Pattern Review – Simplicity 4020 (Top)

I wanted to experiment a little, and I’m waiting for my niece’s counselor to get back to me with her measurements so I can make her another dress, so I decided to play with this pattern. This is a little out of the norm for me, but it’s kind of cute, so I pulled it out of the pattern stash and had at it.

Description: Wardrobe of tops, includes blouson tops with sleeve and collar variations and empire waist tops with kimono neckline and sleeve variations. I made View E, the short sleeved kimono top.

Pattern Sizing: 4 to 20

How were the instructions? They were pretty good. There is one tricky part, attaching the bodice top to the bodice bottom, that could be difficult for a beginner. But they illustrated it quite well.

Likes/Dislikes: I’m honestly not sure if I really like it. That has nothing to do with the technicalities of the pattern itself. It’s just not my usual style. But I wanted to try out a new fitting trick and it was the perfect canvas for it.

Fabric Used: Leftover Don’t Cross Me Jersey from my second New Look 6429 dress. I like the fabric, and I had enough, so let’s do it!

Pattern Alterations? Okay, sit back and relax. I mentioned I wanted to do some experimenting, so here’s what I did. Empire lines don’t usually suit me. The empire line has a tendency to fall right across the – well, to be blunt – nipple line, and I’ve been too lazy in the past to even deal with it, so I avoid the style. But this year is the year of the Empire, it seemss, so I decided to take that bull by the horns.

Because the Girls are D cup, and because the bust point is lower than the bust on this pattern, I decided to alter the pattern. The first thing I did was measure from my shoulder seam over the fullest part of the bust to my rib cage. That gave me how long the bodice top piece needed to be. Here’s a picture of the original pattern piece:

If you can see it, notice that I did two things: I extended the grainline to run the entire length of the pattern piece, and I drew a line at the bust, perpendicular to the grainline. I slashed the pattern along that line, but only to the side seam of the bodice:

Now, at first I was going to slash/spread/true up the bodice piece, but I decided it would be easier, and more elegant to look at, if I just redrafed the bodice piece with the change. So I did that:

This required one other change: I needed to adjust the neckband. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a disaster. Ask me how I know. So I lengthened the neckband, below the double notches. I lengthened it there because that is where I added length to the bodice piece, so this way all notches would match:

(sorry, I didn’t take a pic of the adjusted band, but you get the gist, I think)

One minor mistake or misjudgement that I made (yes, I make them – frequently), is that I added the length, but I also extended the front neckline. It’s not really noticeable in the finished version, but I know that the notches on the band don’t fall where they should. To fix that in the future, I may re-draft the front neckline so that it comes down at a slightly steeper angle and so the notches on the band and the bodice pieces match more precisely. I may not, though, because that may cause a deeper decolleté than I want. As it is right now, it gives me the coverage I like:

This is, admittedly, a pretty bad self portrait. Liana, how do you do it????
Technicalities of my photographic abilities aside, the fit on the bust is pretty good. The empire line falls where it should – under the bust.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it? I don’t know if I’ll make it again. As I say, this style is out of my comfort zone. But I’m pleased with the results, and I’m glad I got a chance to try this experiment. I’ll definitely use it or a variant on the next empire line garment I make.

Conclusion If you like this style, but you feel like you are a little too busty to wear it, try fiddling with the bodice like I did. As I say, I’m pleased with the results. I’ll play some more with it on other styles. HTH!

Happy Sewing!

Pattern Review – HotPatterns Cha Cha Cha Dress

Hot cha cha! What a cute dress this is! I just loved the look of it, both on the pattern and in Gigi’s version and in the one that Twisted Angel made. So I decided to hop on the bandwagon and make my own.

