Not-so-instant Replay: Deconstructed Skirt

Well, as long as I’m republishing the jacket, I figure I might as well put up the skirt I made to go with it. This pattern is based on Butterick 4614.

Pattern Description: Misses skirt variations. Straight with kick pleats or A-line with godets. I made View C.

Pattern Sizing: 6-24

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the envelope No, but that was intentional

How were the instructions? I didn’t use them because I changed the pattern and style significantly. Looking at them now, they seem very straightforward.

Likes/Dislikes? I wanted a skirt to go with the jacket I made. I thought a skirt with godets might work well, but I didn’t want to use my stash KwikSew pattern. I wanted something with larger godets so it would really highlight the contrast fabric. And I wanted something with a zipped waistline rather than an elastic waist. When I looked through the pattern books, this one jumped out at me.

Fabric: Double faced cotton/lycra.

Any changes to the pattern or design? Lots. Like the jacket, I wanted this to be deconstructed, so I changed a ton. First, I wanted to have seams inset with the contrast (yellow) side of the fabric:

So I changed the godet pattern to add a long strip of fabric coming from the top of the triangle. You can see the resulting godet here:

Next I traced the pattern pieces onto and machine basted the side seam allowances. Then I cut the pattern at the seam lines. To construct it, I butted the raw edges of the sides together, centering them over the godet/seam insert and sewed 1/4″ away from the raw edges. You can see the inside here:

I also eliminated the waistband facing and used petersham ribbon for a facing, stitching it 5/8″ from the top. I trimmed the seam allowance to 1/4″.

Finally, I stitched along the hemline and trimmed the hem about 1/4″ away so the fabric will ravel in the wash.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I will sew it again, more conventionally next time. I would recommend this pattern. It goes together easily and it is very au courant.

Conclusion Here is a picture of the skirt with the jacket:

It will get much softer as it gets washed. I’m very happy with how this turned out.

Happy Sewing!

Pattern Review – Butterick 5078

Okay! I got some sewing done for moi. I liked this dress a lot, and decided the other day to make it. I have a recital coming up next Monday, and I want a dress for it, so I figured I’d take this for a test run. I’m glad I did. Read on…

Pattern Description: From the Butterick website, “MISSES’ DRESSES: Dresses A, B in two lengths are pullover with bias front bodice, cowl neckline, gathered midriff, flared skirt and three-quarter length sleeves. A: below mid-knee length. B: mid-calf length.” I made View B.

Sizing: 8-24. I made a 14.

How’d it look compared to the pattern envelope? Pretty close. It’s difficult to see the details on the photo from the pattern envelope. But it looks like the line drawing. If only I looked like the line drawing!

Likes/Dislikes? This dress looks very much like a Nally&Millie dress I had back a couple of years ago. It’s very flattering to many figure types. The ruched waistline hides a multitude of sins, and is good for figures of many ages. I’m not as crazy about the ruching at the back.

How were the instructions? They were okay. It’s really a simple dress to make. There are some changes that I made, and others that I will make the next time. If you follow the instructions as printed, you’ll wind up with a perfectly good result.

Any issues (good or bad)? It’s not a huge issue, but it is worth noting that this pattern runs big. I made a 14, but the next time I would go down to a 12, possibly a 10. Now, I have been shaping up lately, but I haven’t lost that much weight! The neckline on this is also wider than I expected it to be. I need to add lingerie stays, and I have very wide, straight shoulders. If you have narrow shoulders, you will need to to a muslin of at least the bodice to make sure it doesn’t slide off.

Fabric Used: An absolutely beautiful modal rayon jersey that I have had in my stash for about 2 years. It’s so soft and comfortable, it’s like wearing pajamas.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: FBA. Also, my original Nally&Millie dress had narrow-overlocked hems, so I used those here, too.

Oh, I almost forgot to add. They tell you to sew the bodice side seams and attach the bodice to the skirt, then ease in the sleeves. I have to tell you, with knits, this drives me crazy. In almost every case, including this one, you can sew the sleeves in at the armscye before sewing up the side seams. That’s what I did here. It was much easier than the way the instructions would have you do it.

Any Changes if You Make it Again? The way this is constructed, you sew a ruched midriff band onto an inner band (they call it the corselette). To do this, they have you sew the side seams, then gather the midriff band at the side seams and secure the gathering stitches. In the next iteration, I’ll use a length of clear elastic and gather the ruched band onto that. I think that will work better.

