The Good and the Bad About Vacations

Ah, I do love going away!

Until things at Gorgeous Fabrics remind me that I’m a (very) small business owner and I can’t really, really go away. But I try!

This week, DS the Younger led the band marching down Main Street at Walt Disney World. As you may know from reading this blog, he is the drum major (conductor) of the high school band. Every three years the band goes to Disney to march. Last time they went he was a freshman, playing baritone saxophone, and his big brother was the senior drum major who led the band. This year it was his turn to lead. Mind if I take a proud mama moment? It was really lovely. I’m still kvelling…

He marched backwards while conducting.

He marched backwards while conducting.

Then he marched forward between numbers, while the drums kept the beat.

Then he marched forward between numbers, while the drums kept the beat.

It was delightful to see the kids, even though we really didn’t see them except when they were marching, and for about 30 minutes the day before the march, when he and his BFF were exhausted and starving. We treated them to noodles and orange chicken at one of the myriad fast food places at Epcot, then they gave us big hugs and took off to be with their friends. I’m laughing as I write this – the life of a parent, right?

Anyway, the kids did great, and it was a highlight of their high school years. It was fun (in a cha-ching! way) for us, too, but I’ll tell you – ya go on vacation when you own a small business, and ask any business owner, your computer comes with you. I’m not complaining. I did work over coffee in the morning, then I headed out. But I am WAY more relaxed about business when I’m home. And I’m home now, so it’s more relaxing. :)

One thing that was a highlight of this trip, besides seeing the kids march? I got to have dinner with my friend Karla. Many of you know Karla – she’s not a blogger, but she is active on Pattern Review and on Facebook and she is the FUNNIEST person I know!!! We had dinner, and we laughed and laughed and laughed.

Yeah, it was a good time. I’m back in the office tomorrow – but it will be great memories for DS the Younger’s lifetime – and for mine!

Happy sewing!

Posted in Sewing | 3 Comments

A Reminder: The Right Bra…

Photo from Chantelle's Website

Photo from Chantelle’s Website

This morning as I got dressed, I realized it has been almost 2 years since I last got fitted for a bra. As you well know, I firmly believe that wearing a well fitted bra makes you look 10 years younger and 10 lbs. lighter. So when it hit me that all my bras were getting pretty old, I decided to get myself to Nordstrom to get fitted again.

Part of the reason I am such a cheerleader for getting fitted annually (ideally) for a new bra, is because your measurements change, even when other things stay the same. Weight gain, weight loss, a change in exercise regime, posture changes… all of these can mean the size of your bra needs to be adjusted. I’ll use myself as an example. My weight hasn’t fluctuated much (if at all) for the last 5 years. But three years ago when I got fitted, the best band size for me was a 36. Two years ago, because I started doing more spin and less weight training, I was right on the cusp between a 34 and a 36. Today, because I’ve been doing more barre and spin, I could have gone with either a 32 or a 34 (I like the feel of 34 better).

Now as a completely unrelated aside, WHY doesn’t my waistline go down??? But I digress…

I had the pleasure today to work with Alison, who IMO is the best fitter at my local Nordstrom. There are great fitters everywhere. Ask friends who look good who they use, or go to a fit clinic at your local store. Macy’s, Nordstrom and most other big stores have them a few times a year. You want to make sure that the band is taut, that the triangle between the breasts at the front (okay bra-making friends – there’s a technical term for that, what is it please?) lays flat against your sternum with no gapping, that the edges of the cups don’t cut diagonally across the tissue, that there’s no “overflow” on the sides, and that the shoulder straps don’t have to do all the heavy lifting (pardon the pun).

Something to remember about bra sizing – don’t let the numbers (and letters) throw you. Every brand has its own fit model, so you might find that in one brand you are a 34D, while in another brand you are a 32G. Ignore the size on the label. Get the size that, as I like to say, “hoists ’em up and points ’em forward!” or gives you the fit you prefer.

I really can’t stress enough how a good bra will make your clothes fit better. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get a good fit, but you really will be happier if you find someone who can help you get a well-fitting bra.

