, with fitted bodice slightly gathered at front and tucked at back into waistline, has fitted and flared skirt and attached tie ends that tie at side front or center back. Full length sleeves have pointed cuffs with button trim. With or without pointed collar. Topstitch trim.

Sizing: 6-16. I made a 12 with modifications to make it a 14 at the waist.

Fabric Used: Italian Rayon Double Knit in Heathered Rio Red. As Phyllis said to me tonight, “You have to photograph this fabric in daylight, because it is so much more beautiful than the flash shows.” So tomorrow I’ll photograph it in daylight. It is closer in color to the flat scan than any of the photographs.

Plus a scrap of Poly Matte Jersey in Persian Red

Machines and Tools Used: Pfaff 2130 home machine, Juki DDL 8700 industrial. Ham. Shoulder stand.

Needle/Notions Used: Stretch 75/11, Pro Sheer Elegance fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply, clear elastic, buttons (see below)

Tips Used during Construction: Anything by The Pressinatrix, Sewing With Knits.

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes!

How were the instructions? Great. Seriously, these were the golden days of patterns, so the instructions are thorough and understandable. Yes, they use slightly different methods than are in common usage today, but you still get great results, even if you adapt it for modern equipment.

Construction Notes: Unlike my other Wrapapalooza dresses, I decided to make this solely on my sewing machine, eschewing my serger. I have to tell you – I think that was the right choice, especially with this fabric. If I make it in a lighter knit (which I will) I will use the serger, but this fabric seemed to call out to me for the sewing machine.

I started with a size 12, adding a FBA and leaving the fullness added at the waist. I figure I can use the wrap to adjust if I lose inches at my waistline (alas, not likely).

One of the cool things about this pattern is that it has you affix your interfacing not to the facing, but to the main garment pieces. Not sure if that is better, worse or indifferent, but it is different from the way standard pattern instructions are written these days.
Faced Front
This pattern was released in the ’70s, long before modern construction methods. It advises staying the neckline and waistline with seam binding. Contemporary versions of DVF dresses are stayed with clear elastic, so that’s what I used here.
Elastic Neckline Stay
Elastic Waist Stay
The pattern didn’t tell me to do this, but I decided to under-stitch the skirt facings to keep them in place
Understitching on the Skirt
Per the instructions, I topstitched the bodice
Topstitching on the Bodice
I was very slightly short on the fabric I used, so I fudged the under collar, which turned out to be a happy circumstance. I used a scrap of ITY jersey, which added just the right drape to the collar.

ITY Undercollar

I used buttons that my friend Joanne in France gave me. They are perfect!

Buttons From Joanne

The sleeves on this pattern have facings at the cuffs, which makes for a nice finishing detail

Sleeve Facing

I originally planned to shorten the dress by about 6 inches, but I tried it on with the shoes I will likely wear with it and it looked great so I decided against it.

Likes/Dislikes:
This dress is comfortable! I can see why it is such a hit and such a classic. It looks great on so many body types, and it’s not too low (after my FBA). I will be making a slew of these in many different fabrics. If you have the chance to purchase this pattern, do! You won’t regret it.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Yes and Yes!!!

Conclusion: A fabulous dress, from a golden age, by an amazing designer. Here are pictures on Shelley:

Front View

Back View

This is one great pattern, and having sewn it, I can see why it has such a zealous following. Wrapapalooza has now officially finished, but believe me, I’ll be sewing lots of versions of the dresses you have seen!

Now just so you don’t think I’ve forgotten, we’re 2/3rds of the way through Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I haven’t been around much this month so you haven’t seen my usual pontifications about getting your annual mammogram. But dammit. Do it! I’ll have more later, but that’s your PSA for now :)

Happy sewing!

Posted in Vogue, Wrapapalooza | 12 Comments

I Was Going to Write a Blog Post

But I decided against it.

