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.

Of Weekends, Doggies, Friends and Fabrics

Grab a cuppa or a glass of something refreshing and settle in. This is going to be a long one…

Well, this has been a whirlwind couple of weeks! I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

First, the Fiberly Train pulled into the Station in Santa Fe, NM last weekend! This is an annual get together of women who love to talk sewing, eat, drink, enjoy each other’s company and have a wonderful time! There are 5 of us who are “series regulars” – Nancy, Patti, who doesn’t blog, Liana Jan (Hey Jan, do you blog? I don’t have a blog for you), and me. It’s a wonderful time, with wonderful people. For the past three years, we have congregated in Chicago, but this year Nancy suggested we visit her home state of New Mexico. Also this year, Shams and Margy joined us. What wonderful ladies!!! I have to admit, I felt a little like the Tasmanian Devil (not the hungry for Bugs Bunny part, but the entrance):

I had the farthest journey, and when I made my reservations way back last year, I wasn’t sure what the state of Gorgeous Fabrics would be (new website launch, dontcha know). So I made my arrangements to fly to Santa Fe on Friday, and home on Sunday. It was whirlwind, but it was WONDERFUL! You can see more pictures on my cohorts’ blogs, because I was so caught up in meeting, talking and having so much fun with everyone, then blasting out like one of the Santa Ana winds, that I didn’t take many pictures. But here are a couple:

This is the bar at La Fonda on the Plaza where Bob Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Boys used to come drinking on Friday Nights. We Fiberly sisters kept that great tradition. Minus the nukes.
This is the bar at La Fonda on the Plaza where Bob Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Boys used to come drinking on Friday Nights. We Fiberly sisters kept that great tradition. Minus the nukes.
Jan Liana Nancy
Jan, Liana and Nancy
Sharon Margy Jan
Sharon, Margy and Jan
The Gang
From Left: Nancy, Liana, Patti, me, Sharon. Margy, Jan
I totally suck at selfies, but I did get to wear my bustier

You can see better pictures on everyone else’s blogs. I was so intent on visiting with everyone that I didn’t bring my good camera, so I didn’t get a lot of pictures, sorry!

That was last weekend. This weekend, I was in New York. I had to go down Friday for a buying trip (woop woop!), and it coincided with the book signing party for my darling Tom & Lorenzo, which took place at my BFAM Emmett’s store! Their book, “Everyone Wants to Be Me or Do Me” is a fun, fun read. Of course, I had to be there! I tended bar, met with other Bitter Kittens, acted at times as semi-official photographer. I had a great time! Here are some choice pictures (I did have my good camera for this one):

BMDM 5-3-14
Springtime on 6th Avenue, Freedom Tower in the background
The courtyard at EMc2, getting ready for the book signing
BMDM Mannequin
Emmett, Lorenzo, Tom and the Bitter Kittens
Party Crowd
Bitter Kittens!
Photo Gal
Nancy got a picture of me taking pictures.
TLo and Emmett
Three of my favorite men in the world.

I realized this week that I’m not lacking sewing mojo. I just have had no blogging mojo for the last several weeks. But I may have just found something to change that. I found some fabric that is not going on the site. There were only three yards of it at the designer’s showroom, and when she offered it to me, I just had to grab it! Anyone who knows me knows that I love dogs, and this is a fabulous silk crepe de chine print of French Bulldogs. If I can find more, I promise I’ll put it up on the site. But this one is mine, bwahahahahahaha!

I bought some patterns today. The first one I’m going to make is Burda 7378. I’ve cut it out of muslin for a test garment. That’s going to be the puppy dress

Patterns 5-4-14

A couple of end-shots. First is Emmett’s dog, Gizmo:

GizmodoAnd finally – Really people?? Really???


I mean. Really??? Yes, Simplicity and McCalls, you are big ol’ pattern companies. And yes, you are both located on the Isle of Manhattan. But really? You couldn’t manage to find two different fabrics for like, the same prom dress? Really?

BTW, Amy’s from my hometown. Just sayin’

PS, if you have the chance to see “Mothers and Sons”, do it! It’s awesome. And I’m not kidding about that one.

Happy sewing!

I’m Baaaack!

I haven’t time to blog right now, because I have to go see DS the Elder conduct the band at his first football game as Senior Drum Major! But I was in New York for (among other things) FNO and the start of Fashion Week. In the words of Tom and Lorenzo, “Kittens, it’s exhausting.”

Well, honestly I’m not sure if they actually said those exact words, but something pretty close.

Here are just a couple of pictures. more to come later:

I was Chloe Dao’s Date for the FNO Project Runway event at Lord & Taylor

BFAM Emmett and His Girls at Lincoln Center
The Über Glam and Gorgeous Tom & Lorenzo and some chick from out of town.

