Pattern Review – Laptop Envelope

Alright, I’ll admit it. Calling this a ‘pattern’ is a bit of an overstatement. It’s really just a pair of rectangles cut to the size of my MacBook plus a little, and an attached flap closure. But I learned a couple of things making it that I thought might be helpful to other folks, so here goes.

I needed a sleeve for my laptop, since I travel with it on business. I don’t like any of the laptop cases I have seen, with the exception of a $4000 Hermes one, and I just didn’t like it enough to justify the cost.
Sorry, I tried to say that with a straight face and failed miserably. But it’s true that the only one I have seen and liked was at the Hermes store, and, well, no. I’ll stick with my oversized bag and just make a sleeve to protect my MacBook, thanks. But of course, it has to be a fabulous sleeve, right? Right! So I went rifling through my stash of leathers. I have a ton from my handbag making days. I found this ( Tom and Lorenzo forgive me) utterly Judy Jetson silver lambskin that I bought from Kashi at Metro way back when. Bingo! Just glitzy enough. Slightly over the top, but not garish. I wonder if I could find enough to make a trench coat with it? Now that would be garish! But no, T&L would never forgive me. Sorry, I digress…

This went together so easily. The lambskin was a dream to work with. There were just a couple of things to note. I sewed this up on my Juki industrial, using a 3.5mm stitch length. I ran a couple of swatches through before sewing, and I’m glad I did. I used a leather needle in size 14, and I was getting tons of badly skipped stitches. Hmmm…. Skipped stitches=wrong needle in most cases. But this was leather, so I tried stitching with tissue between the feed dogs and the leather. Nope, still skipped. So I changed the needle to a regular size 12, not leather. Bingo, it worked like a charm! No skipped stitches, and the stitches are perfectly balanced.

I used regular polyester thread in light grey to blend in with the silver. I used metal binder clips instead of pins to hold the leather while sewing. And I attached a magnetic snap on the flap and front panel as a closure. I sewed a piece of leather to the back of the magnetic snap to protect the computer (not like it’s a heavy duty magnet, but why take chances, right?) from both the magnet and from being scratched by the hardware.

All in all this project took about an hour from start to finish. You can make one of these in very short order, and it’s a stylish way to carry your computer or documents. Here’s a picture with the latpop in it:

Happy sewing!

All Work….

Ay yi yi! What a week it was last week. First, I had all sorts of things going on with business. Mostly good, but very, very time consuming. The kids got out of school on Tuesday, too, so trying to work with them chirping around me (“Can I have a snack?” “Mom, he won’t let me use his Gameboy!” “When are we going to the pool?” “I’m bored!”)… well, you get the drift. And we decided that the kitchen/great room needed painting, so we did that. Actually, we’re still doing that. And DH went to DC to stay with his Dad, who is going through treatment for amyloidosis. So it was a tad on the crazy side chez Gorgeous Things. Oh yes, and I had a death in the family and had to go to that funeral. Sigh…

But the kids are in a day camp, DH is back and spending his last week at his current job, and I get a little breathing room. So this week I have a couple of things planned. I love love love Carolyn’s Simplicity Threads dress, and I am inspired by the work that Linda has been doing on hers as well, so I’m going to bit that bullet and make Simplicity 3744 as well:

I’m not sure which fabric I’m going to use. I have so many in my stash that I would like to use up before raiding Gorgeous Fabrics. Maybe a faboo black and white cotton print I bought from my dear Kashi several months back.

I also had the opportunity to connect with a wonderful lady, Shirley Willett. Shirley is a designer, instructor, and one-woman designer incubator. She is quite inspirational, and a riot! I’m going to spend some time with her tomorrow and start learning about her patternmaking system. I can’t wait!

Next up, I am going to see the Poiret exhibit on Thursday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’m going with a very good and fun friend to see these things with. He’s got a great eye for fashion and design, so it will be a blast! While in NYC I’m going to try to get some fabric shopping for fall done too. So stay tuned!

Happy sewing!

Busy busy busy

I haven’t been posting much because I’ve been bee-zee lately. I’m currently working on this Simplicity Dress, 3807:

for my niece. I’m making it from this polka dot fabric with vinyl flower appliqués:

I think it will be adorable! I’ll probably take some of the flowers and put them on the shoulder. I’ll blog about it later, since I’m making a couple of construction changes that might be of interest.

