Pattern Review: McCalls 6963 Cowl Neck Top

I made the sleeveless version of this last summer, as part of the One Yard Wonders series. This weekend I decided to try the sleeved version, so here you go!

Pattern Description: Close-fitting, pullover tops have draped front neckline variations, narrow hem on back neckline, and stitched hems. A: armhole bands.
I made View A/B body with View D sleeves.

Sizing: 8-24. I made a size 12

Fabric Used: Walk in the Woods Smooth Faced Jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics (we’re running a 20% off Blizzard sale, right now, BTW). I had a lot left over from my Lorax DVF wrap dress, thanks to a laundry mishap with the first piece of fabric (I love my sons, and I really appreciate that they tried to be helpful and did laundry but they need to learn a couple of things about new denim and dye-bleed), so I was able to make a long sleeve shirt. Bonus!

Machines and Tools Used: Juki home serger, Pfaff home sewing machine, Naomi the Naomoto, sleeve board, shoulder press.

Needle/Notions Used: Stretch 70/10 needle, a couple of scraps of interfacing for stabilizing the shoulders, thread.

Tips Used during Construction: Anything by The Pressinatrix, Sewing With Knits(GFUniversity video).

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

How were the instructions? I didn’t use them this time.

Construction Notes: I made a size 12, but it’s pretty big through the shoulders. I could easily go down to a 10 and do a FBA.

A couple of notes about the sleeves that you should know if you decide to make this version. They are LONG. Really long. I have average length arms. In Vogue patterns I routinely shorten sleeves by an inch. These are about 2 inches too long for me, so be sure to check the length and adjust accordingly. Shame on me for not doing that beforehand, but I cut them down after the fact. You can see the length in the pictures below.

Also, the sleeves are pretty tightly drafted. The biceps measurement for the size 12 is 12 inches. So you may need to give yourself some ease in your upper arm.

Likes/Dislikes: This pattern has good bones, and the fitting instructions are quite thorough. I’m not crazy about how large the shoulders are on McCalls patterns of late, but that’s something I can work around pretty readily.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? I doubt I’ll do it again. I have Paco Peralta’s version coming to me, so that will be the next cowl neck top I make. But this is a good basic and I do recommend it. Here are some pictures on Shelley:

You can see how long those sleeves are

Parting Shot – Snowstorm! You may have heard that we are rather socked in here in the Northeast. I think the storm is over in NY and out in the western parts of New England, but closer to the coast we’re still getting bands of snow. This is the view from my sewing room window.

The roof of the addition to our house is about 9 inches below the sill. That’s a solid 2.5 feet of snow

So if you are in the path of this storm, please stay inside and be safe!

Posted in Fabrics, McCalls, Reviews | 4 Comments

Shameless Plug: BCN Designer Patterns (a.k.a. Paco Peralta)

Happy snowstorm, campers! We’re suffering through the weather reports about the purported blizzard. I say purported because the weather media in Boston (and even moreso on TWC) are all whipped into a hurricane force frenzy, while the snow hasn’t even accumulated an inch yet and there is no wind. But if you are in the northeast, please be safe, because even the folks at NOAA are expecting this to be pretty big.

On another note, I haven’t done a shameless plug in a dog’s age, and I just got the most wonderful news that my dear friend, Paco Peralta, has released a new pattern! And in fact, he is back with a vengeance, and those of us who know him are so glad he is!

My muy guapo amigo!

Paco is a hugely talented couturier in Barcelona. He had a thriving young pattern business, but he had to put it on hold for health issues, which totally sucks (voice of experience), but he is back!

I’ve made several of Paco’s Pattern’s, and I own several that I still need to make or in one case, (the chaqueta) finish. They are all beautifully drafted and they go together like a dream! I made his Drape-Front Top, and I just love it, so I was thrilled to see that he released a version with sleeves! I ordered it tonight, and I can’t wait to make it up. I love a cowl neck top, and I have his sleeveless version, which I have made a couple of times, but this being Boston in January, a sleeved version is perfect!