One other thing to mention here is that I hand-wash and line dry all my bras. They will last for years if you do that. You don’t need fancy-dancy lingerie wash, either. I use either shampoo or body wash (not the kinds with conditioner or moisturizer in them) and they have worked just fine for me. I wash mine after every wearing. I know I have seen articles on that recommend washing a bra after wearing it 5 times, but that’s just not my jam, and washing after each wearing hasn’t had any ill effects as far as I can see.

Oh, and a happy side note? Alison, the fitter at Nordstrom, adjusted the bra I was wearing so it fits better. All my bras aren’t at EOL! Some of them are, but others just need a tweak here and there and they have another couple of years!

Happy sewing!

Posted in Fit | 10 Comments

Pattern Review: Butterick 6330 Jumpsuit, and Sundry Other “Stuff”

Happy Sunday!!! It’s been a while since I last posted. So much has been going on, most of it not involving sewing. But I did manage to make a jumpsuit for myself. I picked up Butterick 6330 at a pattern sale recently. I wanted an easy jumpsuit. Why, I’m sure many of you are asking? After all, I lived through the first go-round with them in the 80s – big shoulder pads and all. But it seems like a nice spring thing. If spring ever gets here, that is. But this is a nice layering piece as well, so that’s how I’m wearing it today.

Pattern Description: Semi-fitted, unlined jacket has self-lined front, side-front seams, long sleeves, and optional topstitching. Sleeveless, pullover dress and pull-on jumpsuit/romper (fitted through bust) have blouson bodice, elastic waist, and back neck slit with button/thread loop. All have stitched hems. I made View E, the jumpsuit.

Sizing: 4-26. I started with a 12 at the shoulder, tapering to a 14 at the bust.

Available as a PDF? No

Fabric Used: Beefy Rayon Jersey in Blueberry from Gorgeous Fabrics. That fabric is sold out, but you can see Similar Fabrics Here. Because you step into this jumpsuit through the neckline, I recommend a fabric with a lot of stretch to it – at least 40% crosswise.

Machines and Tools Used: Pfaff 2130 home sewing machine, Juki MD654DE home serger, Naomi the Naomoto, sleeve board, ham, shoulder stand.

Needle/Notions Used: Stretch 75/11 needle, thread, 5/8″ wide elastic.

Tips Used during Construction: Anything by The Pressinatrix, Tips and Tricks for Sewing with Knits, Tip – Check the Grain on Knits.

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

How were the instructions? They were fine. I didn’t need them, really. This goes together quite readily.

Construction Notes: I took flat pattern measurements before starting, and this baby has a LOT of ease in the bust, so I didn’t bother with a FBA. Also, the pants part of the jumpsuit are REALLY long in the rise. I noticed it immediately when I made them, so I tried them on before attaching them to the top. I ended up cutting 3/4″ off at the waistline of the pants. It doesn’t affect the look too much, but in the future I will fold it out on the pattern. I recommend checking the rise against your own measurements. Unless you have a really long torso you may want to shorten the pants rise to avoid looking like Pappy O’Daniel.

I serged all the major seams. For the elastic casing I used a 1.5mm wide by 2.5mm long stitch. I added belt loops at the sides and center back.

I used a hook and thread-loop closure at the neck instead of a button/loop.

I hemmed the legs with a .5mm wide by long stitch.

Likes/Dislikes: This is a very easy pattern. It goes together quickly and it’s really comfortable. The one dislike is the length of the pants rise, but that was an easy fix.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Not sure if I’ll do this again. Maybe I’ll make the shorts version for summer. That would make a nice beach coverup. Here’s a shot on Shelley and (gasp!) a really bad one on me.

The dress form with legs is at the office, so I pinned it on Shelley.

I couldn’t find the belt I wanted, so I used one that is narrower than I like.

Conclusion: Easy to make; easy to wear.

And in Other Areas of Life…
Today is DS the Younger’s final performance in his high school musical career. He has appeared in 6 musicals at our high school. When he was in 6th grade he was in “The Wizard of Oz” as a member of the Lollipop Guild. The next year he played a child survivor in “Titanic”. Freshman year he landed the role of Link Larkin in “Hairspray”, much to the chagrin of his older brother, who played Corny Collins. Sophomore Year was “Grease” and he played Doody, one of the TBirds. Last year he had the title role in “The Music Man” and this year he’s going out in high style as Bert in “Mary Poppins”.