Also, as I mentioned above, I wasn’t that wild about the ruching in the back. To me it looks like high-hip fluff. For the next version, I’ll re-draft the pattern back to eliminate the ruching and make a single piece of the back bodice and back corselette. Here’s what the back looks like:

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it? I am going to make it again. For my recital, I’m going to make it from This Paisley Knit. I do recommend it, but make sure the bodice fits the way you want it to, and consider if you are doing yourself a favor by putting ruching at your back waist. It’s good for some folks, but not for everyone.

Here’s the finished dress front:

Conclusion: Overall a good design. It’s flattering to a number of figures. Do make a test version first to check sizing and the shoulder fit.

Happy Sewing!

Next Up, another Dress

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. We spent it with my sister, and last night we had our post Turkey-day get together with my best friend and her family. Today is freezing cold in Boston, so DH and the boys put up a bunch of Christmas lights. Now everyone is inside listening to Eric Idle singing ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’. Yes, life doesn’t completely stink.

So, didja miss me? My god, I have been so flat out it hasn’t been funny. It hasn’t been much fun, either. But be on the lookout for an article in the next issue of SewStylish Magazine. I wrote a post for, and I just delivered a big job for a private client. We spent last weekend at a completely over-the-top Bar Mitzvah in New York (at the Rainbow Room atop Rockerfeller Center) that would require about four blog posts to adequately describe. We got to see how the Other Half lives. It was a blast, and DH came up with a new game: Crazy Relatives Bingo.

So now? It’s Me Time!

Well, I also have to make DS the younger a new bathrobe, but I’m going to make myself a dress first. And the dress I’m going to make is this one from Butterick:

It’s a Maggy London. I love the cowl neck, and I think it will make a great dress for some singing gigs I have coming up. I’ve got this Paisley Novelty Knit and this Coordinating Rayon Jersey. I think I may make the ruched waistline from the jersey. I haven’t decided yet, though. I have to make one last delivery to a store, but then I’ll be spending the rest of the weekend in the cutting room.

Happy sewing!

Spring Butterick Patterns Are Up

I think this is a transitional season, and I don’t mean in the retail or garment industry sense. There are very few collections that make a big statement. The last was boho-chic, and it’s past. I think the fashion industry is looking for its next big thing, and except for Isabel Toledo’s breathtaking collection for Anne Klein, there isn’t a real sense of direction.

The pattern companies seem to be stuck in that rut too. Butterick’s spring line was just introduced. There are a few good looks, but most of them are, at best, meh, and at worst, they are just so that side of out of fashion that they have no redeeming qualities.

But let’s start with the good…

4978 is a great basic dress that can work well under a jacket for work or in a silk jersey (check out Rosen and Chadick for some beauts) for more dressy occasions.

I don’t wear plus-size, but if you do, 5001 looks like a winner. I like the ruching on the side, and I think it will look nice on many women.

5004 is a great Sunday Service hat. I wish to heck that RC women wore hats to church, because I’d have this one on. Manny’s Millinery in NYC has everything you need to make this just perfect. Run there before they get swept away by the Manhattan real estate tide!


is cute, classic, and kind of done to death. But I like the back treatment. MJ Trims, Daytona Trimming (do they have a website?) and Pacific Trims (ditto) will all have the type of trim you want to make this perfect.

is a good Mother-of-the-Wedding-Party outfit. But be warned. Check out the model. That fabrication makes her look hefty. Lose the Shine and try making it in a silk crepe with the jacket in a hammered taffeta. I don’t care what just walked down the runways this week. Too much shine will age anyone. Just look at the model.


Is a cute twist, if you will, on the ubiquitous twist top. This look may be slightly past prime, but I like the layering with the tank. I think it will serve you well through spring.

Okay, no more Ms. Nice Gal, there are some barkers in here that wouldn’t make it past the local 4H dog show….

Is anyone at the pattern companies listening??? Tiered skirts are gone, baby, gone. Think “Poncho” gone! Remove them from your fashion lexicon and don’t let them darken your closet for the next seven or eight years.

4977 looks pretty good on the illustration. But take a good hard look at the garment on the model. She probably wears a size 4, and is 6 feet tall. This makes her look zaftig. Just think what it will do to the average woman. Avoid!

I am SO glad they labeled this “goth costume”. But let’s face it. That was an afterthought. This isn’t a costume at all. Someone in editorial with some fashion sense just happened to catch it as the file went to print and slapped the label on so they wouldn’t get laughed out of the room. Big time avoid. So very 3 seasons ago.

Well, that’s all for tonight. Keep an eye out later. The accessories market happened rather quietly recently. It might be worth a look…

Happy sewing!