Seriously. I was going to write a rather long, involved post reviewing several books that I have purchased lately, but I have been so turned off by all the OMG-This-Book-Is-So-Awesome-You-Have-To-Buy-It-Now!!!! reviews that have been popping up around the blogosphere, that I can’t even.

So I’m not going to, even though one of them *cough*Sewaholic*cough* is pretty good. I just can’t because I’m sick to death of blog tours. Is that imprudent of me? Maybe, but The Pressinatrix is tapping me on the shoulder telling me what to type and I have to whack her away like Edna Mode with one of her gate guards…

So my friends, I’m not going to review books right now. Maybe in a few months after all the hoopla has died down I’ll give you my (non-fangrrrrrl) opinions. But for now, let me give you the two books I keep open on my sewing table at almost all times, and if I were to tell you to go out and buy only two sewing books, these would be they:

Vogue Sewing

Mine is old, but the new versions are just as good.

I have a version from lalalalalala I’m not admitting when. Let’s just say it was a Christmas present from my parents when I still lived at home, but the current version is just as good. It’s pretty much my definitive sewing book for the home sewing enthusiast.

The second book is a textbook, which means it is priced like a textbook, which means it is expensive. But it is worth Every. Single. Dime.

Professional Sewing Techniques for Designers by Jules Cole and Sharon Czachor:

If you want to know how industry (and I’m not talking cheap fast fashion) puts clothing together, and gain a greater understanding of the construction process, this is the book I recommend.

These two books will take you from newbie sewist to well beyond intermediate. They are filled with good information well presented and they won’t rot your teeth. That was The Pressinatrix talking. Back, you beast!

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I advertise with Vogue Patterns, and Jules Cole is a friend of mine. But my ownership and admiration of both these books predate both those relationships (in the case of Vogue Patterns, by several decades and with Jules’ book by about 2 years).

If you want to learn to sew, or if you want to expand your skill, or even if you just want to remind yourself of how to do something well, these are the two books I would keep at hand at all times.

I have been sewing my last Wrapapalooza dress (the DVF!) and it’s almost done. Plus I was traveling lately and saw someone who is very dear to my blogging friends so I’ll post about all those shortly. Until then…

Happy sewing!

Posted in Books | 13 Comments

Clockwise? Or Counter-Clockwise?

Lately there has been some… animated discussion… amongst some of my sewing friends about which direction one winds and loads one’s bobbins. The question is whether clockwise or counter-clockwise is the correct way. I guess someone has posted a rather controversial declaration. Well, ‘controversial’ may be a bit overstated – compared with problems outside the sewing world, bobbin direction seems to be a bit First World Problem. But since I can deal better with FWPs than with other things, I decided to do a highly unscientific experiment.

To give you a bit of background, I have three sewing machines: a Pfaff 2130, which is my home workhorse, a Juki DDL8700 industrial straight stitch, which I keep at the office, and Bernie my emergency backup machine, for when I need to use non-straight stitches at the office, and at home when the Pfaff was in the shop. Anyways, when I bought the Juki, the tech at Reliable Sewing gave me a quick run-through of how to operate it. When he showed me how to load the bobbin and I asked, “Should I load it with the thread going over?” (which is clockwise)

He stopped and gave me a look like I had just sprouted a second head, and said, “It doesn’t matter with this machine.” And indeed, it doesn’t. I can load my bobbin with the thread coming off it clockwise or counter-clockwise, and it gives me the same great stitch.

But my Pfaff has distinct instructions to put the bobbin in the case with the thread going over.

They say clockwise…

So I decided to try a little experiment. Like I say, it is highly unscientific, but here goes:

If they say Clockwise…


We’ll give ‘em clockwise.


And we run it under the machine…


…with excellent results, as we would expect. But…


What if one day we wake up feeling rebellious?


Will our eyesight go blurry from loading it Counter-clockwise?


And more importantly – will it give us awful stitches or will it harm our machines? I put my Pfaff on the line to see what would happen and…

I can’t tell a difference.


