Happy Thanksgiving!

Here in the US, it’s Thanksgiving. This is the day we (are supposed to) take time off from the busy-ness of every day life to reflect on those things for which we are grateful. Of course, some folks have to work. Some folks choose to work, and for all of them I am grateful, truly. There are a few other things in my life for which I am also very grateful, and I’ll share a couple of them with you here. I promise not to do a “Thank you to the Academy” speech, but I do want to say I am truly grateful for:

My customers. They rock

My friends. They rock.

My family. They totally rock.

Making it to 5 years from diagnosis with breast cancer. Technically I’m not yet 5 years. That will be December 7. But still, touch wood we got the little bastard.

I’m also very grateful to hear that a dear friend, who has been very ill, was able to finally receive the treatment he so desperately needed. And I am grateful to the person and his or her family who made the treatment possible.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Hugs and happy sewing!

Posted in Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

Pattern Review: StyleArc Alisha Dress

Edited on 11-26-14 to add pictures of the lace layout

After several weeks and a whole lotta muslins, it’s done! This is going to be my Christmas Party Dress. So settle in; this one is long and picture-heavy.

Pattern Description: “ALISHA DRESS: A wonderful party dress complete with a slip. Use scalloped lace to create beautiful and interesting neckline. The lace edge can also be used on the hem and sleeves. This pattern can be made many ways – all lace, lace yokes & sleeves with plain body, or completely plain. The choice is yours!”

Sizing: 4-30. I used a 10

Fabric Used: An absolutely GORGEOUS Scalloped, Corded Red Lace for the over dress, and an Persian Red ITY Jersey for the slip. Both are from (of course) Gorgeous Fabrics

Machines and Tools Used: Pfaff home machine for the lace dress, Juki home machine for the slip dress.

Needle/Notions Used: Universal 70/10 needle. Thread. Silk Organza. Invisible zipper

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? Not great. The slip is easy-peasy, but the over dress can be tricky, especially at the collar. This is not a pattern for beginners. StyleArc’s instructions are somewhat variable. In this case they did a decent job of explaining the collar construction (it’s a wraparound collar) as long as you’re working with a non-lacy fabric (more about that in the Construction Notes), but there was an omission elsewhere – they don’t tell you to attach the back bodice to the back.

All that said, This pattern is drafted beautifully, and if you have experience with sewing construction, you will get great results. This pattern is rated by StyleArc as “challenging”, and that is a fair assessment

Construction Notes: First off, you can see the Slip Dress Construction here. And you can see the fitting work that I did with Phyllis In This Post. Making the muslins (I made three altogether) took the most time, but I think it was worth every second. The fringe benefit of making three muslins? By the time I cut into my lace, I had the construction process down pat. After I finished the final muslin and was satisfied, I cut it apart and used it for the pattern pieces. The nice thing about that is that any asymmetric fitting adjustments get transferred directly to the lace.

I constructed the dress differently from the way StyleArc recommended. First, the instructions tell you to sew a seam to the pivot point on the collar/shoulder seam, then lift your presser foot, clip to the needle, pivot and continue sewing the rest of the seam. That will work okay in a fabric that is tightly woven, but lace? It’s 90% air. Chances are pretty high that you will clip to a point that gives you a big ol’ hole at the pivot if you do it that way. Instead, cut a small square of silk organza and center that over the pivot point. Staystitch that in place by stitching right along the seamline:

You just need a tiny little piece, which will get trimmed away later

Clip to the pivot point before you stitch. Then you can easily maneuver the pivot and stitch the seams.

Clip to the reinforced point before you stitch

I used a Hong Kong Finish on all my seams using bias strips of red silk organza from my stash.

Doesn’t everyone have red silk organza in their stash?

I used a lightweight, soft tape Lampo invisible zipper that I got at Botani in NY when I was there last month. It makes a huge difference to use a lightweight tape on a fabric like lace. I finished the edges of the zipper tape with silk organza.