Pattern Description: “Sweetly simple dresses , easy to make in soft or crisp cottons, silks and rayons. Scoop-necked dress has long flared raglan sleeves and a slim skirt, both trimmed with a narrow self fabric frill. Dress features an elasticated under-bust seam and drawstring at the neck. Halter-neck dress has a semi-circular skirt which wraps over at the back, a deep shaped waistband and long self fabric ties. Both dresses pull on and finish *just* above the knee. Wear the long sleeved dress for work or play all year round, and try the halter dress on it’s own for a great warm-weather daytime outfit… add a shrug jacket for a fabulous evening look. Add your best strappy shoes & a great bag, of course!”

Pattern Size: 6-26. I made a size 12

Fabric Used: Black and white basketweave jersey left over from my original Cosmopolitan Dress. This is such a cool fabric. I love the fact that it has a border print that mirrors the basketweave, but in a smaller print.

How Were the Instructions? Simple. Really, this pattern is so well drafted that it practically falls together. I like the way they illustrate the construction process too. It’s both fun and instructional.

Any Changes to the Design? None to the design itself, but I did use the smaller print as the waistband, and the larger print for the remainder of the dress. Also, like I did with my NL6521 top, I used a tube of the smaller print (not cut on the bias) for the neck tie instead of the recommended ribbon. I think it gives the dress a more professional look.

Any Likes or Dislikes? Love the look and the lines. The pattern runs pretty big. Twisted Angel noted this too. I think the next one I make will be in a size 10 or 8. I think it is exacerbated by my fabric too. This is a very stretchy knit. It’s adorable though, and I can definitely fix the problem.

Would you Sew It Again and/or Recommend It? Absolutely! My husband loves this dress on me. I think I’m going to follow Gigi and Twisted Angel’s lead and buy bra cups to sew into the dress. This is a cute summer look and a very easy pattern. I think all in all it took me less than 4 hours to make from start to finish!

Conclusion: Another real winner!

Happy Sewing!

Pattern Review – New Look 6521 Top

Since I finished Barb’s Cosmopolitan Dress early today, and since I had a little time on my hands, I decided to dig into some of the silk jersey I bought at Rosen & Chadick when I was there with Gigi and Phyllis in January. Because it was so dear, I only bought 1 1/2 yards of it, so I cast about in my pattern stash to see what kind of sleeveless or short sleeved pattern I had lurking about. This one presented itself to me, and it reminded me of a favorite Nanette Lepore top I bought about 5 years ago and which I still wear. So, let’s pull it out and have at it!

Description: Misses sleeveless top with tie detail at shoulders, wrap top, capris and pants. All sizes (8-18) are included.

What did you like/dislike about the pattern? I liked the lines of the top. As I said, it’s reminiscent of one I paid a lot of money for at Wish on Charles Street several years back. It’s a very easy pattern – 3 pieces (front/back/neckline). This is not a dislike, but it is worth noting that the top is lower cut than it appears from the line drawings.

Fabric used: Silk jersey print that I bought at Rosen & Chadick in New York City.

Any alterations? I did a FBA. I also inserted the neckband using my serger, and I think the differential feed was a little off, because it stretched out a bit as you can see. I think I will be able to fix it, and on me it’s not as noticeable as it is on my dummy Sharona. One other thing I did differently was with the shoulder gathers. The instructions have you use lengths of store-bought ribbon. Instead, I opted to do what Nanette Lepore did and I made narrow bias tubes of silk jersey instead. I think it looks better that way.

How were the instructions? Easy-peasy. Really, they are quite clear, and very beginner friendly.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it? Yes to both. I have this same print in pinks, and I think I’ll make it up using this pattern.

Conclusion: A real winner! Oh yes, here’s the top:

Happy sewing!

Pattern Review – New Look 6429 Dress

I managed to get some time to sew this weekend, finally! So I decided to make up the classic New Look mock-wrap. This is one of New Look’s blockbuster patterns. There are at least 20 reviews for it on PatternReview, and countless others on blogs and other sites. I have had it in my stash for quite some time, and when the weather turned sour this weekend, I pulled it out and started cutting.

