Can You Recommend a Good Dry Cleaner for my Gorgeous Fabrics?

That’s a question I get fairly frequently. I’m in the Boston area, so I know some good ones nearby, but for those not near Beantown, not so much. But here’s a hopefully helpful hint. There’s an association called America’s Best Cleaners that certifies dry cleaners for quality. The cleaner to whom I take all my really good garments is a member, and I can’t say enough good things about them – Holly Cleaners in Newton, MA. They are a half-hour drive in no traffic, and the fact that I’m willing to do that is a testament to their quality and service. The members are all over the country, so if you need a dry cleaner for your couture-quality garments, check this website out:

America’s Best Cleaners

I have no affiliation with any of the cleaners or the association, I’ve just had very good experience as a customer of Holly.

HTH and Happy sewing!

Posted in Plugs | 4 Comments


Here we are at the last day of August. Ay yi yi, where has the summer gone? Tomorrow, September 1, is Labor Day here in the US, and, along with the holiday, it is the start of National Sewing Month! I thought it would be fun to do a very loose sew along to mark the month. So I looked through my pattern stash and I realized I have at least 4 different wrap dress patterns. That’s when I had a lightbulb moment: let’s make wrap dresses for September! And I shall call it…


Here are the four patterns I pulled from my stash:

4 Weeks, 4 Wrap Dresses? We’ll see.

Clockwise from bottom left: StyleArc’s Kate, the ever-elusive Vogue 1549 by Diane Von Furstenberg, Very Easy Vogue 8646 and StyleArc’s Tia.

I have two fabrics in my stash that I will use for two of the dresses: one is a sold-out black/white print, the other is Abstract Zigs Rayon Jersey – Blues/Multi. Both are, of course, from Gorgeous Fabrics.

Whether I will make all four dresses in September is up in the air. But I think I’ll start with Vogue 8646 and the black/white ITY jersey. Today it’s really hot, so I am tempted to make the sleeveless version. That should see me through September and into cooler weather under a jacket. I am leaning toward using the Abstract Zigs with the Kate pattern, but I might use it for the DVF. I can make that decision later.

In the meantime, who wants to join me? Leave a comment and let me know if you are in, and what you’re planning to make. What other patterns for wrap dresses do you like? It can include mock-wrap, if you prefer. You don’t have to use Gorgeous Fabrics, though of course that is always appreciated. :)

Let’s have a Wrap-dacious, Wrapapalooza September! It will be fun, it will be fashionable and it will be fabulous! Okay, I’m off to check my pattern measurements and pre-wash my fabric so I can get going tomorrow.

Happy sewing!

Posted in Fashion, Sewalong | 8 Comments

Pattern Review: StyleArc Tamara Top

In a continuation of One-Yard Winners, I made a StyleArc Tamara Top yesterday.

Pattern Description: “TAMARA KNIT TOP: “T” Top with interesting design lines allowing you to create your own look – colour block or use a lace or a sheer fabric to dress it up. A great basic “T” a must have wardrobe builder.”

Sizing: 4-30. I made a 10.

Fabric Used: The same as the Ursula Skirt: Novelty Bows Matellassé Knit in Off-White, and Novelty Bows Matellassé Knit in Black.

I’ll say here that these are not the optimal fabrics for this top. I wanted to try an experiment using what was left of the one yard of each fabric from the skirt. This fit the bill nicely, showing that you can use less than a yard in a size 10. But they are heavier and less stretchy than you really want for this pattern. StyleArc recommends a jersey, and I agree completely.

Machines and Tools Used: My home Juki serger to sew all the seams, Bernie the Bernina to sew the hems and topstitching.

Needle/Notions Used: Stretch 70/10 needle. Pro Sheer Elegance interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply (the pattern calls for Vilene to stay the neckline and corners at the shoulders, but I don’t have any. Can you even get Vilene in the US?) Thread.

Tips Used during Construction: Sew From Wide to Narrow. Just about anything by The Pressinatrix.

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

How were the instructions? Very minimal, but I didn’t need them, because this pattern is beautifully drafted and goes together without any trouble. The only tricky part is the acute corners at the shoulder insets, but even there it went effortlessly. The only thing is that the corners are not as sharp as they should be. That’s because I used a double-knit with texture rather than a jersey.