Oh yes, and there was fabric involved, too. More later!

Shameless Plug Time!

Hello, boys and girls! I have been an absolute loser girl recently, and I apologize. I’ve been so busy working that I haven’t had time to sew. I’m hoping to rectify that this weekend. I did have a chance to spend the day earlier this week with Emmett and Georgene. That was a blast, and we got tons done. Emmett is working with a very big client, and we were all picking out fabrics for her. Georgene is doing great, and hopefully will be spending more time on the East Coast. It was a very busy day filled with friends and fabrics. More about that later!

Roxy Half Body Mannequin

In the meantime, I want to give a blatant plug. I bought my full-body dress form from Roxy Display. I love it, and I use her all the time. I was on their site today looking for something for a colleague, when what did I see? They have Misses size mannequins (half-body) on sale for $229 for sizes 2-12!!!! That price includes a right arm (I’d give my right arm for a mannequin? – ouch).

I can personally vouch for the quality of the forms. That’s the best price I’ve seen for a new form anywhere. So if you are in the market for a new sewing mannequin, get your bad self over to Roxy Display. I think you’ll be pleased.

I have no affiliation with Roxy, I’m just very, very happy with my form.

In other news, the Fourth of July sale is going great guns at Gorgeous Fabrics. And I’ll be adding tons of new fabrics (fruits of my time with Emmett and Georgene) over the next few days, so get your bad self to Gorgeous Fabrics as well!

Happy sewing!

Oh Yes, I Was There…

I spent the last few days in New York City doing business. I felt well enough after my last chemo (still doing the Snoopy dance) that I planned the trip. BTW, if you are thinking of going to New York, hotel rates are still pretty reasonable right now. But I sensed an uptick in the numbers of folks visiting. So hopefully we’re emerging from the recession just a bit, and if so, the hotel rates are going to start to climb.

Back to the story at hand. Last week, my darlings, Tom and Lorenzo called me and asked if I could make it to a Project Runway finale party at the fabulous Laura Bennett’s house? I could have been still tethered to the IV and I would have found a way to get my sorry carcass down there. The good news is that I felt pretty good after the last round, so I was able to go. I’ll make just a couple of comments and then get to the good stuff. First – Seth Anthony is an absolute sweetie. He is genuinely nice. Last night, he was a little antsy. In 20/20 hindsight, of course, it’s because he knew he had won (yay!!!) but couldn’t say anything. He also had his entire family with him. There were about 60 or 70 people at the party, and Laura was an incredibly gracious host. There were a ton of Project Runway alumni/ae there. Emmett was my date, since DH wasn’t able to make it. It was a great time, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the one-week anniversary of the end of my chemotherapy!

Enough yammering – here are pictures:

 Our gracious hostess and one of her boys
Tom and Lorenzo with Seth Aaron

 Emmett and Laura

Tom and Dave (one of my fellow Bitter Kittens)

Althea and Emmett – aka “Muir Woods”

Althea, Emmett and the fabulous Malan

Kevin Christiana

Althea and Anthony (he is so funny!)

Laura introducing the show

SA with his family as they announce his win

Talking with TLo after the win. 

Me and Kevin

The last time I saw Kevin was at a fundraiser for the Faulkner Hospital Breast Care Centershortly before my own diagnosis. How ironic, eh? Kevin is such a sweetheart. Next time he comes to Boston we’re going to get together. Or next time I get to New York. Love that man.
A great time was had by all. You can read the complete story over at Tom and Lorenzo’s Blog

Back to the sewing room this weekend. Have a great one!

Cancer, Chemo and What I Wore Part 2

 Fabulosity abounds, even during tough times…

Today was my second treatment. The leadup to it was nowhere near as excruciating as the first one. I knew what to expect. I still slept pretty poorly last night and I’m paying the price, but it’ll be okay.

But before I tell you about that, let me tell you about the wig buying experience I had this week! My hair started falling out two weeks to the day after my first treatment. That’s pretty much the norm. It wasn’t so bad the first day, it got a little more the second day, and by Saturday, the night of DH’s gig at Foxwoods, it was really bad. I had to be very careful styling it to make sure I didn’t pull it out. I had told DH that I would be happy to shave it off after Saturday, but I wanted to still have it that night. It lasted, no problem.

By Monday, I felt like Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree

Thank you, Charles Shulz!

Everywhere I went, I left a trail. You wouldn’t lose me in a forest. By Tuesday I had had enough. The hospital recommended someone who works closely with them. I scoped out wig styles online with Phyllis‘ help and picked out a few styles to show her. My friend Lisa, who is a hair stylist, came with me for support and advice. When the lady came out, I watched her size me up, in a couple of different ways, and I got a bad impression. She had me sit down in the chair. My hair was wrapped in a scarf, so she said, “Let’s see what we’ve got to work with.” I took off the scarf, dropping needles, er, hair all over as I did. She did a quick look.