On the brushes, step in time!

Over the rooftops, step in time!

I think his big bro was pretty proud of him

Poor kid got the flu after the first weekend performances, but he’s mostly over it (it’s all around the high school right now). So today will be his swan song. I may actually shed a tear; it will be the end of an era. Both boys had leading roles in the musicals each year of high school. 7 years in a row. Wow, it will be weird next year.

Well, that’s enough kvelling for the time being.
Happy sewing!

Posted in Butterick, Miscellaneous | 13 Comments

Pattern Review: McCalls 6839 Top
Pattern Description: Close-fitting, pullover tops and tunic have back neckline variations and stitched hems. A: Back pleated drape, cut on crosswise grain. B: Back yoke. C: Draped back. D: Shaped hemline (wrong side show) and narrow hem. C, D: Back tie ends.

I made a hybrid of views C and D – I added the sleeves from view D to View C.

Sizing: 8-24. I made a 12, tapering out to a 14 at the bust.

Available as a PDF? No

Fabric Used: A sold out animal/snake print ITY from Gorgeous Fabrics. It’s sold out, but there are Similar Here.

Machines and Tools Used: Juki 654DE serger, Pfaff 2130, Naomi the Naomoto, sleeve board, shoulder stand.

Needle/Notions Used: Stretch 75/10, thread. That’s it!

Tips Used during Construction: And Now, A Word from 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 to make.

Construction Notes: I started with a 12 at the shoulders, tapering to a 14 at the side armhole seam. I didn’t do a FBA, because the flat pattern measurements at a 14 seemed to obviate the need for it, and in fact it wasn’t necessary.

Likes/Dislikes: I like the cut, and it is a great length for me. The neckline is pretty wide, and it does just barely show my bra straps, so I’ll put lingerie guards in to keep it properly in place. The back is low cut, but not so low that my bra band shows.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Yes and yes. This pattern is listed as out of print on McCalls’ website, but I saw it in the drawers at my local Joann last week, so you may still be able to buy it. Here are pictures on Shelley:


and Front

All in all a great top.
Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, McCalls, Reviews, Sewing | 3 Comments

Pattern Review: Butterick 6243 Dress and Jacket

Pattern Description: Semi-fitted, unlined jacket has collar, side-front and side-back seams, and back button closing. Dress has fitted, lined bodice and midriff, semi-fitted skirt, and back zipper and vent.

Sizing: 6-22. I made a 14.

Available as a PDF? No

Fabric Used: Italian Lightweight Lamé Brocade in Gold and Ivory from Gorgeous Fabrics, of course. Silk Habotai in Oyster. It sold out, sorry, but you can see other silk linings Here. The off-white habotai will work great with this fabric, too.

Machines and Tools Used: Juki 654DE serger, Pfaff 2130, Naomi the Naomoto

Needle/Notions Used: Microtex 70/10 needle, Pro Sheer Elegance Couture Interfacing, crystal buttons that have been in my stash forever, plain buttons, mesh tape invisible zipper from Botani, hook and eye, thread.

Tips Used during Construction: Make the Lining First, pretty much Anything by The Pressinatrix, Els’ Invisible Zipper Insertion Method from The Sewing Divas, Setting a Sleeve into an Armhole.

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

How were the instructions? They were quite good. I went in a different order than the instructions but they were very clear.

Construction Notes: I made this straight from the envelope with no fitting changes. I used my Pfaff to sew all the seams, and because this fabric ravels easily I finished all the seams with the serger (including the seams that are covered by lining, just for good measure).

The jacket is unlined, so you can see how I finished the seams

I stitched up the lining first, then the outer garment pieces. Per the pattern, only the bodice and midriff are lined. If I were going to do this again I would make lining pieces for the skirt as well, using the skirt pattern pieces.