One of the great things about Paco’s patterns is that each one is hand-drafted and hand-drawn by the man himself. So you are getting a couturier’s work, with all his training and expertise behind it. You can’t go wrong with his patterns. They are beautifully drafted, and they make garments that you will want to keep for years. The Barcelonian influence (hello, Christobel Balenciaga!) is clear in them, and what can I say? I highly recommend anything he does!

I’ll add a disclaimer – Paco is a dear friend, but hell, this is a Shameless Plug so I have no compunction about doing a shout out about him. Also, I receive no recompense neithah for plugging his patterns. I just love them so. So here, go check out his Etsy Store!

Paco Peralta Patterns on Etsy

Happy sewing!


Posted in Plugs | 8 Comments

I Am the Lorax! a.k.a. DVF/Vogue 1549 Version 2

This weekend I made myself another version of Vogue’s Diane Von Furstenberg 1549 wrap dress. As a side note, McCalls recently did a Very Good Post explaining why you are unlikely to ever see them reissue this pattern. To what they said, I’ll add that in the cases of other designers, the licensors who used to work with Vogue Patterns have been swallowed up by huge conglomerates like LVMH, Kering and the like, so dealing with their licenses can be taxing to a small to midsize company.

Anyway, back to me. I decided to make a second DVF Vogue 1549 wrap dress. I made a few changes to it, but not enough to warrant a complete review. Here are the particulars:

Fabric: I made this version from Walk in the Woods Smooth Faced ITY Jersey – Multi from Gorgeous Fabrics (of course). This is a much lighter-weight fabric than the First Version I made of this dress (a rayon doubleknit).

Changes to the Design/Construction: This particular jersey has a very fluid hand, and it is very soft. I omitted the cuffs and collar, which I thought might be too floppy unless I interfaced the bejeebers out of them. I cut the hem down to a 5/8 inch narrow hem, rather than the 3 inch hem in the pattern. I used a 5/8 inch narrow hem on the sleeves as well. I’ll probably push the sleeves up most of the time anyway. Other than those changes, I made this the same way as the first version. It went together very quickly, and this version looks a little less formal. This fabric is light-enough weight that I’ll definitely need to wear a jacket over it (Boston in January, don’t you know).

And why the Lorax reference? Well, check out the finished dress:

Doesn’t it look like a forest in the fall?

Bodice detail so you can see the print closer

And the back

The other reason is because I plan to wear it to a meeting tomorrow night where I will speak for the trees. It’s town stuff, and not what I like to do, but I believe in wearing an impact outfit in situations like this. I’m saving the really big guns for the meeting where the town takes a vote. For that one I’ll wear the Red DVF.

When I was setting up to photograph this dress, DH saw it and said, “Wow, that’s a gorgeous fabric!”

Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, Vogue, Wrapapalooza | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

“Make” is a Verb

I make myself clothes.

The verb, “To Make” is conjugated thusly

I make
You make
He/She makes
They make

The clothes that I make are garments or projects or objects.

“Make” is NOT a noun.

I’ll make one exception: when filling in the “Make/Model” of your car at the RMV.

End of the grammar lesson.

Posted in Commentary | 35 Comments

A Relaxing Sunday = Another StyleArc Ann Tee

Today was the kind of Sunday I like. Quiet, cold outside but warm inside, we didn’t need to be anywhere. So I baked bread and sewed up another Ann Tee Top from StyleArc. I don’t have many TNT patterns; TNT isn’t my style, but I make an exception for this pattern (the DVF wrap dress is another exception, and I have one in process).