“Okay, you’ve got your hair still so we’ll match the color to it.”

“No – I want to change it up. This is too dark. I want lighter. I was even thinking strawberry blonde.”

“Oh no. You’re not going strawberry blonde.”

I looked at Lisa; Lisa looked at me and the communication was obvious. This was going to be trouble. The wig lady pulled out a wig and put it on me.

“This is perfect for you. The color, the cut, everything.”

Now, I was not about to just say yes to the first wig I saw. I wanted to try on every style and every color and see what suited me. I’ll just say, she wasn’t really wild about that. And I had Lisa take pictures with my phone so we could send them to Emmett for his BFAM approval. Here are the rejects first:

Ann tries out for Bravo’s new show “Real Housewives of Lexington, MA”

Wig lady was all, “That looks great on you.”
I was all, “No, it just isn’t fabulous enough.”
Lisa was laughing

This was the next one she put on me:

Clearly the look on my face is “You have GOT to be kidding.” Emmett called me immediately and said, “Ann, you look like you just got f*cked in a hayloft. NO.”
I couldn’t get it off fast enough.

I tried on wig after wig after wig. Nothing suited. Wig lady was getting agitated and I was getting snarkier by the moment at her. Not a good combination. Finally she pulled out the first wig I tried on:

Much better, and close to my pre-cancerous hair.

Then she pulled out this one, which I think could be totally fun! has it in stock, so I think I’ll order it from them. Keep DH guessing who he’s coming home to, you know?

Okay, so back to What I Wore
As I mentioned, today was round 2 of 4. I’m halfway done, babies!!!! Once again it wasn’t bad, but this one really wore me out. I was exhausted when I got home.

Barbara, my hairstylist, trimmed and styled my wig so it’s much much better. I wore full-on makeup, which, as a silver lining, is much easier to apply when you are bald. Do a perfect job, pop on the wig, style with your fingers and you are ready to go! I wore my Orange Vogue Dress. Note that the bracelet length sleeves are the perfect length for IV sticks. I put a lot of thought into that, babies! And check this out. I bought myself an absolutely fabulous pair of Giuseppe Zanotti shoes from Rue La La.

Fierce times call for Fierce Shoes. And these are surprisingly comfortable. There’s lots of room in the toe box, and the heels, while 3 1/2 inches, are mitigated by a hidden 1/2 inch platform. Love. Them! Here’s a picture of the whole schmeer, taken by DH when he came to join me for lunch.

Yep, I sit at chemo and enter orders and fabrics. How mundane, eh? But at least I looked good! All the nurses and staff were coming in to see what I was wearing and they all wanted to steal my shoes. My oncologist wants me to make her my dress, but in black. Even the patients were saying nice things about the way I was dressed! If you have to go through something sucky like this, at least do it with style.

Parting Shot: One Last Pic of the Ladies

The ladies sent Larry a picture of all of them together in the Green Room before the show. I think they all look fab!

Emmett was in Town Last Night!

Actually, he’s been here since Wednesday. He’s doing work with Gretta Luxe in Copley Place. If you’re in Boston today, he’ll be there from 1-7 doing a trunk show. Go say hi!

Last night, he was a judge for an event to benefit the Faulkner-Sagoff Center, one of the premier breast care centers in the Boston area. They did a gala benefit, the highlight of which was a Project Runway-style show by students at the School of Fashion Design in Boston. Kevin Christiana, another Project Runway alum (season 4) was also a judge. It was a lot of fun, and it raised a lot of money for the center. But enough of me talking, let’s see pictures!

Emmett, me and Kevin. Emmett is really tall and makes cropping photos an adventure.

But, it can be done!
I’m wearing one of Emmett’s dresses, of course.

Courtney, Emmett’s able bodied (and really sweet) assistant.

Me and my BFAM

Check out the centerpieces!

I got to take one like this home. Kewl!

The runway show was a lot of fun. 5 seniors from the School of Fashion Design presented mini collections which were critiqued by a panel of four judges. All five contestants were incredibly talented, but the gal who won did a really superb job and was, as the judges described her, visionary. Here she is with her finale piece.
Here are a couple of other pieces from the collections:

There were also pieces displayed around the reception area. This was one that Courtney and I particularly liked.
The evening was a resounding success. It raised lots of money for a good cause. Emmett, Courtney and Kevin were fabulous and fun. All in all, a very successful evening!