Bodice lining

One thing I noticed about this pattern as it comes from the envelope is that it has a pretty pronounced hip curve. I smoothed it in the pictures, but I recommend making a muslin to see if you like the way the hip curve compares to your curves. I used larger buttons than the pattern recommends. I bought these at G Street Fabrics when it was in the old shopping plaza on Rockville Pike. They’ve been in my stash since my kids were little, so it’s nice to finally use them.

I do love a statement button. Or four!

This fabric is lightweight, so even though the buttons aren’t heavy, I reinforced them with flat buttons on the back.

Each big button has a little button for support.

Likes/Dislikes: I call this dress the “Jackie Kennedy in India Dress” because it reminds me of pictures I’ve seen of her at that time. It’s got an early-60s vibe, and you can let your inner Jackie or Audrey get their bad self down with it. The pattern is really well drafted and sews together like a breeze. I don’t have any dislikes. It’s so refreshing to not have to spend a lot of time making a muslin! :)

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? I’m not sure I would do it again for myself. It’s not my style. But I definitely recommend it. This would be a great MOB/MOG dress, and the style would also look fantastic on a young woman.

Conclusion: This is for a photo shoot, and I’m going to donate it to the thrift shop near me that benefits the local humane society once everything is done. Here are shots on the mannequin:

Front of just the dress

Dress back

Back with jacket

And front with jacket

All in all, a great pattern.

Happy sewing!

Posted in Butterick, Fabrics, Sewing | 18 Comments

Pattern Review: Vogue 1374 Badgley Mischa Gown

Pattern Description: Close-fitting, lined, pullover dress has bias neck binding, shoulder yokes, back pleated drape with weighted tab, back extending into fish tail hemline.

Sizing: 6-22. I made a 14

Available as a PDF? No

Fabric Used: Sequined Designer Mesh – Gunmetal for the outer shell, Tricot Mesh Lining – Black (sold out, sorry) for the lining, and scraps of Swiss 4-Way Stretch – Black for bindings. All are from Gorgeous Fabrics, naturally.

Machines and Tools Used: Juki DDL8700 industrial machine, Juki MO2516N industrial serger, Reliable 3000IS iron/board, sleeve board, shoulder stand, ham, silk organza press cloth.

Needle/Notions Used: Universal 70/10, Serger 75/11 needles, thread, pennies

Tips Used during Construction: Tips and Hints for Working with Sequins, Make the Lining First, And Now, a Word from the Pressinatrix, Fear Not the Fabric

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

How were the instructions? They were very good. This pattern is not difficult to construct, so I didn’t really need them.

Construction Notes: I made this dress for a photo shoot, so I made it straight from the envelope with no fitting adjustments. What a luxury! Because of that, I got to see how it sews up with no modifications, and it goes together beautifully. The upper back piece was a little longer than the lower back, which I discovered when I made the lining.

I took about 1/4 inch off the upper back at the CB fold when I made the sequined outer shell, and that seemed to fix the problem. I bound the armholes with Swiss 4-way Knit to protect the wearer’s skin.

This is better than tricot for protecting from irritation

I used two pennies as weights in the back cowl.

Just adding my two cents’ worth…
ba dum boom!

The toughest part of this was just psyching myself up to cut into the sequins. But once I started cutting, it went very smoothly. If you work with sequined fabric, I recommend using a rotary cutter with a fresh blade, and resigning yourself to the fact that your blade will go straight to the recycle bin after you finish.

Likes/Dislikes: This is a very straightforward pattern that leaves the wow factor to the fabric. It’s rated Average by Vogue, but I think it’s easy, if you use a plain knit. I think this would also look great cut to knee length, either in a sequined fabric like this, or even in a plain knit. It’s got that “business in the front/party in the back” vibe that you can exploit with a less showy fabric. Ooo, you know what else would be cool? To make it in a subdued fabric for the majority of it, but use just one blingy or beaded piece for the upper back and let it peek out. Kind of like what I did on the bodice of my Pippa Dress. How fun would that be???

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Yes and yes. I would probably make this in a less showy fabric for myself to wear.

Conclusion: This is a spectacular dress, if I do say. The pattern goes together beautifully. I love the subtle sexiness of the design.