Pattern Description: Wardrobe of mock-wrap style dresses with sleeve and collar variations. I made view D, the sleeveless, collarless version.

Fabric Used: ‘Totally Rad’ jersey from (of course) Gorgeous Fabrics. I actually had significantly less than the pattern called for, but I managed to eke out a dress from it without too much trouble. If I were to do it again, I’d use more fabric and do a really stellar job of matching the chevrons across all the seams. As it is, most people won’t notice.

What did you like/dislike about this pattern? I have always liked the lines of this dress. I really like the ruching at the left front seam. I like the way it looks on almost everybody. I also am intrigued by the interesting princess seaming. The side of the bodice has a very interesting structure. It’s a single piece for the front/back side. I also Like the back skirt. It has a CB seam and wraps around under the side bodice piece to connect with the front. It’s a very neat effect!

Changes to the Design or Pattern: I did a FBA on the pattern (that’s a subject for another post). The instructions have you turn the hem allowance at the armholes under and do a narrow hem on it. I opted instead to cut a facing for the armholes. I think it gives a cleaner look.

One interesting note is that the front pattern piece is cut on grain per the pattern markings, but the ruching pulls the print so it goes off at an angle. You may want to play around with this on your fabric, or use a fabric that has a less striking print. But I really love it, and on me, it’s better looking than it is on my mannequin.

Recommend it? Absolutely. This is a great pattern. It goes together beautifully, and the result is stunning. I will probably make several versions of this. I am going to DC this weekend, and I’ll wear this for a dinner we’re going to.

Lisette M and Karla both bring up great questions. Lisette asks about gaposis. The way I dealt with this is to use the tip I used on my Cosmo Dress version 2. I cut a piece of 1/4 inch elastic, the length of the facing/neckline seam, less 2 inches. After sewing the facing to the neckline, I then sew the elastic to the facing, stretching the elastic to fit the length. Once this is sewn, it pulls in the neckline just a little bit, and keeps it from gapping. You can also achieve the same effect by cutting your facing 1-2 inches shorter than your neckline and pin-easing the neckline onto the facing.

Karla asks about the sizing. Karla, I used my standard size 14, It actually fits well, but I have very broad shoulders. I have noted with New Look patterns that they are built for people with broad shoulders. I don’t need to do huge alterations on them, but that’s just me.

Happy sewing!

Another Shameless Plug

I’ve been so busy lately that I have barely had time to sew, never mind post! There are tons of things in the works right now, and you’ll see the fruits of all my labor starting soon. First up will be the newest Cosmo dress, as soon as I make the buttons (covered, I gave in), then in about a month, the ol’ “Super Triple Secret Project” will see the light of day. And in the meantime, I’m working on a couple of articles and such, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, I want to put in yet another shameless plug for a great supplier. Sew Exciting. Pam owns the company, and I use her interfacings for every project. She gets THE BEST stuff! I love her elastics, too. The service is great, and if you call to talk to Pam, she’s just a delight.

So, if you need high-quality interfacings and notions, get thee to Sew Exciting. NAYY, but I use her things, and I can personally give a big thumbs up.

Happy sewing!

Pattern Review – Simplicity 5867 (Top)

Can you say easy-peasy? This top, which is part of a lounge/yoga-wear wardrobe, is about as simple as they come. I wanted something super-fast to make, since my third iteration of the Cosmo dress in silk is just the perfect button’s throw away from being done. I know, I know, it was supposed to be done for New York, right? Well, I’m going to wear it to my nephew’s bar mitzvah instead, and I’ll look fabulous! I think I’m going to end up making covered buttons, but that’s a post for tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Pattern Description:
The pattern contains pieces for: a skirt, shorts, pants, a top – long sleeved or sleeveless – and a jacket with sleeve variations.
For this review, I just made the sleeveless top. What a pleasure to sew with!

