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)

Background:
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.

Conclusion:
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 www.gorgeousthings.com 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:
and

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!

Book Review: Fashion – A History from the 18th to the 20th Century

Background:
On Gigi’s recommendation, I bought this book from Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago. I had eyed this book for quite a while, but its original price (I believe it was around $70) was a deterrent. But it’s on sale now! You can Click Here to see it.

Publishers Information:
Full Title:
The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute
Fashion
A History from the 18th to the 20th Century

ISBN-10: 0-7607-8202-4
ISBN-13: 978-0-7607-8202-6

Contents:
Foreword
18th Century
19th Century
20th Century – First Half
20th Century – Second Half
Appendices

Commentary
This book is an encyclopaedic survey of fashions from the late 1500s to the end of the 20th century. It makes me want to fly right over to Japan and spend a week in the Kyoto Fashion Institute. It is loaded with sumptuous photography. The text accompanying the photographs is pretty sparse. Mostly the text is the descriptions of the clothing. From my perspective, it is interesting to see how fashion has sped up since the late 19th century. The styles in the 1600s to the 1800s, while showing distinct evolutionary patterns (ciao, stomachers, helloooo bustles!), changed over longer periods of time. By contrast, the evolution in fashion from the 1890s to present day is head spinningly fast.

Each chapter is written by a different person. Obviously each is a specialist in the fashions of their time period. The book flows beautifully, and while the translation from the Japanese can be awkward at times, it is a fascinating read. The fabric embellishments and underpinnings of the previous centuries get as much play as the styles of dress. The photography and close-ups are just spectacular. The authors highlight the frequent references to Orientalism in fashion. I found it interesting how often the Japonais style reappears, throughout the centuries.The only nit I have to pick with the book is the preponderence of Japanese fashion at the end of the 20th century. I understand this, given the location of the museum, but while they show the minimalist nature of Miyake, Rei Kawukobo and Comme des Garcons, why not mention Helmut Lang? Like I say, it’s a minor point, and it isn’t a deal breaker.

Conclusion:
This is a book that should be in every fashionista’s, designer’s or serious sewing enthusiast’s collection. It provides endless inspiration and it is fantastic eye candy.

Happy reading!

Pattern Review – Vogue 8305

I’m singing with Coro Allegro this weekend. Concert dress is black: It can be a long dress with long sleeves. It can also be a long skirt or pants, and long-sleeved top. I have a pair of nice Alberto Makali pants I bought two years ago. So I decided to go with the top. But I don’t own a long-sleeved black top. So I decided to make one. I had this pattern in my stash, and I decided to give it a whirl.

This is the top from the Vogue Wardrobe pattern. From the pattern envelope: “Loose-fitting, unlined jacket has shaped front hems and long sleeves which may be worn open, or lower edges of front can be tied at waist or draped over shoulder. Purchased pin or belt. Fitted top or below mid-knee dress has raised back neckline, back zipper and long sleeves. Tapered pants have self-lined yoke, back zipper and side slits at ankles.” I made view B.

Sizing: This pattern comes in 6-24. I made a 14.

Fabric Used: Rayon matte jersey.

Any Changes to the Pattern? A few, mostly minimal. I did a FBA, which involved slightly more work because the pattern pieces are separate for the left and right fronts. I also left out the zipper, thanks to a comment from Pam on my Works In Progress post. She had found that the zipper is unnecessary, and in her case, just didn’t look good. I decided to try it without a zipper. If I couldn’t slip the top over my head, I would go back and insert a side zipper. As it turns out, the rayon jersey has enough stretch that I don’t need a zipper. I think in many cases, you can leave the zipper out of this top. If I make the dress, I will put it in the side seam using the hand insertion method that Susan Khalje explained in Threads magazine a couple of years ago.

I have to grouse a bit. What is it with pattern companies telling you to insert sleeves in knit garments using the eased-in method? This pattern tells you to, and the Burda 8028 Sweater did as well. Both of these patterns state explicitly that they are for stretch knits only. You don’t need to set in a sleeve in a stretch knit garment. In 99% of the cases, you can sew it in shirt-style (before the side seams are closed up. This is much easier, I think. And that is what I did with this pattern.

I serged all the seams, which was a little tricky on the tension with the gathered side, but it turned out fine. This knit doesn’t ravel, so I took Sewing Diva MaryBeth’s advice and simply trimmed the hems and left them unfinished. I think it looks fine, and it is rather sleek looking.

Comments on This Pattern: This is a very well drafted pattern. It goes together well, and is very versatile. I have more matte jersey, and I may make this into the dress, since I realized I don’t have a basic black dress that doesn’t look dated.

This took me about 3 hours to cut and sew. It’s a good pattern for an advanced beginner/early intermediate level sewist and above. And I think it turned out really well.

Happy sewing!