I didn’t do anything differently in constructing it, so I won’t bother to review it. I made this version from Run Cheetah, Run Rayon Jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics. Wow – for once it isn’t sold out! But it is on sale for 20% off until midnight tonight, so go get yourself some if you like it. I’m eeeeeevil, I know. ;)

Anyway, here are the front and back views on Shelley:


and Back

At this point, I can cut out and sew up this top in under 2 hours from start to finish. I love the neckline (I don’t care for high necklines these days), and this fabric is super soft. I’ll wear this tomorrow at work with jeans, brown short boots and a moto style jacket my BFF gave me for my birthday.

I love quiet Sundays, don’t you?
Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, StyleArc | 2 Comments

Cool Tool – Telescoping Mini Magnet

I was in the hardware store with DH a few months back and came across this nifty little tool. It’s a pen-sized telescoping magnet.

Telescope Magnet 1

Oh man, my sewing table is disgusting.

This is awesome for picking up errant pins, snaps and other notions! When retracted, it measures about 6 or 7 inches, and it’s the same size as a ballpoint pen. This one has a clip so you can keep it in your pocket. It has a very powerful magnet tip.
Telescope Magnet 2
Extended, it measures about 3 feet.
Perfect for grabbing pins off the floor.

Perfect for grabbing pins off the floor.

This little tool cost 99 cents, and it has paid big dividends. Because of the telescope, it can pick up items on the floor as easily as it can pluck stray notions on my sewing table. You never know where you’re going to find great tools, so keep your eyes open when you go to the hardware store!
Check it out - it's like a sewing Sputnik!

Check it out – it’s like a sewing Sputnik!

Happy sewing!

Posted in Tools | 5 Comments

Some Thoughts on Links and Affiliations…

My friend and fellow sewist Renee did a thoughtful and thought-provoking post recently on affiliate links. I’ll say upfront that I almost never comment on other people’s blogs. That’s been my policy since I started Gorgeous Fabrics. I read tons of blogs, but I don’t want my comments to be viewed as self-serving. But Renee’s post got me thinking.

I don’t do affiliate links for Gorgeous Fabrics. There are many reasons, and I’ll try to explain some of them here.

When I first started my business, I was immediately approached by a very large  company. They wanted an affiliation. There was no contract in place – they didn’t ask for one, and we didn’t even shake hands; I just agreed to consider the agreement. I didn’t understand the unwritten nuances, and it bit me in the butt, a difficult situation for an entrepreneur. I won’t go into details, but the good news is that because the nuances were unwritten, I was able to get out of the affiliation without any great harm. It was a lesson that was hard-learned, but I am grateful for it.

Having that sort of kick in the pants has the benefit of forcing you to step back and evaluate what your goals are, while you’re still able to pay the rent and the vendors. So at that point I started to formulate policies for my business. At the same time, several bloggers were beginning to gain some traction with sewists on the internet. I approached a couple of them about advertising on their blogs. As you might imagine, I was greeted with great excitement, and it was mutual. I took out ads and some of them were quite successful.

The wonderful thing about blogs is that many people read them. The difficult thing about blogs is that there are so very many of them. Suddenly I was getting lots of emails from bloggers asking me to advertise with them. I have no problem (at all!) with anyone monetizing their blog, but I only have so many dollars to spend on ads each year. Concurrent with that, I started getting dozens upon dozens (maybe in excess of 100, certainly a lot) of solicitations from bloggers who wanted me to give them a commission in exchange for an affiliate link. What did that mean in real terms? 5% to 10% of any sale thanks to a link from a blog. It was interesting to see the emails – they all said the same thing, with a few tweaks. I had to wonder if some blogging guru had sent out a blast email on how to monetize your blog.

I didn’t have Google Analytics at the time, and even now that I do, tracing exactly where a sale comes from can be difficult. If several bloggers have affiliate links to my website, how do I know who is responsible for any sale? So I politely declined. The result was that those bloggers then deleted all links to my site. I was shunned. That’s fine. I was a bit of an outcast in high school. What did I do about it? I became the yearbook photographer. {big old sh*t eating grin}. And in that spirit, I’ve kept on doing what I do – supplying great fabric.