That lightweight zipper tape keeps the seam from buckling

Some other notes: I was careful about matching patterns across seam lines where I could (on the back)

I’m kind of proud of how the roses matched…

And I thought rather hard and long before cutting about how to match up the lace scallops at the hems and sleeves:

I realized after I took this picture that I had the right and left backs reversed. Needless to say, I fixed that before cutting.

The nice thing about using the muslin is you can clearly see the seam lines and place them accordingly on the lace.

I tried to keep the scalloped edge continuous

At the sleeves, too

Likes/Dislikes: This is a beautiful dress. It’s beautifully drafted, and I love the design details StyleArc added to work with scalloped lace. The downside is the instructions, but it’s not a beginner pattern, and if you have been sewing for a while, you can figure it out without trouble. Do make sure to do a fitting muslin. Most StyleArc’s fit me without too many alterations but this one needed a bunch to get the look I wanted.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Would I do it again? Yes. Will I do it again? Probably not – unless DH and I decide to renew our vows for our 30th anniversary, in which case I might make it in ivory, and if we renew them in Australia, which is my dream, I would invite Chloe and the ladies :).

Would I recommend it? Absolutely!

Conclusion: I’m psyched to wear this to DH’s company party next week! Here are the front and back views on Shelley. I’ll try to post pictures of me in it.

Front – I’ll get a better picture tomorrow

Closeup of the neckline

And the back. I’m going to switch out the hook/eye at the top of the zip this weekend.

Well that was a tome. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving (in the US) and a great weekend (everywhere)!
Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, Reviews, StyleArc | 18 Comments

Alisha Dress Progress: the Slip

Rather than doing another fitting muslin of the lace dress, I decided to make a muslin of the slip dress that I’ll wear underneath it. The reason is two-fold. First, I got tired of looking at plain muslin and I wanted to work in a color. Second, I figured that I would get a better idea of what I needed to add back in for the FBA if I wore the slip dress underneath it. Sure enough, putting the muslin over the slip gave me a much better idea of how much I need to add back in the bustline (almost all of it, as it turns out). As an added bonus, making the slip gives me a very good idea of which bra will work best with the finished dress.

The slip is quite simple and goes together quickly. I decided to make it from a knit fabric rather than a woven.

Your basic slip dress

The one thing I may change is the placement of the gathers in the bust cups. Right now, they are set closer to the side seam than to the CF:

Bust gathers


Since all the bras I buy are of the “hoist ‘em up and point ‘em forward” variety, I may move the gathers toward the center front by about an inch. First I’ll finish the lace outer dress and see how the slip looks underneath it. The slip dress fits pretty well as-is, so I’d like to see how it looks under the lace before I make another version.

Here’s a shot of the back of the slip. Since it’s made from a knit, I cut it on the straight grain (for wovens, StyleArc has you cut it on the bias).

Like I say, it’s a pretty basic piece


I also did a narrow overlock on my serger, rather than a narrow hem that they recommend. If I were making it in a woven I would definitely use a narrow rolled hem, but this finish works better for this fabric.

Narrow overlock gives a lighter finish to the hem

That’s where things stand so far. I’ll have more later. The party I’ll wear this to isn’t until December 5th, so I have time. I hope to finish it before Thanksgiving. Then I’ll turn my attention back to my red Marfy coat.

In other news, this week was a really big milestone for me. I had my 6-month visit with my oncologist, and after doing the exam, talking to me and looking over all my labs, she said, “You know, I don’t need to see you again for a year now.”

Wooo HOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! I did the Snoopy dance all the way down the hallway and out of the Cancer Center. So again, folks. If you are a woman over age 40, please make sure to get an annual mammogram. I want all my readers to be healthy!

Enough about me. What have you been working on?

Posted in StyleArc | 16 Comments

Alisha Dress Muslin

I’ve started working on my StyleArc Alisha Dress. I don’t have any galas this year, so I’m not making a long gown, but I do have a couple of holiday parties and I’ve been itching to do some more “serious” sewing. I haven’t sewn with lace since I made my Lace Bustier and Pippa Dress. I think I nice red lace dress is a good choice for the holidays, so here we go!