Did I Say "Easy"? – FBA on an Overlay

A direct quote from me on Stitchers Guild. “Next up? Something easy!
Riiiiiiiiiiight,…. My next project, which actually is quite easy in the abstract, is Butterick 4920, a blouson top and dress, with an underlayer that is a camisole and a bloused overlay.

I am trying desperately to rid myself of stash fabric that I have bought, and I thought I would give this pattern a go. But first, I had to make a few adjustments to the pattern. I do a FBA on almost everything, and this is no exception. FBA is a straightforward adjustment, and there are lots of good tutorials for doing one out on the web. I’m going to assume you have a basic knowledge of an FBA and show you my variation, which is to adjust for a non-standard overlay piece.

First, transfer all markings to the overlay piece.
The first thing you need to do is mark the bust point on your overlay. To do this, place the overlay on top of the underlayer, lining up the side seams and armscye. Trace the bust point onto the overlay.

Mark the Underlayer, then the overlay
Because this piece has a closely fitted underlayer, I first made all my standard adjustments on the front underlayer piece. In my case, I lowered the bust point first, before adjusting the cup size. I did that step on the underlayer, then I put the overlay on top, transferred all markings and made the same change.

After that, I marked my underlayer with all the standard cutting lines for the FBA, using heavy pencil. You can do it with a sharpie, but it will bleed through to your cutting table if you’re using the standard Big 4 weight tissue paper. Once again, lay your overlay on top of the underlayer, aligning the side and armhole seams, and trace those markings onto your overlay piece. You can then proceed to make all your cuts and do your adjustments. Here’s the side-by-side result of the adjustments I made. The underlayer is on the left, the overlay on the right:

These steps are relatively easy to accomplish. The most important thing to figure out before you start is where the overlay attaches to the supporting under-piece. That is where you have to line up your pieces before making your marks and cuts on the overlay. In most, but not all, cases this will be the side seam and armhole.

I decided to make the underlay from some stretch lace that I had in my stash. The lace was in 14 inch galloons, which necessitated piecing. To do that, I traced off the original pattern and cut it into three pieces, a bottom, middle and top, adding seam allowances where appropriate:

I didn’t add them everywhere because I wanted to use the scalloped edges of the galloons as decorative edges. You can see the pieces basted together here:

Honestly, it didn’t take that long to do. If you know how to do a FBA, then it’s quite straightforward to add it to an overlay piece, even one that doesn’t exactly map onto your underlay. I’d say that this probably added about an hour to an hour and a half to the sewing time, and that was partly because I was interrupted a few times. Here’s a picture of the finished top:

But you know the kicker? After all that, I don’t know if I like it. I think it makes me look pregnant. Oh well, live and learn….

Happy sewing!

Winter Patterns from Various Companies

I’m between projects, and I don’t want to start in on the window seat cushion until Monday when I have some time to devote to it, so I started scanning the pattern company websites for inspiration, and I came across a couple that caught my eye.

Kwik Sew
I’m not a huge fan of Kwik Sew. They’re okay, but I find the designs to be kind of ‘meh’. But this dress, 3472:
struck me as a winner. It’s a classic style that you will have for years. I would make it from a lightweight wool jersey or even better, silk jersey. They recommend matte jersey for it, and while I really like matte jersey for some things, I think the weight of the skirt would pull the whole thing down without a lot of internal structure. And that would defeat the purpose.

This pattern, 3474:

looks really, really boring in the drawing. But the picture of the blouse on the model is compelling. I would definitely Laura-Bennett this up, using a stretch silk in black for the body of the blouse and a white silk gazar or faille for the ruffled collar. I haven’t seen the pattern yet, so I can’t say for sure, but judging from these pictures, I might also make the ruffle more dense to really play it up.

Aaaauuuugggghhhhh! Bad Pat Benatar flashback!

Seriously, I considered leggings for about, oh, one minute. Then November came to Boston, and any thought of leaving my ankles facing the elements disappeared like the last fleeting days of Indian Summer. Just say no!

Butterick is another pattern company that doesn’t really do a lot for me. Though I will admit that they have good basics. This dress, 4914:
is versatile. You can make this from a silk for evening or a jersey for day, and put a jacket over it for work. Yes, it’s like something you can find at Macy’s. But it’s also like something you can find at Neiman Marcus – it depends on your fabrication. Have some fun with it. That’s why you sew, isn’t it?

This pattern, 4920: has some interesting possibilities. I’m not sure if I like the dress, though I will sleep on it before I make a decision. It’s the kind of thing that can grow on me. I do like the top, but I would put sleeves on it and wear it over skinny jeans.