Can you tell the difference?

To be fair, I ran the counter-clockwise configuration 5 times on muslin pieces just like the one shown. I expected to see degradation in stitch quality, but they all looked the same. It also didn’t seem to harm my machine.

That said

If your sewing machine manual says to do it a certain way, do it that way. I don’t advocate rebelling against what your machine’s manual tells you to do vis a vis threading and loading your bobbin. I don’t know every machine out there and how it is configured, neither do any of the people I know, including many sewing machine technicians. Generally speaking, I trust the manual more than many folks who purport to be experts, unless they have the exact same machine as mine.

Happy sewing!

Posted in Machines, Sewing | 8 Comments

Pattern Review: StyleArc Kate Dress

Wrapapalooza continues! This week’s wrap dress is one of the first StyleArc patterns I ever bought, the Kate Dress.

Pattern Description: (From StyleArc’s website) Fabulous versatile wrap dress – easy to wear, great for any occasion. Try it Royal Blue for that special occasion. Or in pattern to imitate Kate’s Australian wardrobe item.

This is the knockoff of the Issa Dress that Catherine Middleton wore when her engagement to William was first announced.

Sizing: 4-30. I made a 10.

Fabric Used: Sssssssslinky Mama Jersey in Greens/Black from Gorgeous Fabrics (of course). I have to gush for just a second here.

This has been one of the best selling fabrics on Gorgeous Fabrics since I introduced it. I’ve gotten more than a dozen emails from customers who rave about what a great fabric it is: easy to sew, takes a press beautifully, drapes without clinging… the list goes on and on. Well, I believed them, of course, and I was always happy to hear from happy customers. But then I pulled some for this dress and, WOW! They weren’t kidding. This is possibly the best knit I have ever sewn with, and that is saying something!

Okay, end gush. Thanks.

Machines and Tools Used: Juki home serger for the seams, Pfaff 2130 for the hems. Naomoto iron, and this fabulous shoulder stand for pressing:

One of the most useful tools in the Pressinatrix’ arsenal

Needle/Notions Used: Stretch 75/11 needles, ¼ inch elastic, scraps of fusible interfacing, thread.

Tips Used during Construction: Anything by The Pressinatrix.

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes

How were the instructions? Eh. The dress is beautifully drafted, so it goes together readily. The instructions are rather thin. But if you have any knowledge of sewing, this is an easy dress to make.

Construction Notes: There were two omissions on my pattern. The front notch on the sleeve and the corresponding notch on the left front armscye were missing. I put them in using the right front armscye as the guide. As I mentioned earlier, I bought this pattern when it first came out so I sent an email to Chloe asking if that has been fixed. I’ll let you know when I hear back from her.

The pattern recommends using tearaway vilene to stabilize the neckline. It also suggests optionally using elastic cut to the length of the neckline as a stay. Instead, I decided to cut the elastic to the length of the neckline stays and skip the vilene entirely. That worked really well for me. It snugs the neckline just a bit and keeps it from stretching.

You can just see the edge of the elastic peeking out.

I serged all the seams, and I used tiny, invisible stitches to overcast the opening in the side seam for the sash.

The belt goes through here

Likes/Dislikes: I. Love. This. Dress! It goes together beautifully, and the sash keeps it in place. It’s not too low cut on me and it is really comfortable to wear. The fabric, as mentioned above, is wonderful and it hides a multitude of sins. I like the pleating details on the sleeve and the waistline:

It adds a nice touch just above the wrist

Whoops, gotta go back and pick out the basting threads and trim those little threads at the edge.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Absolutely and Yes! I can see making several of these for different occasions. This is a very flattering dress. I’ll try to get a picture of it on me next week. Meanwhile, here it is on Shelley

Front

Back

And a closeup of the back so you can see the bow

Conclusion: Love love love! I’m going to bring this with me when I go out of town next week. More on that later!

Posted in Fabrics, StyleArc, Wrapapalooza | 13 Comments