Recently, I’ve seen some commentary that suppliers to the sewing community should “get with the times” and give monetary compensation to people who link to them. To that I counter, I link to tons – tons of companies from my website and blog. And I expect NOTHING in return. I’m not being sanctimonious. It’s good business. I want other sewing businesses to thrive, so I will recommend patterns, notions, books, teachers, classes, sewing machines (the ones I own, anyway) and other sewing related items. But let’s understand one thing right up front. I do this for one reason and one reason only: it’s good for my business. The old adage of the rising tide raises all boats? I subscribe to that wholeheartedly. I build up a lot of good will with those links. No one owes me anything, and I don’t owe anyone anything, except Gorgeous Fabrics.

Happy sewing!

Posted in Commentary | 16 Comments

Book Review: Fabric for Fashion – The Swatch Book

Though I state it in the Disclosure and Disclaimer page, I’ll say it here as well, because I’ve seen a bunch of book “reviews” lately that make me crazy.

  • I bought this book with my own money.
  • I bought it without anyone asking me to review it.
  • I am not part of any blog tour.
  • I’m reviewing it in the hopes that this will help folks decide if they want to get their own copy.

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about the book:

And if you click through, I don’t get any kind of kickback, so be my guest!

Bookish Details
The edition I am reviewing is the 2nd edition, with 125 swatches.
Authors: Clive Hallett and Amanda Johnston
Publisher: Laurence King
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 978-1-78067-233-5

What I Like About the Book: Swatches! The reason I bought this book was because of the swatches. Being able to see and touch a fabric makes the definitions come to life. Three of my absolute favorite books on fibers are the “All About…” series from Rain City Publishing. Each of those books come with swatch sets. They, along with Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Guide, are the books that first taught me so much about fabrics and fibers.

I like that the swatches are mostly white or neutral colors. It lets you concentrate on the weave without the distraction of a print or bright color.

I also like the writing style. It’s easily readable and accessible by anyone from novice to expert.

What I Don’t Like as Much About the Book: There are a few places where they don’t include swatches. The section on fabric construction, at the beginning of the book, talks about different weaves. Unfortunately, there aren’t swatches for some of the weaves described: basket weave, leno, pile and jacquard are just a few examples. For consistency’s sake, I would have liked to have seen swatches of each type of weave. Because it is a survey book, covering all types of fabrics, fibers and weaves in 88 pages, it doesn’t go into as much detail as the Rain City books. It also doesn’t give much practical information on use of the fabric, or details that would be useful to construction with fabrics. Both Rain City and Claire Shaeffer’s books go into much more depth on technical details that are useful to sewists.

The book also seems kind of betwixt and between. As I alluded to above, it’s similar to the Rain City Publishing books, so it’s good for home-sewists. But it tries to make a stab into more textbook-like detail, and only goes about halfway. I have a couple of college texts on fabrics and fibers. They are dense. They aren’t books that I would recommend to the average sewing enthusiasts. I was a little frustrated that this book started going into more depth, but came up short. It also seems like it can’t decide if it wants to cater to professionals. There’s some great technical information about fibers in here that most home sewists don’t need/care to know but professionals would. And the section on sourcing fabrics is disappointing: it’s not useful for home sewists or pros.

So, Is This Book a Must-Have? A qualified yes. If you don’t have access to the Rain City Books, most definitely. The swatches make all the difference. There are a few minor points that keep it from being a must-buy, but it’s certainly a very, very nice-to-have.

Happy sewing!

Posted in Books, Reviews | 5 Comments

A Quick Tutorial on Gift Certificates at Gorgeous Fabrics

Ho ho ho and Happy Holidays to everyone! Tomorrow is Christmas, and for you procrastinators in the bunch, we set up an unheard-of special at Gorgeous Fabrics. Today only,

Get 10% off Gift Certificates!!!!