Pattern Review – Simplicity 3503

I was so inspired by Erica B’s and Cindy’s recent Maxi-dress renditions of this pattern, and I always loved the version that Cidell did last year. I wanted to make one for myself, but I wasn’t sure about the longevity of the Maxi dress trend. So I called my BFAM, Emmett. The conversation went something like this.

“Emmett, what do you think? Can I get away with a maxi dress this year? Or will I be hopelessly two seasons ago?”

“No Ann, you’re fine for this summer. They are still very in. Go for it. Now how are my fabrics [for Sewing Hope] selling?”

So cool! I got the go-ahead and I had the pattern and fabric ready to go. And away we went!

Pattern Description: Dresses in two lengths with neckline and sleeve variations. I made View A, the long, cap sleeved version.

Sizing: 6-22. This runs big. Go down at least one size from your norm. I made a 14 but cut it down to a 12, and I could still take it in at the waist.

Fabric Used: The fabric I used is the same as the classic (and long gone) Bold Boho Chic from last year, but in a different colorway.
For the lining, I used White Tricot Knit from Gorgeous Fabrics.

Needle/Notions Used: Size 75/11 Stretch needle, fusible tricot interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply, thread.

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes, but I made some changes to the structure (see below)

How were the instructions? I didn’t use them. I have heard they leave out a few steps, so I’ll try to check them later and let you know.

Construction Notes: I basted, then serged all the major seams. Also, I stabilized the shoulder seams with fusible tricot.
I was very concerned with the placement of the patterns. It was brought to mind for me recently in a picture of a paisley silk gown where the paisley motifs sit right over the wearer’s boobs. Not a good look. Gigi is always inspiring with her motif placement, so I kept chanting, “What would Gigi do?” and tried to be very thoughtful about where the motifs hit on the body.

Any changes? Yeah, a few. I liked the neckline, but Simplicity’s original design had the bodice front and back criss-cross at the centers. The original design was lower cut than I wanted for a hang around on the deck dress, so I changed the bodice to have the pieces meet with a CF and CB seam . I raised the neckline so I don’t show quite as much decolletage. Here you can see the change to the bodice front:
I then made my usual FBA.

Simplicity has incorporated a weird construction technique in this pattern. They (and the rest of the Big 4 are doing this these days too) have you line the front, but not the back. They then have you turn and stitch the hems on the back neckline and back half of the armhole before attaching the front to the back. IMO, that’s a pretty boneheaded way to do it. It’s just as easy (easier, actually) to cut lining pieces from the back bodice and line the whole thing. That’s what I did.
I understitched the neckline and the sleeves, leaving the side seams and the bodice bottoms open so I could turn the top. I treated those seams like they were underlining and simply serged them. I’ve seen a lot of RTW constructed this way. Here’s the lining at the neckline:
And here it is at the sleeves
It’s actually not completely finished. I have to run it through the coverstitch to hem it, but I’ll do that this afternoon.

Here it is from the front
And here’s the back:

Likes/Dislikes: Love this style. I think it’s flattering on a whole lot of body types. Do keep in mind that it runs really big, so go down at least one size.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Yes and yes. I will probably make this in the shorter version for summer. Maybe in a rayon jersey for kicking around.

Conclusion: Great style. I’m pretty pleased with how my print layouts turned out – as always, there are a few things I would change, but nothing drastic. I’ll get a picture of me in it, but probably not for a week or so. I’m planning to wear it to a dance comp that DS the younger is participating in. That is a really exciting story that I will tell later!

Happy sewing!


That’s how much sewing I have done since last week. This weekend was jammed with activity. I spent Thursday and Friday in New York meeting with vendors. I got to spend some serious time with Emmett and with Chloe. I also got to spend Friday afternoon with the wonderful Barbara of Cat Fur Studio. I had such a great time with her! Being the evil enabler that I am, I dragged her to Lace Star. And we found a fantastic wig shop on 37th that we both fell in love with! I came home on Friday night and turned around and drove to Connecticut on Saturday for my godson’s first communion. Then on Sunday I sang at the confirmation at my church. I ran from that to my neighbor’s surprise 50th birthday party. Today I am exhausted.

But the good news is that I got some really cool fabrics for Gorgeous Fabrics that I’ll be putting up today and tomorrow. I’m still waiting for my Marfy patterns 🙁 I’m hoping those will arrive this week. I’d like to get working on them to use as some examples for my Saturday Series classes.

Speaking of which, for anyone in the Boston area who may be interested, the Saturday Series starts this weekend. It’s a four week series of 2 hour classes that go from 10 to noon on Saturdays. There are still openings. If you’re interested, drop me a note at Ann “at” Gorgeousfabrics “dot” com and I’ll send you the sign up information.

Hopefully I’ll get to do some sewing this week.
Happy Monday!