This dress will be used in a photo shoot (on a mannequin), then I am going to donate it to the Cinderella Project at my local high school. Hopefully some young lady will like it and will feel like a million dollars at prom this year.

Happy sewing!

Posted in Gorgeous Fabrics, Patterns, Sewing, Vogue | 8 Comments

Tips and Hints for Working with Sequins

One of the dresses I just completed is made with our Sequined Designer Mesh – Gunmetal. I don’t work too often with sequined fabrics; my lifestyle doesn’t call for them with any regularity. But I do love them so! The bling appeals to the Jamaica Plain girl in me, and there is nothing like walking across a stage, or across a room, and having the light catch just so on the sequins. Swoon!

Sequined fabrics can be a hard sell. Customers have told me in the past that they find them intimidating. They also can be tricky to work with. In the olden days, sequins were made of hard plastic or glass, and would break most needles if you sewed through them. These days though, the plastic used for sequins (usually mylar) is more pliable and you can sew through it. So here are a few practical tips for working with this type of fabric…

1 – Work in an area without carpeting
The upside of sequins? Glamour!  The downside?  Your work area will look like a unicorn farted all over it. If you can work in an area with tiled or hardwood floors, you will have a much easier time cleaning up afterward. There will be little sequin shards everywhere.

Fortunately, unicorn farts vacuum up readily.

Fortunately, unicorn farts vacuum up readily.

And because of those shards…

2 – Wear safety glasses
It’s true in woodworking; it’s true when working with beaded or sequined fabrics. Pieces of sequins can go flying if you cut them with scissors or stitch through them with your sewing machine or serger. Don’t take a chance. Wear safety glasses. Cheater glasses will do the trick in most cases, too.

Safety Glasses

Always better to be safe than sorry

3 – Secure your seam allowances after cutting
That’s what I’m doing in the picture above. After cutting out each piece, run a line of stitching just inside the seam allowance. I use a stitch length of 2.5mm or 3mm. This will keep your sequins from coming off while you work. If you have an area, like say, a pleated back drape, where you’ll be sewing through several layers, you can pull the sequins out of the seam allowance before you sew, thus avoiding needle breakage.

As an aside – the tips I’m giving you here are not couture. I know that some folks will say, “But, Ann – you’re supposed to remove the sequins beyond the seam allowances into the garment, stitch your seams and then hand sew the sequins back on along the seams!”

I know, so sue me. Let’s face it – we’ll know it’s a bit of a cheat, but 99% of the world won’t. And besides, if anyone gets close enough to you to examine your seams for couture techniques, you have the right to slap them. Now, where were we? Ah yes…

4 – Make a full-size pattern piece and use a single layer layout

Single Layer Layout

Trust me, this will make your life so much easier.

It is so much less work and hassle in the long run to make a full-sized pattern piece. You can get the layout just right, you don’t have to worry about sequins catching on each other or the fabric sliding around. The few extra minutes it takes are well worth it.

5 – Use painters tape or masking tape to mark notches, darts etc.

I like painters tape because it comes off easily.

I like painters tape because it comes off easily.

I’ve done a blog post on this before, and it is really handy for sequined fabrics. For delicate fabric I prefer painters tape to masking tape. It comes off easier.

6 – Use a soft knit to bind exposed seam allowances

I used scraps of Swiss 4-Way Knit

I used scraps of Swiss 4-Way Knit

The dress I made is lined, except for the sleeves. I’ve owned sequined dresses that had the seams bound with organza. I find that very itchy – the sequins poke through the organza. So I prefer to bind the edges with a soft knit. In this case, I used scraps of Swiss 4-Way Knit in Black to bind the edges. It is much softer against the skin.

I hope those tips take some of the fear factor of working with sequins away for you. It really is a fun fabric to sew with, and heaven knows the results are stunning. I’ll post more about the dress itself once the photo shoot is complete. In the meanwhile,

Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, Tips | 6 Comments

Sorry to be AWOL!

I haven’t disappeared or stopped blogging. It’s DS the Younger’s senior year of high school so there are so many events to attend for that, and recently all my time has been taken up making garments for a photo shoot later this month. So I have been sewing up a storm, and if you follow me on Instagram (and I’m not surprised if you don’t since I never talk about it), you can see snippets of what I’m working on.