That’s right. Today only, until midnight eastern, you can save 10% off gift certificates. Just enter the coupon GC10 at checkout, and we’ll automatically deduct 10%. WOWZERS!!!

And here’s a quick tutorial on how to send a gift certificate. It’s really easy. First, add the gift certificate (available in any whole-dollar amount you wish) to your cart. Screen Shot 2014-12-24 at 9.24.45 AM

Enter the coupon code in the box at the left side of your screen and then click on “Proceed to Checkout”.

Screen Shot 2014-12-24 at 9.18.59 AM

At the bottom of the checkout screen, you can opt to either send the gift certificate to yourself, or to some other lucky recipient. If you’re sending it to a lucky duck, just enter their email along with a message, and voila! The gift certificate will be in their inbox before you can say “Eggnog!”

Have a very Merry Christmas, Happy last night of Hanukkah, Fabulous Festivus, and a Splendid Whatever.

Affectionately, Ann and the Elves

Posted in Fabrics | Leave a comment

Pressing Impressively without Impressions

My dears, have you missed your Pressinatrix? She has certainly missed all of you. But The Pressinatrix has been very busy in 2014, preaching proper pressing in all the fashion capitals of the world…
(ed. note: I wish)
Visiting with designers from Boston to Barcelona

Muy guapo!

(ed. note: Okay, that happened)
And generally flitting about, encouraging sewing aficionados everywhere to press on!

But she is back now, and poppets, Your Pressinatrix would like a word. Or rather, several. Dear hearts, let us talk about pressing that doesn’t leave impressions – except for the impressions you leave on others when they realize that you made your couture garment. How many times have you looked at a garment and seen visible imprints of the seam allowance’s raw edges on the right side? The Pressinatrix has seen many, and far too many from those who would have you believe that they are expert. It is enough to give your poor Pressinatrix fits of the vapors. There is as much danger of ruining a garment by over-pressing as by not pressing enough. This is especially true with delicate fabrics like velvets and velveteens, cashmeres, alpaca, vicuña and even some fine wools. Here are two examples, using the wool flannel from the coat by The Pressinatrix’ lesser self alter ego. First, a seam

And even more obvious – an edge, like you might see on an over-pressed lapel

The good news is that there are a few simple techniques to help you avoid this dreadful fate. First…

Lighten up Frances.

Yes, that’s right. Sometimes you achieve the best results by using a light hand. The Pressinatrix’ lesser self alter ego demonstrated this when she pressed her hem:

Note that the iron does not actually touch the fabric

By hovering the iron a scant 1/8 of an inch above the fabric and steaming generously, then leaving the fabric on the board until it cools, she achieved a soft hem that is deliciously attractive. Using a similar light touch on seams and elsewhere will help you avoid the dreaded “Pressed to Death” look. Sometimes, though, you do need to apply a modicum of pressure to achieve the desired results. In cases like that, a simple tool is The Pressinatrix’ best friend: a paper bag. The Pressinatrix cuts strips of brown paper, wider than the seam allowances, and places them between the seam allowance and the outer layer of the garment.

Place them on either side of your seam line

Let the seam cool before removing the strips

Lightly press on the outside, and voila – no lines!

If you are pressing an edge, like a lapel, you can shape your brown paper to match the shape of the lapel like The Pressinatrix did for the Marfy coat.

Put that between the outer layer of the lapel and the seam allowance and press. You’ll have a perfectly pressed curved seam with no unwanted impressions. Because the only impression The Pressinatrix wishes to leave with you is a good impression.

Well, kittens, The Pressinatrix must go now and wrap gifts. Rest assured that, just as Your Pressinatrix perfectly presses her seams, so does she precisely crease her gift wrap, and that is what The Pressinatrix shall do. So to all you poppets, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Fabulous Festivus and a Splendid Whatever. But above all else,

Happy pressing!

Posted in Pressinatrix | 8 Comments