I’ve made three muslins so far. Oh stop groaning – they aren’t hard, they don’t take that long, and they are worth every minute. The first one was straight out of the envelope, with no alterations. The fit, while requiring work, wasn’t that bad. For the second iteration, I omitted the front and back darts (I didn’t really want to put darts in the lace anyway, and it gave me more breathing room), and made a FBA. On Saturday, Phyllis came up and helped me fit the second muslin. Here are some shots of the muslin in process and on me, with Phyllis’ adjustments

This is the prep of the lower front of the dress for a FBA

I did a slight swayback adjustment in the lower back piece

Once we put it on, there was a lot of wrangling we needed to do at the arms. I don’t usually do a big forward-shoulder adjustment, but I guess time and hunching over computers and fabrics for most of my life have taken a toll. There were a lot of draglines in the sleeves, and the armholes needed to be adjusted significantly as well. Phyllis ripped out both sleeves and re-pinned them so they would lay comfortably. Also, the sleeves run (for me) a bit tight, so we slit them and marked the amount of extra width needed (¼ inch and 3/8 inch) on each side to make them comfortable.

Left arm needs about ¼ inch

Right needs about 3/8 inch

The upper back also needed some surgery. There was a lot of gaposis, which Phyllis solved with a combination of tucks in the CB, tapering out to nothing, and re-positioning the seam lines between the upper and lower back.

Wow, is that what my back looks like since I started doing Cross-Fit?

Here are the muslin pieces with the changes. The green marked lines are the new cutting lines, so you can see we’re doing some serious slicing and dicing.

I used Scotch Tape to hold the slits in place

I trued up the CB edges before cutting the next muslin

Phyllis also took out most of the FBA I did but I may put a small one back in. First I’m going to check out the amount of give that the lace has, then decide if it needs more room.

So that’s where it stands. I made another muslin and it’s much improved. It still needs slight work in the back of the sleeve. More on that later. Until then,

Happy sewing!

Posted in Sewing, StyleArc | 3 Comments

It’s PSA Time, Folks!

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

Then in December of 2009, there it was. A cluster of tiny dots on the mammogram that surrounded a Stage 1, estrogen-receptor positive growth in my right breast. The mammogram found it, people. So listen up…

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

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

Happy sewing!

Posted in Commentary | 8 Comments

Pattern Review: McCalls 6796

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

I made this view

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

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

Sizing: 6-22. I made a 12.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well that’s annoying.

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

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

Here you can see the back on Shelley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, McCalls | 10 Comments

Wrapapalooza Wrap Up

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

Comparison of the four patterns

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

Vogue 8646

Comfy!

But it does run large

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

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

StyleArc Tia

Comfortable

And easy

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

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

StyleArc Kate

Dog? Who you callin’ a dog?!

Solo

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

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

DVF/Vogue 1549

This is SO comfortable, sexy and amazeballs

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

Oh, is that ungracious of me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmm, that’s a bit far away

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

Next, Gratuitous Hoover Shots!

Sit, Hoover!

Yes! I am the dog whisperer!

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

Happy sewing!

Posted in StyleArc, Vogue, Wrapapalooza | 21 Comments

Might As Well Stay In and Sew

Thar she blows!

Thar she blows!

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

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

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

I’ve seen that knit before somewhere…

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

Parting Shot

Hoover’s preferred way to spend stormy evenings

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

Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, Sewing | 8 Comments

Vale, Oscar de la Renta

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

Cribbed from Wikipedia, but I doubt they’ll mind

Posted in Fashion | 2 Comments

Some Better Shots of Vogue 1549 DVF Wrap Dress

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

Outside Shot 1

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

Medium Outdoor Shot

A slightly closer shot

Bodice Closeup

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

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

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

Happy sewing!

Posted in Vogue, Wrapapalooza | 4 Comments