Looking for Inspiration

I know it’s early, but I’m already thinking about my dress for the Winchester Hospital Breast Care Center annual gala. This year it’s going to be held on November 11. I’ve been involved with the BCC for quite some time, and this is the one black tie event that I actually am willing to show up for. Since I’m on the board, I want to look nice. Last year I made a dress, dubbed Judy’s Beautiful Dress, named for a student of mine who was undergoing treatment for cancer at the center.

This year, I want to make a dress again. I have some silk charmeuse that has been aging in my stash since last year:
It’s a gorgeous, Italian burnout charmeuse. It has an ivory background with large peonies and flowers in shades of red, yellow and coral. It’s an absolute stunner, and I bought it (any guesses?) for the stunning price of $12/yard. As an aside, that same weekend I saw the exact same fabric on a dress form at Sposabella fabrics on West 40th. I had to check it out, so I dragged poor Sewing Diva Phyllis in with me and innocently asked how much. $40/yard, and the sales lady went on about how good a price that was! Yeah, right. I also bought several yards of peach colored 4 ply silk to coordinate with it when Kashi called me earlier this month.

So now the question is, what should I make? Here are some possibilities:
I like this pattern, Vogue 2801. It has good possibilities for using both fabrics, with the charmeuse as the top and the crepe as the skirt. I also like the neckline on it, and I can use Kenneth King’s CD Book, Birth of a Bustier to build the foundation and give myself a good challenge as well as a great fit.

I already own Vogue 2810, a two piece corset/skirt pattern. I’m not sure I really like it for this fabric, though. I don’t think the corset would showcase the floral charmeuse (big flowers, small pattern pieces). The more I think about it the less inclined I am to use it. I just don’t think it will work. I think I’ll just leave it in the stash for future use.

Vogue 2890 is pretty, but it calls for 60 inch wide fabric, so I’m not sure it will work very well. Plus, the rosettes are a little much with the peony fabric. And if you watch Project Runway this season, you’ll understand my aversion to too much wickety-wack trim. This is tasteful, but it’s still a little more than I am comfortable with.

Marfy 9541 is a remote contender. Unfortunately, I have only made one Marfy pattern so far. It was a skirt. It went togther just fine, but I’m leery about how their patterns are to work with. this one is not too complex, which is part of its appeal. But I can’t tell much about it from the drawing. I really wish they would put technical line drawings in their catalogues, not just these fantasy figure drawings.

Well, I do have some time before I need to make up my mind. JoAnn is having a sale this weekend on Vogue patterns, so I may just pick up a few at that and see if any thing strikes my fancy. I’ll report back, and I’m always open to suggestions.

Until then, 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!

McCalls and Kwik Sew Fall Patterns

I was hoping to do Butterick and McCalls together, but Butterick hasn’t posted their early fall patterns yet. Kwik Sew has posted their new patterns, so I’ll combine them with McCall. Let’s start with Kwik Sew. I’ll tell you this right off, I find Kwik Sew’s patterns to be good basics, but their fashion drawings leave something to be desired. On the plus side, they are accurate, if not inspired. Read on!:

Let’s start with

outerwear. Kwik Sew is known for their patterns for knits and activewear. This season they published a raglan sleeved jacket and a similarly styled vest. These are both really good looking basic patterns. I really like the contrast insets in the vest and the contrast back of the jacket. From the picture, it looks like the jacket back extends slightly forward of a standard side seam. Both of those are very slimming effects. I would do them up in a lightweight fleece (say, Polartec 100 or lighter) in a bright color and use black as the contrast. I’d also match the zipper color to the contrast for a designer touch.

I’m seeing a lot of blouses like 3436 in the pattern catalogues for fall. It’s nice that they are a little dressier. For a great transitional piece, I would make the long sleeve version in an ivory or black cotton eyelet. View B, the short sleeved version, is very of-the-moment. But here’s a caution. That sleeve length can be deadly if you have either a large bust or if your arms are not model-thin. I’d recommend lengthening the sleeve to just above the elbow. That will cover multitudes of, well, you know. If you’re adventurous, push the envelope and make it from a jersey rather than the recommended wovens.

3451 is the Kwik Sew version of the ubiquitous bubble skirt. I’m going to be frank. I don’t like these skirts. That’s my personal taste, and it’s influenced by the hideous bubble skirts worn by Angela on the current season of Project Runway. The other thing about bubble skirts is that, if you don’t have perfect legs, avoid them like they were plutonium. Now that I’ve said all that, let me point out that, if you do want to make a bubble skirt, this is a cute pattern. I really like the fact that this pattern has a twisted bubble as well as the straight version. Try making this dressy by using a really high-quality silk shantung (Thai Silks and Metro Textiles both have good ones), or a silk gazar as the top layer of the bubble.

In the activewear category, this pattern, 3443:
tops my list of must-buys for this season. I love, love, love the waistband on view A. It’s just a great look. I’d make this pant in versions for the gym, and maybe in a silk or lightweight rayon jersey as a pajama bottom (hello, Kashi?). I am less thrilled about the waistband on view B, but I love the length for Cy-Yo (it’s a spin/yoga class I take). Yes, this pattern is going in my basket next time I’m out.

Okay, snark alert. For some reason this pattern, 3444

reminds me very much of Frank Gorshin as the Riddler on the 1960s TV series “Batman”:

Maybe it’s the green trim on the leotard. I don’t know. This may be the latest style for the dancing crowd. If so, then go for it. But I would be careful about the color combinations, or it can look like a Harlequin costume from a third rate Commedia dell’Arte troupe.

McCalls Patterns
I wasn’t really thrilled with the new patterns on the McCall’s website. They seem like they are rehashed versions from the Vogue catalogue. There were a few that I liked though.

Jacket 5176 is a basic princess jacket, but I like the view D with the ribbon trim. It will make a nice platform for some of the great beaded trims I’ve bought from Heritage Trading. View A is nice too, especially if you try using Georgene’s idea on The Sewing Divas and make the flounces from tulle.

5184 is a basic skirt pattern with hemline flounce variations. I made one very like it three seasons ago when Simplicity did this same type of pattern. It’s a great wardrobe builder. Take a pass on the cutesy appliques, though. They scream “happy hands at home”. Instead, I’d make this in a beautiful lightweight crepe, pair it with a fitted jacket and wear it to the office and then out to dinner.

This pattern, 5206:

Is titled “Snow Queen”. Hmmmm….. I don’t know. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentson,

“I know Jadis, Queen of Narnia, and you, Ma’am, are no Jadis, Queen of Narnia!”

That’s all for now. Happy sewing!