This season, they also added some pretty cool vintage patterns. This one, 4918:

Is really lovely. They recommend shantung, taffeta and satin. I would add silk gazar, or even a double layered skirt with something with good body underneath and chiffon or silk tulle on top. Think Christian Dior’s New Look:
I recommend making an inner corselet to hold it up, otherwise it will too easily slide down and you’ll be doing the pull-up every time you move or dance. Kenneth King’s Birth of a Bustier and Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture both have excellent instructions.

I am really drawn to this pattern, 4819:

But I have to ask – is it me, or does the illustration look like the model is checking for, um, well, let’s be blunt, body odor? Anyone here ever see “A Fish Called Wanda”? Remember how Otto would always smell his armpit before attempting to kill someone? Yah, that’s what I mean.

Well, that’s what I think for the evening. It’s time to call it a weekend and watch “Dr. Who” with the kids.

Happy sewing!

Taming the Trim Beast

My “Singing Gig Dress” provided instructional to me on several levels. First was the fit/matte jersey issue that I discussed yesterday on the Sewing Divas Blog. The second conundrum I ran into was the trim. The neckline of the dress is curved. The trim I used was a heavily encrusted, beaded trim that was backed with a lightweight buckram. This made it pretty inflexible.

So my quandary was, how to curve this to conform to the neckline edge without distorting the jersey dress? First thing that needed attention was the dress’ neckline. It needed interfacing to stabilize it. I thought about using a hair canvas on the facing, but between that and the buckram backing on the trim, I think it would have been too stiff and would not lay flatteringly against the body. Instead, I interfaced both the neckline and the facing with fusible tricot. This gave the support the trim needs but maintained the flexibility I want.

Once the dress was ready, I designed a template by tracing the neckline of the dress onto oaktag paper. I traced the entire neckline, including the back, and I decided to use that to shape and press the trim into shape.

After a very little experimentation (I didn’t have enough trim to do many tries), I realized that there was just no way to curve the trim around the back of the neckline. The beading and buckram made that impossible. So the trim only extends to the shoulders. I didn’t want to risk ruining the beading, so to press it into the shape of the collar, I worked from the back of the trim, with a silk organza press cloth and sparing amounts of steam. This took a fair amount of time, and I ended up sticking pins in the trim to hold it in place and set the shape while it cooled. The result was a good match for the neckline of the dress.

Once the trim was ready, I used a length of single-strand waxed thread to whipstitch it in place along the inner and outer borders. This project took a fair amount of time and patience, but like anything of this ilk, it was worth both. I’m quite pleased with the results.

Happy sewing!

Next Up – A Dress for a Singing Gig

Okay! It’s the fall, that means singing season is getting into full swing. I have two gigs coming up in as many weeks. One is at Tufts University’s Goddard Chapel. It’s just a half-hour recital at the noon hour, but what the heck. It’s a great chance to trot out some things, and it gives me the chance to work with the best accompanist in the Boston Area, Bill Merrill. Bill is also a great friend, and we have done work together in the past. Here’s a page with links to a recital we did together (with our dear friend Monique Argent, who is also a great musician). The week before that, I am going to be the soprano soloist for “Laudate Dominum” from Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes di Confessore – one of the most beautiful pieces in the choral repertoire. I am singing that for The International Catholic Stewardship Conference. It’s taking place in Boston this year and they asked little old me to sing for them. That’s kind of cool! I understand the presiding bishop at this shindig is going to be the number three guy at the Vatican. No pressure, right? Good thing the running joke about me isn’t “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It’s been 37 years since my last confession. Where would you like me to start?” Well, as my dear Daddy used to say, “He likes to hear from strangers.”

So of course, I need a new dress. Preferably one I can wear to both events. I have hit several of the recent pattern sales, and I decided to use this one, Butterick 4849. I’m going to do View C, the one with the closer fitting sleeves. It’s not as instantly dated as the “Duro” lookalikes, and I’ll be able to wear it for several seasons.

I’ll make it with a lovely matte rayon jersey I bought from my Darling Kashi at Metro Textiles in New York. I have three trims that I got from Heritage Trading on Ebay that will work. I’m going to use the middle one. The background matches the color of the jersey perfectly. It looks lighter in the picture, but that’s an artifact from the flash. Oh, by the way, Phyllis, if you’re reading this, I’m going to need some expert help on how to make this work!

Well, I’ll keep you posted. I certainly have enough projects to keep me busy for a month of Sundays.
Happy Sewing!