I probably won’t blog much until those garments are done and photographed, so please bear with me. Here are some pictures from the IG feed so you can see I haven’t completely dropped off the face of the earth.






I promise I’ll blog as soon as the photo shoot is done and the pictures are released, which will happen at the end of this month. Maybe sooner if I come up with something semi-brilliant (ha!). I’m really, really excited about that last shot. But for now all I can say is bibbety boppety boo. :)

Happy sewing!

Posted in Gorgeous Fabrics, Sewing | 6 Comments

Pattern Review: McCalls 6074 Maxi Dress

When I went to save the pictures of this project, my computer reminded me that I had Already Made This Dress. The pattern is nowhere in my stash, so it probably got recycled at some point in the last 5+ years. Anyway, here’s a fresh review.

Pattern Description: MISSES’ DRESSES IN THREE LENGTHS: Pullover dresses A, B, C, D have front elastic casing detail, deep V-neck, flare skirt and stitch hems; dress A has purchased iron-on trim; dress B has contrast hem band; dress D has cap sleeve; dresses A, B lengths are 2″ above mid-knee; dress C is evening length; dress D length is 2″ above ankle.Sizing: 6-22. I made a 12

Available as a PDF? Yes

Fabric Used: A sold out ITY Jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics (of course!). There are lots of other ITY jerseys that would work. You can see them Here

Machines and Tools Used: Juki home serger, Pfaff 2130.

Needle/Notions Used: Stretch 75/11 needle, thread, scraps of interfacing and 1/2 inch elastic.

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

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

How were the instructions? Fine. This is an easy-peasy pattern, and it went together quickly.

Construction Notes: In my previous review, I noted that the bust point was pretty high. This time I measured it, and it’s a ridiculous 9 inches from the shoulder seam! Whoa. That’s just nuts. So be prepared to lower the bust point. I also did an FBA. As I said before, this runs pretty large, so don’t hesitate to go down from your regular size. I should have remembered to use a size 10, but 12 is close enough.

The maxi version is REALLY long. I lopped off about 5 inches. If you’re my height (5 feet 6 inches) or shorter, you can probably cut it at the length for View D and still end up with a maxi.

Likes/Dislikes: This is an easy, easy-to-wear, classic pattern, as evidenced by the fact it’s been in the catalog for at least 5 years. It gives good results in a short time. Other than the bust point being too high, I don’t dislike anything about it.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Clearly I would do it again, and I do recommend it. I know it’s a strange thing to make on the coldest day of 2016 (so far) here in Boston, but I wanted to make something to remind myself that spring is coming and this did the trick nicely.

Conclusion: Nice, easy pattern. Easy to make and easy to wear. I’ll get pictures on me when the weather warms up. In the meantime, here are some on Shelley:





6074 Maxi Detail

Detail showing the gathering

Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, McCalls, Patterns, Sewing | 6 Comments

Was It Really 6 Years Ago?

Wow – how time has flown! 6 Years Ago I woke up to a whole new, strange and scary world. At least it was strange and scary at first. Then it became less scary, thank God, though it never became less strange. My red hair fell out. My white hair grew back. I said goodbye to one phase of my life and faced a new one.

Now, 6 years later, some things have changed, but others haven’t. I still have the tee shirt I wore that day, and the ring that Bill gave to me. They are talismans that I will always treasure.

I still read the comments every once in a while on the old blog – WordPress wouldn’t import them when I switched over –  and am filled with gratitude for the support and love, and the stories that people shared with me. I’m still deeply touched when I talk with a customer who says, “I read about your cancer and it really helped me/my friend/my daughter when I/she went through treatment.”

I still urge women to get an annual mammogram; they save lives. Please. Make sure you get one. I want you to be around for a very, very long time.

I’m still having a blast with Gorgeous Fabrics. And of course, I still sew. Lots. And I’ll have something to show you tomorrow. So until then, stay healthy and

Happy sewing!

Posted in Sewing | 12 Comments