Those corners would be sharper in a lighter jersey

Construction Notes: I made a FBA. I used fusible interfacing to stay the edges that would otherwise stretch.

The inside view

I serged all the seams, and I changed the thread on the sewing machine when the hems crossed seams. I remember that was something I saw in an article about Norman Norell when I was young and it left an impression:

White in front, switching to black

I used a narrow zigzag for the hems and topstitching around the collar.

Likes/Dislikes: This is a sharp looking pattern. It even looks pretty good in a heavier fabric than intended. The sleeve length as published is a great length for going from summer into fall and winter.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? I’m going to do it again! I have a black and white ITY jersey that will be perfect with plain black ITY.

Conclusion: Another one-yard winner! Here are the front and back views on Shelley:


…and back. Sorry for the lousy resolution. My good camera is at the office.

Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, Reviews, StyleArc | 10 Comments

Things to Make with Less than One Yard – Ursula Ponte Skirt in Black and White

Continuing my series on projects and patterns that use up one yard (or less) of fabric, today I give you another StyleArc Ursula Skirt. I’ve already made this once, and you can see My Original Pattern Review Here. I used all the same construction methods, so I won’t bother to review it again. But this time I decided to do the contrast panel version, using two Matellassé doubleknits from Gorgeous Fabrics: Novelty Bows Matellassé Doubleknit in Off White, and Novelty Bows Matellassé Doubleknit in Black.

I used the off white for the main front panel:
Ursula BW Front

And I used the black for the sides, waistband and back:
Ursula BW Side
Ursula BW Back

I thought about using the off white for the back panel, but there is one big obstacle:


and his name is Hoover

I’ll have black dog hair all over me anyway, but at least I can see it on the front and get at it with a lint roller. Sitting on my family room couch in a white-backed skirt would spell disaster.

I used less than one half of the one-yard piece of each fabric for the skirt, which leaves me with enough of both to make a color-blocked top tomorrow.

Shameless Plug Time!
New Kai Scissors
I got an email from Kai Scissors last week that they were having an introductory offer on “Very Berry” colored scissors and shears. I generally need to replace or augment my shears every 2-3 years, and the email arrived at just the right time. So I got a pair of 6 ½ inch scissors, and I got a new pair of serrated edge professional shears. I also indulged in the curved scissors. Phyllis swears by them. I love Kai scissors. They are my go-to brand. Even with the heavy use I give them, they retain their edge better than any other kind of shears I’ve used. NAYY, just a very happy customer.

I’ll probably try to whip up a top with the remaining Matellassé knits tomorrow. Then I want to start on my next big project, which is a red lace dress. More later…

Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, Notions, StyleArc | 5 Comments

I’m Bumping This Tip Up to the Top – Make the Lining First

Carolyn, of Sewing Fanatic Diary fame, did a good post on linings yesterday, which got me thinking about a tip I wrote originally back in 2002 (!!), then published on my blog in 2008 (!). For me, making the lining first is logical. It keeps me from getting project fatigue, which often happens to me if I make the outer shell first, then the lining. Anyway, here’s that tip for your reading and sewing pleasure:

Make the Lining First

And the corollary to that:

Make the Skirt First

Both of these seem to speed my sewing process along and limit the number of UFOs, so hopefully they will help someone else.
Happy sewing!

Posted in Tips | 2 Comments

Things to Make with Less than 1 Yard – McCalls 6963 Cowl Neck Top

Carrying on with my “things you can make with less than a yard”, here’s a great top. McCalls 6963 by Palmer/Pletsch

The sleeveless version in size 12/14 takes a little less than a yard

Here’s another pattern for a top that uses just about a yard of fabric. According to the pattern envelope, View A (which I made) takes 1 1/8 yards. But I was able to fit it on a yard of jersey with leftovers.

Pattern Description: MISSES’ TOPS: Close-fitting, pullover tops have draped front neckline variations, narrow hem on back neckline, and stitched hems. A: armhole bands. I made View A, the sleeveless version.

Sizing: 8-24. I made a size 12, grading out to 14 at the waist… sigh.

Fabric Used: Super Soft Rayon Jersey in Foggy Sunshine from Gorgeous Fabrics (of course)

Machines and Tools Used: Juki home serger for most of the construction, Bernina for the finishing.