Likes or Dislikes?
As I said, I was looking for something that would whip up quickly. This pattern has two pieces, front and back. The front is cut on the fold, but the back has a contoured CB seam, which I really like for fit and comfort. Another thing I really like in this pattern is the jacket. The lines on the front are really nice and very flattering to many figures, and I think it would look really cool with the CF pieces done up in a contrast fabric. Well, it gives me a project for next week!

I also like the neckline on this. It’s a modified bateau neck, but the shoulders are cut so that it is very bra-friendly. And the armholes are cut high, but not binding.

Fabric Used:
A heathered polyester jersey in peach tones from Gorgeous Fabrics (natch).

Alterations or Changes FBA on the front, add an inch of length at the waist.

Construction Details I serged all the seams, and I used a narrow overlock to finish the bottom hem. The sleeves and neckline I made a standard narrow hem with a decorative stitch at the neck. Next time I’ll just use a plain zigzag, or my coverstitch machine. This would also be a great candidate for a bound neckline and hem in a contrasting fabric.

Would You Make it Again? Absolutely. And I recommend it to others. This is a very easy top. Even with the pattern adjustments I made, it took less than an hour and a half from start to finish.

This is a great top for knits. Don’t let the “Simplicity @ Home” moniker fool you. This is a classic shell that would look right at home in an office if you make it up with a more formal knit. Even the jersey I used would look office-ready under a jacket.
All in all, I think this one is a real winner!

Happy sewing!

HotPatterns Butterfly Top – Review

Whew! Break time, folks. I’ve been out of the office and walking around all day, and my dogs are barking! So it’s time to sit down, have a cuppa and while away a little time by posting a review.

After finishing the Good Karma Camisole for my niece, I wanted to make something quick and easy for myself. This was recommended by several people, and when I pulled the pattern out, I was thrilled to see that it only had 3 pattern pieces. Score!

Description: Pattern for two tops and a skirt. I made the cowl necked top.

Why this pattern? Easy, quick, in my stash. What more could you want?

Fabric used: Butter yellow rayon jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics. This fabric is so incredibly soft. I just love it!

Any design alterations or changes? I did flat pattern measurements on this to check the size, after reading some reviews for it. I’m glad I did. While I could have gotten away with my usual size 12, I decided to cut the 10, based on the amount of ease (a lot) and the drape and stretch of my fabric. If you are using a soft knit for this, I definitely recommend going down a size.

Construction details: As always, I decided to do several things my own way. I read the instructions for attaching the upper sleeve and cowl, and decided to do it the way I usually do. I attached the back facing to the back as the instructions indicate. Next I basted, then serged the seams, sewing the back and front (with facings) together in one long seam:

Here’s the other side. This might be easier to see

(These pictures show the basting)

After sewing the upper sleeve seams, I used a Stitch in the Ditch to secure the facings at the shoulders:

When I measured the bottom band, I saw that it too had more ease than I wanted. It measured about 40 inches for a size 10. I sewed the other seams together as they recommended, but I decided, after trying on the top, that I could benefit from some elastic in the waistline to ‘snug’ the band at my hips better. To do this, I used the same casing technique that they use in the Good Karma Camisole. First, sew the seam using a regular sewing machine, not a serger (that’s really important). Sew the raw edges of the seam allowances together, a scant 1/8 inch from the cut edges, leaving an opening for the elastic:

Insert the elastic into the casing, secure, then sew the rest of the casing shut:

For the finishing touch, I decided to do a narrow overlocked finish on the sleeves. I like the way it turned out. I think it’s very light. And here is the finished top:

Conclusion: This is a great pattern. From beginning to finish it took less than two hours. It’s very, very comfortable, and it’s a rewardingly quick and fashionable pattern. Definitely two thumbs up!

Happy sewing!

