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.

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 | 11 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



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 | 12 Comments

Patternreview: StyleArc Tia Wrap Dress

I’m friends with Gigi (who’s given up blogging, but is still sewing up a storm), and she’s made several versions of this dress. I love hers so much that it inspired me to make one of my own for Wrapapalooza.

Pattern Description: From StyleArc’s website – TIA KNIT WRAP DRESS: This is a designer wrap dress that is easy to make and easy to wear. Make it in stripe jersey for an eye popping look or choose a plain jersey for a more understated feel. The all in one sleeve and shaped front overlay gives this wrap dress a point of difference to this timeless style.

Minor correction: This is a mock wrap pullover dress.

Sizing: 4-30. I made a 10
Fabric Used: Abstract Zigs Rayon Jersey – Blues/Multi from Gorgeous Fabrics (natch)

Machines and Tools Used: Pfaff 2130, Juki home serger

Needle/Notions Used: Stretch 75/11 needle, ¼ inch elastic, thread.

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

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes, though the print makes it look like your eyeballs are vibrating! :)

How were the instructions? I didn’t use them, and thanks to that I had a major “doh!” moment (more shortly). When I went back and looked at them, they were fine. Typical of StyleArc, they are pretty minimal, but the pattern is beautifully drafted and goes together well.

Construction Notes: The “doh” moment I mentioned? It happened because I wasn’t paying attention, so I ended up reversing the front overlay. The right side is supposed to wrap over the left. As I say I wasn’t paying attention, so I ended up reversing it. And of course I blithely serged my side seams before I realized my mistake. Sigh. Fortunately I caught it before joining the bodice to the skirt, so it was easy to take out the side seams and redo it.

Other than that, StyleArc recommends using ¼ inch clear elastic (or in their parlance, “jelly tape”) at the neckline. I had 3/8 inch clear elastic, and I didn’t feel like running to the store to find narrower elastic. I have a stash of ¼ inch white elastic, so I used that. I also didn’t bother to use StyleArc’s neckline elastic guides. Instead I just cut my elastic about an inch shorter than the overall neckline length and stretched it very slightly as I applied it.

I serged all the seams. StyleArc gives you the option of adding elastic to your waist seam, but this fabric really doesn’t need it, so I skipped that step. I used a very narrow zigzag stitch for all the hems.

Likes/Dislikes: This is an easy dress to make (as long as you pay attention to which bodice side goes over which) and it’s super comfortable to wear. Because it’s a mock-wrap it’s very secure to wear as well. I like the way the bodice is draped. It doesn’t sit too low, and I didn’t need to do a FBA. I don’t have any real dislikes. Here you can see it on Shelley:

I didn’t bother making the self belt, and decided to style it with a leather belt instead.

Here’s the back without the belt

Closeup of the bodice so you can see that it doesn’t sit too low.

And a detail shot of the skirt showing the overlay.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Yes! This is a great pattern that sews up super fast.

Conclusion: While this is a short-sleeved version, I will style it with a Jacket that I made 2 years ago and boots to wear it in winter.

Throw a jacket over it for chilly days

So Wrapapalooza dress number two is done! I’m not sure which one is going to be my next victim attempt – the Kate dress from StyleArc or the original DVF. I’ll decide that tomorrow.
Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, StyleArc | 7 Comments

Was Ist Das, “Bra Catcher”?

I’ve gotten that question a lot this week. I believe I first heard of bra catchers from Els, one of the original Sewing Divas, but I can’t seem to find a post about it. I remember thinking they were a great idea, and they are perfect for preserving your modesty when wearing a wrap dress. So what is it? Essentially, it’s a tab that “catches” your bra so the bodice stays close to your body, regardless of whether you are sitting, standing or bending over. I think it’s a pretty cool idea. And on top of it, it’s super easy to make! Here’s how I do it:

First, cut a piece of boning, between 2 and 3 inches long.

I also like to round the edges of the boning with scissors or a nail file

Next make a “pocket” for the boning with a scrap of fabric. I make the pocket’s finished length about 1 inch longer than the boning. This will allow for movement and a little bit of give.

The finished width of the pocket is the same as the boning.

Slip the boning into the pocket, then invisibly stitch the open end of the pocket along the outer layer of the wrap neckline at center front.

I use small hand stitches to affix it to the neckline.

When you wear the dress, just tuck the bra catcher into the center band of your bra. This will keep your wrap dress snugly and comfortably in place.

I padded out the bra to give Shelley a closer approximation of me.

It’s a great and easy addition to a wrap dress that makes it infinitely more wearable. And it’s not only good for wrap dresses. It works for any top or dress that you want to keep from gapping. Give bra catchers a try. I think you’ll really like them, and you might even find yourself wearing more wraps!

And it’s pretty unobtrusive!

Happy sewing!

Posted in Tutorials, Wrapapalooza | 15 Comments

I Wish…

(Originally titled “Setting Up Wishlists in Gorgeous Fabrics”, suddenly I had the opening song from ‘Into the Woods’ in my head, so I changed the name)

I received an email from one of my favorite customers asking if we could implement a popular feature from the old Gorgeous Fabrics site, wishlists. Here’s some good news – we have them already, and they are even better than before!

Here’s how it works. Have you ever looked at a fabric and thought, “That might be nice to use for a dress, but I don’t have the pattern right now”? You can save that fabric in a wishlist on Gorgeous Fabrics. On each fabric’s page, there is an icon for wishlists

If you click on that icon, it will allow you to add the fabric to a wishlist.

You have one wishlist, titled “Wishlist” set up by default, but you can (and here’s a great big advantage over the old site) set up multiple wishlists for different purposes!

You can create multiple wishlists, and share them with friends or the public!

You can view your wishlist, add to or delete from it, and change quantities

You can see how a shared wishlist will look to your viewing public.

You can share your wishlists on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and email.

And you can always view all your wishlists by clicking on your name at the upper left of any screen. That will take you to your account page.

Wishlists are easy to use, and they are so helpful when you are planning a SWAP, wardrobe, or just wanting to keep track of fabrics on Gorgeous Fabrics. I hope this little tutorial helps, and

Happy Sewing!

Posted in Fabrics | 1 Comment