Needle/Notions Used: Stretch 75/11 needle. A scrap of weft interfacing to stabilize the shoulders. Thread. Steam-a-Seam on the hem.

Tips Used during Construction: Anything by The Pressinatrix. Trim Your Knit Selvages Before Cutting Your Pattern

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

How were the instructions? They were very good. The Palmer-Pletsch patterns have tons of instructions and fitting lines for getting the fit you want, which is really nice. In the version that I bought (today at the $0.99 sale at JoAnn) there was a very small error. There are seven pages of instructions (lots about fitting, as I said), but one page said “Page 2 of 8″
Okay, that’s totally minor, but just in case it makes anyone look twice, know that there are only 7 pages of instruction.

Construction Notes: I made my FBA on a size 12, then I graded up to a 14 at the waist, back to a 12 at the hip. I used my serger for all the seams and I used a .1 mm zigzag to finish all the hems and the topstitching at the armholes. I used Steam-a-Seam on the hem. I’m not sure if the one I used (it wasn’t the Lite version) is too heavy or I just don’t get how to apply it correctly, but I’m not totally thrilled with it. As you can see from the finished pictures, it’s wavy.

I also did a slight swayback adjustment, using the markings on the pattern.

Likes/Dislikes: I really like that this pattern is drafted so it doesn’t sit too low on the armhole (a big complaint with many patterns)

This is a great pattern for using up a yard or so of fabric. On the pattern envelope, View A calls for 1 1/8 yards, but I didn’t need that much. 1 yard worked fine.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Yes I will definitely make it again and I recommend it.

Conclusion: This is a great pattern that will work well as a wardrobe builder. Here are the front and back views on Shelley – wavy hems and all:

Front, with wavy hem

And this is why I usually hand-hem my tops.

So all kidding aside, I’ll probably cut off the hems and re-do them so they aren’t wavy. Other than that, this is a winner!

Posted in Fabrics, McCalls, Reviews | 4 Comments

Tip: Trim Your Knit Selvages Before Cutting Your Pattern

I just love sewing with knits, and they are a staple in my wardrobe. Here’s a little hint that will make your knit sewing super successful. I notice this especially with rayon knits, though it also manifests in other fabrications. If you look at the selvages of knit fabrics, you will often see a “cupping” effect. The fabric curves at the selvages, because of the finishing the mill uses. This isn’t a defect. It’s an artifact of the milling process. But it can pull your fabric and have deleterious effects on your finished garment. Check out the selvage on this knit that I just used today for a new top:

May cause some problems, dontcha think?

So what to do? Should you leave it alone and cut your pattern? Should you stretch it out and hold it down? Mmmm, in my experience, both of those are likely to distort the cut pattern piece. Instead, I cut off the selvages. This relaxes the rest of the fabric and eliminates any problems. And it’s easy as pie!

Same piece of fabric, not stretched at all

All it takes is about ¾ of an inch to release your fabric. It can actually free up several inches along the selvage, and it gives you great results. I used this today in my McCalls cowl neck top (to be reviewed shortly).

Happy sewing!

Posted in Tips | 7 Comments

Yet Another Ann T-Top

Can you stand one more? To quote Game of Thrones, “Winter is Coming” and I was in the mood to sew another Ann T from StyleArc. This time I made the long-sleeved version in a You Say Zig… Sweatery Knit in Dark Gray from Gorgeous Fabrics.

I didn’t do anything differently, though let me give you a couple of tips on working with this fabric. First: it’s pretty stretchy, and it will stretch out in the horizontal direction if you aren’t careful. I recommend using Steam-a-Seam Lite or another lightweight stabilizer on the hems, and you might want to use fusible tricot interfacing on the neckline just to give it a little ‘oomph”. If you don’t have any on hand, don’t sweat it too much. I didn’t use either on this version. The fabric will steam back into shape, which is what I did to it.

YAAT Front

My Pfaff is in the shop for the next couple of weeks, so I sewed this one up on the Bernina and (mostly) on the Juki serger. I have to tell you, though the Bernina is a great machine, I really miss the integrated differential feed on the Pfaff. It really keeps knits like this from stretching. Oh well.