Another Shameless Plug

I just ordered and received a zipper assortment from ZipperStop in New York City. The company, formally known as A. Feibusch Corporation, has been in operation in the downtown area for years. They have great product and great service. They carry YKK, Talon, Swarovski, and Riri zippers. They also carry lots of other supplies for sewing and the garment industry. And happily, they are not affected by the rezoning of the Garment District. They are located on the Lower East Side. I spoke with Jeff Feibusch the other day and realized that I was staying within just a couple of subway stops from them when I was there last month. Ah well, I will make it to their storefront next time I’m there.

But if you make it to New York, do stop by their store. And you can order from their online store at eBay. I’ve done that many times, and the product and service are always top notch. I buy in bulk from them most of the time, but I’ll also buy specials on occasion. They’ll work with you to get you exactly the closure you need for your project.

They are located at:

A. Feibusch Corp.
27 Allen Street
New York, NY 10002
Phone: 212-226-3964
Fax: 212-226-5844

Thanks to Lorna for pointing out that I forgot their eBay store. You can visit them on eBay here:
ZipperStop eBay Store

I have no association with these folks other than as a very happy customer.

Happy zipping!

Pattern Review – HotPatterns Cosmopolitan Dress

Introduction (you know there’s always a backstory, don’t you?)
Well, my dear husband – really, he is a dear; who else would put up with me for 21 years and change? – did the laundry the other night, and managed to wash and dry my favorite silk velvet dress. That’s the one that I would pull out for singing gigs, my birthday dinner, nights out, and when I generally wanted to look hot. It now fits my 13-year old niece. But it’s okay. After sulking for about an hour, I shook it off and decided that hey, the Boho-chic look is so gone this spring anyway. It’s time for a new dress. And what should hop to the top of my pattern stash? The HotPatterns Deco Vibe Cosmopolitan Dress!

How were the instructions? To tell you the truth, this dress was drafted so well, I didn’t use them for the most part. The only time I checked them was for the cuffs. There I did find a mistake in the pattern.

Now, before I continue, please don’t jump all over HotPatterns. There are a lot of HP-haters out there, which I never understood. I’ll give you the straight scoop on what I found and what I did to fix it, but please don’t use this post as a bandwagon. Thank you. We now return to our regularly scheduled program

The mistake I found is that the directions tell you to sew up the sides of the cuff, and turn and sew to the notches on the long side. There are no notches on the cuff pattern piece. But that’s okay. Instead, I sewed up the sides, then turned the cuffs right side out and pressed. I finished the sleeve slash and gathered the bottom of the sleeve as instructed. Then I pinned the cuff to the sleeve, having the raw edges even. I adjusted the gathers on the sleeve, basted and then serged the cuff to the sleeve, with the short edges of the cuff even with the edges of the finished sleeve slash. Is that clear as mud? If not, let me know and I’ll go back and take pictures.

Pattern Sizing: All sizes are included. I made a size 12 with no alterations. It fits great out of the envelope.

Fabric Used: If you follow any of the style magazines or websites, you know that graphic, black and white prints are very in this spring. I just happen to have one that works perfectly, a poly/nylon jersey with two-way stretch:
You’ll actually be able to purchase this fabric from my website within the next couple of days. As my darlings Tom and Lorenzo like to say, “stay tuned, kittens!”

Any pattern alterations or any design changes? This fabric is a very fun graphic print that has a border that has a smaller print. I decided to use the fabric to good advantage with this dress. I didn’t need to make any alterations for fit, but I did use the border print as contrast in several places, including

The Cuffs:

The Waistband:

I also left off the facing, and followed Gigi’s lead. I put lingerie elastic in the neckline to hug my decolletage a little closer.

Since this dress will take its place of honor as a singing gig dress, it’s going to get used at religious gigs. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t always want to raise eyebrows in church (my daddy used to say, “He likes to hear from strangers, you know.”). I used the border print as a binding to finish the neckline
The neck hugs nicely, and sits right where it should.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Gigi broke ground with this pattern, and then she made an even more fabulous version to wear in NYC when we were there with Phyllis last month. Seeing it on her cemented my decision to make it as soon as the opportunity presented itself. Gigi made the kimono sleeve version. Since it’s still quite frosty here in Boston, I opted for the long, cuffed sleeve instead. I love, love, love the look of this dress on. It is so comfortable, and it looks very chic. You can make this in a wild print for a fun dress, or in a silk jersey for a sexy dinner dress. Its mood changes with the fabrication. It’s an incredibly versatile design, and it looks great on fuller-busted gals.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Hell yeah, to both!