Butterick Early Fall

Oh yay, Butterick put their patterns up. You know, they’re usually not that inspiring to me, but I liked a bunch this season. Of course, they have their version of the ubiquitous “Duro Dress”. Yes, this is going to be next year’s poncho. Wear it quick, then put it away for 10 years and pull it out again when you can call it vintage. On the other hand, just toss the ponchos. They won’t be back for another generation, thank the heavens!

So here’s their version of The Dress, 4849:

There are a couple of things I like about this dress, especially in comparison to some other versions out there. I like the fact that the skirt is not as gathered, so you run less risk of getting the “when are you due” reaction from people on the street. I also like the closer sleeves on version C. That takes it out of the realm of the “that’s so 2006”, especially if you make it using a fabulous dark crepe or jersey. The neckline and waistbands would also provide a good foundation for some cool embellishments (like the ones in Phyllis’ blog, Obsessed with Embellishment

I love this skirt, 4859:
. This has amazing and fun options for contrasts. For evening, I would make this out of a heavy silk crepe and use a cool contrast in a funky silk print. Another evening option is a black stretch velvet with an animal print for contrast. For day, I would use wool crepe in contrasting colors. Another cool thing to do with this is to make View B with piped seams, or even better, make it with slotted seams and contrast bias tape. Black wool crepe with hot pink slotted seams? How YSL is that??? Oh yes, this pattern will be mine.

Jacket 4863 has some interesting possibilities. I’d skip the gathered shoulders if you have wide shoulders (I do) or lived through this look in the 80s (I did). But View A is kind of cool if you can find fabulous buttons (try M&J Trims in New York). Avoid the blue/red combination that they show though – you run the risk of looking like an extra from Pirates of the Caribbean. It would be nice in a beautiful tweed with coordinating solid color wool trim, and would be at home in an office with a pegged skirt, as well as thrown over jeans for a casual dinner look.

4870 is a very good wardrobe pattern. This is the kind of thing that would look good on a woman of a certain age, without looking too matronly, as long as you get the fit and fabric right. I know, you’re thinking, “well, that’s the trick, isn’t it?” Yup, it is. The bones on this pattern are good, There are a lot of fitting possibilities. The jacket hides the upper arms, the top seems to hit in a good place. The pants look sharp, and if you are a little adventurous (it’s not that hard), you can release the darts in the back and make the facing from elastic, to give a little more ease. This is the kind of outfit that women I know would kill to find for weddings and other events they have to attend. I have a red 4-ply silk crepe that would look great as the dress, and a matching rose-print crepe georgette that would be a fantastic jacket. Plus, you can pair the jacket and top with skinny pants for a more casual dinner look.

4875 is a wardrobe of coats. For my money, I prefer the Vogue version (check two posts back). This one is a good basic design. The collar could be tricky, especially on more petite figures. If you’re tall, or have the gumption to carry it off, then please, DON’T make this coat in fleece! I don’t care that it says you can. Don’t. Sorry, time for the soapbox. I have seen more decent coat patterns ruined by people using fleece for them. It doesn’t look rich; it doesn’t look good; it just ends up looking sloppy. Listen to me, I’m serious. A coat of this type is meant to be made from a fabric that has body and doesn’t stretch. Wool melton is not much more expensive. Invest your time in something that you will have for years. Put the fleece down. Good. Now, back slowly away from the fleece and turn towards the wools. Good. Pick up that lovely wool coating. Good! Now, doesn’t that feel better? You’ll look better too, and you’ll wear it for years and years.

Okay, it’s only a short side trip to snarky, so let’s have some fun. First, let me say about this pattern:
I owned a RTW jacket (part of a suit) that looked just like this when I first got out of college. It was blue pinstripe, and I thought I was all that and a big bag of chips when I wore it. I got my first job offer while wearing that suit! My kids recently dug out an old photo album and saw a picture of me in that suit. My first reaction was that I looked like a waiter at some yuppie restaurant. Well, that look is back! But you won’t see me in it. Once was good, sorta. And the peplum version? Can you say Princess Diana, circa 1986? At least it doesn’t have the 1 inch shoulder pads

“Napoleon, Napoleon, wherefore art thou, Napoleon?”

“Here I am, my petite choux foie gras!”

“Oh, Napoleon! Is that a hand in your vest or are you just happy to see me?”

I want to know where I can get the hat.

Ah, I could go on, but I think I’ll stop there, with sincerest apologies to my French readers (I’m a Francophile, really).
Until next time, a bientot, and happy sewing!