Not-so-instant Replay: My Slipcover Adventure

I backed up all my posts to another site recently, and in doing so, I saw a couple of reviews of projects that I had done that still make me laugh or otherwise tickle my fancy. Since I’m too busy getting ready for my next recital (next Thursday at 12:30 at Tufts University’s Goddard Chapel, if you’re in the Boston area), here’s something to tide you over until I have time to be pithy again.

Couch Slipcover Project, posted on 9/3/03

Project Photo:

Pattern Rating: Difficult, but ended up with good results

Here’s the short version. This slipcover took 3 days and 17 yards of fabric to make. The cushion back has 3 main pieces, attached to sides and a deck. There is a poufy arm, and I pleated the sides to fit. The back is cut from 1 complete width of the fabric (54″ wide) with small end pieces (10″ wide each). There are 3 cushions. I made the cushion covers from a single piece of fabric for the top, front and bottom, attached to side pieces, with a zippered back panel. I made this slipcover from upholstery fabric I bought at Fabric Fix in NH. Would I make it again? Read on…

The long version

Oy vey ist mir! And that from an Irish girl! This is one of those, “What on God’s green earth was I thinking?” projects.

So here is the story. Last spring (as my DH has been fond of reminding me), we went to Fabric Fix -by the way, it’s called Fabric Fix for a reason – and he said, “You know, the couch in the family room is looking pretty beat. Can you slipcover it?” I was busy drooling over some beautiful embroidered silk and muttered something unintelligible that he interpreted as “yes”. So when he asked me how much material we needed, I said “Huh?”.

“You remember, hon, the couch?”

“What about the couch?”

“How much does it take to slipcover it?”

“17 yards, why?”

Next thing I know, a BIG bolt of fabric is being loaded into the truck and I am being dragged physically away from my silk. But don’t worry, I snuck up the next week and bought 3 yards, which will get reviewed as something or another at some point in the future. The bolt takes up its place of prominence in my sewing room.

Ignore, ignore, ignore. “Sweetie darling, can you please move this very large bolt of fabric?”

Ignore some more. Time passes. Couch is even more beat. DH is looking at me funny whenever I emerge from the sewing room with a cool new purse, dress, jacket, shirt, whatever. Grumble.

Good news! There’s a stash reduction contest! Time to do the couch!!! Couch by now is extremely beat. Major holes in the cushions; needs Febreeze bad (naughty dog, stay off the couch! Why did we get a Labrador Retriever in the first place?).

I have never made a slipcover. I am really good at apparel construction, but I have no illusions about my abilities in home-dec. When I used to work full time in high-tech, home dec was something I hired folks to do. It took other skills and more space than I had. But time and people change, and so…

Day 1. Contemplate. Look at couch, look at fabric. Okay, this is not my usual, “I see the fabric in 3 dimensions on a human body.” This is a couch. As a side note, a voice teacher once told me “Honey, every once in a while, you have to teach a couch.” – this is my couch, but it’s not here for a lesson. Grim, very grim.

Day 1 1/2. This baby is not going to cover itself. I decide to take the shears in hand and start cutting. It’s only fabric, after all. I cut out the back, the cushions, and the deck of the sofa. Hey! This is all straight lines! The cushions only need 4 seams and a zipper! This is cool!

Day 2. Sew straight lines, lots of straight lines! Whoa… what’s this bump? There are no bumps like this on the human body, not even mine! Alright, meditate, breathe deep. DH is looking at me funny again and says I’m getting that look in my eye I get before I go down a particularly terrifying double diamond ski slope. I’m going to beat this. I am NOT giving in! … I think I’ll make DS a bathrobe!

Day 3. Both DS’s are back to school now, no excuse. Alright, what is with these bumps? By the way, many expletives are being deleted, to keep this blog family-friendly. Alright, you know what? We’re draping here. Drape, sew, drape, sew. Try it on for size, then pin and drape some more. This is not so bad. A few pleats here, a few pleats there. Keep the thread clippers handy because, even though it fits perfectly with this seam attached, I need about an inch when I want to attach it to THAT seam. A little slow going, but by the time DYS gets home from kindergarten, he can sit on it (I hope I got all the pins out!).

Day 3 1/2. All seams are sewn, and I had to pinch and pleat the bizarre bumps. I’m sure that someone with home-dec experience is laughing their kiester off at me right now, but it doesn’t look terrible. A tuck here and a tuck there. Man, now I know how plastic surgeons feel! If that’s how plastic surgeons feel, remind me never to get a facelift. I added a skirt at the bottom, which compensates for a multitude of sins. Remind me to ask prospective plastic surgeons about skirts… But I digress.

The good news? DH came home from “work” (like what I do isn’t!)
“Wow! that looks great! I can’t believe it only took you three days. I thought it would take about a month!”

I feel good!

As an aside, the couch lasted another two years, until the Labrador Retriever, Otto, passed away at the ripe old age of 14