Conclusion The pattern is very well drafted. The only error I found was the cuff, and that was minor. Anyone who has any knowledge of sewing cuffs can get a great result with no effort or stress. This dress will become a staple in my wardrobe. My eleven year old son saw is on my dress form and said (unsolicited), “Mom, that dress is awesome! You know what it looks like? It looks like a cross between Jeffrey Sibelia and Laura Bennett in the black and white challenge!” Was there a black and white challenge in Project Runway Season 3? I don’t recall, but never mind. I’ll bask in the compliment!

I’m working a charity fashion show Downtown next week (not walking, thank God!), and I’m going to wear this dress. It’s that fabulous!

Oh, and to answer Els’ request – I will post a picture of me in the dress. But right now I have a cold and look like death warmed over, so I want to wait until I’m feeling better.

Happy sewing!

Book Review – Balenciaga and His Legacy

General Information
Title: Balenciaga and His Legacy
Haute Couture from the Texas Fashion Collection

Author: Myra Walker
Publisher: Yale University Press
ISBN: 0-300-12153-9

Amazon Ordering Information

Every year for Christmas, my husband gives me a book on fashion. This year, I asked for this book. He ordered it, but then got notification that it wasn’t slated to be published until mid- to late-January. So imagine his surprise, and mine, when this book arrived in time for Christmas! After presents, while dinner was cooking, I tore into it. This is a book that, like Betty Kirke’s Vionnet will give more and more information at each sitting. The book showcases garments and details from over seventy Balenciaga garments with sumptuous photography and well-informed captions. Myra Walker is the director and curator of the Texas Fashion Collection at the University of North Texas. And what a treasure trove she curates! I’ll have to find an excuse to visit Dallas to spend time there.

The book is divided into six chapters:
Remembering Balenciaga, a memoir by Hubert de Givenchy
The Impact of Cristobal Balenciaga
Diary of a Collector: Claudia Heard de Osborne
Neiman Marcus: A Fashion Capital
Inside the House of Balenciaga in Paris
The Baleciaga Legacy Endures
There are also a forward, preface, acknowledgments and bibliography as well as a chronology of the House of Balenciaga.

The photography in this book is just stunning. There are photos from magazines and the Neiman Marcus archives, as well as editorial photography by Richard Avedon. The closeups are breathtaking in their clarity and focus on the details. But even more stunning than the photos are the clothes themselves. Balenciaga was truly a visionary and ahead of his time. Many, if not most, of the garments shown in the book could walk right out of the pages and down the street without looking out of place. His bubble dresses presage both LaCroix’ poufs of the ’80s and today’s descendents. His evening gowns would be chic in black tie settings today. There is one black dress, inspired by a priest’s casulla that stuns in its simplicity and beauty. And the facing page of the full garment shot gives an up-close detail of the jeweled embellishment that runs along the hem and up one thigh-high slit side seam. He referred to this dress as “A very sexy priest.” Yes, indeed. But the beauty of the dress is that its simplicity provides such a wonderful canvas. No overwrought ball skirts, no encusted beading, just masterly design.

There are lots of other dresses, gowns, suits and accessories. I could stare at this book for hours, and I will. In some ways, my favorite chapter is the one on his legacy. In this chapter, there are side-by-side shots of Balenciaga garments and contemporary designers’ works that are clearly inspired and influenced by Balenciaga’s work.

This is wonderful eye candy, and a must-read for students of fashion. Myra Walkers prose is intelligent and well-thought-out. This one is going to be on my bedside table for a long time.

Happy reading!