Now here’s some really cool news about this top! If you aren’t on the mailing list for Gorgeous Fabrics, or if you don’t check out our Facebook Page, you might have missed the news that our friends at StyleArc did an absolutely fabulous thing for our Gorgeous Fabrics peeps. They created a free download of the Ann T-Top just for you! To get yours, just click on the link below, enter your email address, the size you want, and they will send you a .PDF of the Ann T-Top, along with the two closest sizes to the one you chose, so you can get the size you want! You’ll be on their mailing list, but I’ll vouch for them. I’ve been on their mailing list since the beginning, and they don’t inundate you or share your information. No catch, just a really nice gift from Chloe and the folks at StyleArc. A big huge thank you to StyleArc!!!

Click Here for the StyleArc-Gorgeous Fabrics Ann T-Top

Here’s the disclosure and disclaimer: this was a generous offer from Chloe for Gorgeous Fabrics. We’re not doing any exchange, and neither of us gets anything from the other for this. It’s a great way to introduce you to StyleArc, and this top is letter-perfect for just about any of the knits at Gorgeous Fabrics. So enjoy it, you chic things you! :)

In non-sewing news, it’s been a quiet summer around here. DS the Younger is the incoming Drum Major in the high school band, and DS the Elder is going to be field staff (that’s kind of like a section leader) in the tenor sax section of his college band. DS the Younger went to Drum Major Academy, which is held at UMass Amherst, where DS the Elder goes. We went out to see him in their final performance. It was great fun!

DMs with Fred Omega Pi

With Fred Omega Pi, the Mace God

One of my favorite pictures is of 4 “generations of drum majors” from our high school.

4 Generations of DMs

L-R: 2011-2012, 2012-2013, 2014-2015, 2015, 2015-2016

I just got a bunch of the new Fall Vogue patterns, so I’m going to start contemplating fall sewing. I’ve been talking with some friends who also sew, and now they have me jonesing for a new jacket. Hmmmmm… More later.

Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, StyleArc | 8 Comments

Things To Make with Less than a Yard v.1: Ann’s Tee

Have you ever had this happen to you? You buy fabric for a pattern. Maybe you bought what the pattern envelope recommended and Used a Single Layer Layout. Maybe you bought a remnant of a fabulous fabric. Whatever the circumstances, you have a little under a yard, and you really, really want to use it. Well my friends, over the next week or so, I’ll show you some patterns that take that remnant out of your stash and into your wardrobe.

First up, StyleArc Ann Tee Top

Not named after me, though I do love it so. This was in the StyleArc rotation before I discovered StyleArc. The short sleeved version takes roughly ¾ of a yard for a size 10. This rayon jersey (sold out, sorry) from Gorgeous Fabrics is left over from another StyleArc that I made, the Jacinta Maxi Dress.

Less than a yard!

Less than a yard!

A couple of notes about this version. First, my Pfaff is on the pfritz, so I used only my Juki home serger to make this. The seams are all serged with a standard 4-thread stitch. Second, the hems are finished with a serger rolled hem. I didn’t trim the hems down (the hems are ¾ inch on this pattern), but that’s fine since I like my tops long. Third, because I was working with a remnant, I didn’t get too wound around the axle trying to place the print. And honestly? This is a summer tee, so the slightly off-center placement of the major motif on the front is just fine.

I have several pieces of knits that are left over from other projects, and I have a couple of other patterns that I love that are appropriate for leftovers. I’ll post those as I make them up. But in the meantime, here’s my advice for you when you have a remnant that is under a yard, but still useful. Pull out a tried and true sleeveless or short-sleeved pattern, and lay it out on your fabric and see if you can make yourself a top. If you use a single-layer layout, you can probably get yourself a top with minimal hassle.

Happy sewing!

Posted in Sewing, StyleArc | 3 Comments

Pattern Review: StyleArc Brenda Blouse

Pattern Description: From StyleArc’s website: Brenda blouse is a great wardrobe builder, suitable for the office or for a casual look. Wear it with your jeans on the weekend. Features flattering V-neck line extending into a neat collar, front gathers and a ¾ sleeve.

Sizing: 4 to 30. I started with a 10
Fabric Used: Daisy Daisy cotton print (sold out, sorry!) from Gorgeous Fabrics (natch)

Machines and Tools Used: Started with the Pfaff at home, ended with the Bernina at the office. Also used the home Juki serger.

Needle/Notions Used: Universal 70/10 needle. Pro-Weft Interfacing and Shirt Buttons by the Scoop from Fashion Sewing Supply, thread.

Tips Used during Construction: Anything by The Pressinatrix

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

How were the instructions? They were fine. This pattern is drafted beautifully, so it goes together with no problems.

Construction Notes: This was a fitting challenge. You can see the post about it here: Muslin for the StyleArc Brenda. I don’t think I’m the only one. The back fits like a dream, as you can see from this picture on my body-double.

Back: No changes, and it fit really well.

The shoulders fit great. The side seams sat right at my sides and ran perpendicular to the floor. All was good. But the front needed some serious surgery to make it around my ribcage. I did a FBA, and I added girth to the front (sigh) to fit properly. In the end, I may have added a bit too much in the FBA. I folded out a bit of the gathering in the pattern after the adjustment, but I could take a little more. It’s minor, and anyone who doesn’t know fit really well won’t see it. But if I do this again I’ll take out some of the gathering at the bust that I added for the FBA to make it perfect.

It’s not bad, but I kind of overcompensated

Here’s a detail shot of the bust gathering.

The only bad thing that happened during this whole process had nothing to do with the pattern. My Pfaff desperately needs service, and took it out on the (otherwise pretty darned perfect) hem. The tension has gone all wonky, and the integrated differential feed mechanism is out of alignment and catching the fabric. There’s no way I was going to trust it with my buttonholes. So I pulled out the Bernina and used that for the buttonholes. Wow – can I just say? I understand why Berninas have the reputation they do. Those buttonholes are perfect.

Likes/Dislikes: Big love – the RTW proportions on this. Here’s a funny story for you. A while back I visited my BFAM Emmett. After giving each other hugs, he looked at me and said, “Did you make that blouse?” I had, and I was proudly wearing it. It was a pattern by another company. When I said yes, he said, “That placket is too wide.”

Can you just hear the whewwww whewwww whewwww deflating sound of a Mario Brothers video game? Yeah, that’s how I felt. Only a best friend or Brother by Another Mother, both of which describe Emmett, can tell you that and you know they are right. The fact is that most pattern companies get the width of plackets completely wrong. Here’s a graphic example. This is the pattern for the shirt I was wearing that day. The placket width, from the folded edge to the stitching, is 1 ½ inches:

When you consider that a good bra on someone my size gives you 7 inches or so between bust apexes, that’s a lot of real estate for the placket.

On the other hand, this placket takes up less than an inch, and it looks really good sitting… where it does.

7/8 inch finished width. What a big difference that makes!

A Small Tip that Makes A Real Difference I’ve noticed on some blogs (no worries, I never name names) that the most wonderful sewing can be undone by itsy bitsy teeny weeny little important details. One of which is failing to trim threads in your buttonholes. I have been guilty of this venal sin in the past myself, but now that there are sites devoted to people telling you to get off their (virtual) lawns, it’s just one more thing that may bring scorn on one’s head. In the interest of keeping my readers’ heads scorn free, here’s a tip – clip them threads! Here’s a before picture of one buttonhole on this blouse. I use a chisel to cut my button holes open, which does a beautiful job, but after a few buttons in/buttons out, threads naturally start making themselves known

Looks like a radish root. Or Pinocchio’s nose. Or something

Just taking a couple of seconds to trim those threads will make a world of difference, especially if, like on my blouse, your buttons contrast with the background of your fabric.

A trimmed up buttonhole – much better!

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? I will definitely do it again, now that I have adjusted the pattern to fit me. And yes – I do recommend it. This pattern has great bones in general, but do make a muslin to get the fit you want. I was going to start a lecture about making muslins in general, but that’s a post for another day.

Conclusion: It took a little work, but I LOVE the results! I’ll show it on me when the weather cools down a bit, but for now you can see it on Mutt:

Now I kinda wish I had made the body double cover out of plain muslin, rather than chambray. Looks like I’m wearing a tee shirt. Oh well.

Posted in Emmett McCarthy, Fabrics, Reviews, StyleArc | 10 Comments