Meanwhile, I had a delightful time talking with Adrienne the other evening. She does a great series of podcasts. This one is part of “Inspirational Wednesday” posts (though how I’m inspiring I’ll never understand!). You can listen to it here

Well, that’s all for right now. I’ll blog about my niece’s dress as soon as it’s done.

Happy Sewing!

It's Nice, but is it Couture?

There’s a great article in the Wall Street Journal today about couture, both real and feigned. ‘Couture’ is French for ‘sewing’. In France, the term ‘haute couture’ translates very roughly to ‘high fashion, but true haute couture entails much more. Here in the US, ‘couture’ has been co-opted, some might even say hijacked, by retailers and designers to designate expensive ready-to-wear. If you walk into Barney’s in Boston and check out the Couture department, you’ll find high-end RTW designers. But everything is made by machine, with very little or no hand-sewing. And it’s off the peg – it’s fit to a standard fit model. If you want it fit to your measurements, then a tailor will go to work on it once you have purchased it.

By contrast, almost all of an haute couture garment is sewn by hand, in one of the ateliers in France, by French workers. There may be occasional use of a machine sewn piece, but that’s the rare exception, not the rule. Haute couture customers choose their looks from the models (dress, not mannequin) sent down the runway, and they place orders which are sewn to their exact measurements, with several fittings taking place during construction. I could go on forever about the differences between high-end RTW and haute couture garments, but there are much better and more definitive works out there – check your library or favorite bookseller. The publications from the Met Costume Institute and the Kyoto Fashion Institute have good references.

Another interesting thing is the list (according to the WSJ) of haute couturiers:
Adeline Andre
Christian Dior
Christian Lacroix
Dominique Sirop
Emmanuel Ungaro
Franck Sorbier
Jean-Louis Scherrer
Jean Paul Gaultier

I was intrigued to see how few haute couturiers exist any more. YSL and Versace both pulled out of the haute couture. And I don’t see any names on that list that contain the words Juicy or Binky.

So yes, it may be a nice dress, tracksuit or romper, and it may have set one back a pretty penny, but it ain’t couture.

Happy sewing!

Sewing Tip: Get More Mileage from your Fabric

Part of what I love about my new company is the interaction I have with customers. Yesterday I got chatting with Lillie. She ordered the last of one of my fabrics, and when we rolled it off the bolt, it turned out we came out 1/2 yard short. Ouch! I hate when that happens. So I called her to let her know, and we got talking about what she was going to use it for. I checked the pattern and she had enough even with the shortage, so she was fine. But I then started talking with her about layouts, because we all hate to come up short on fabric when we’re cutting out a great garment, right?

Well here’s a little secret that not too many people talk about. You can get away with less yardage than the pattern companies recommend. Sometimes a lot less. How? Simple. Use a single layer layout. By that, I mean, open your fabric out with the right side facing up, and cut each pattern piece twice, flipping the pattern piece over so you get the right/left sides.

Now, don’t go looking at me like I just sprouted horns. There are lots of good reasons to do this. First, you might not have as much fabric as the pattern envelope recommends. One example stands out in my mind. I wrote an article for Threads magazine called, “Pressing Matters”. I needed to make two versions of the same blouse for emphasis. One would be left unpressed during construction (the “Sad Blouse”) while I would press the other blouse at all stages of construction (the “Happy Blouse”). I called my vendor to get a brocade, which can look either fabulous or hideous depending on your technique. He had a perfect one, BUT, he only had 3 yards. The pattern envelope called for 2 1/8 yards of fabric for one blouse. So, since I wanted to make two blouses (total of 4.25 yards according to the envelope), I was coming up short by 1 1/4 yards. Well, damn the torpedos, right? I laid the pattern pieces out using a single layer layout, and I was just able to eke two blouses out of 3 yards of fabric! I did have to get a little creative and leave off the cuffs, but other than that, it was the same top, and it turned out great for my needs!

Another reason to do a single layer layout is to match patterns across seamlines. It gives you much more control, while saving you fabric. Couture garments are all cut one piece at a time.

So don’t be afraid to do a single layer and buy slightly less fabric. It takes some practice, but once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll find you can estimate yardage pretty accurately.

Happy Sewing!

Sewing Tip: Easy Gathers

I’m compiling the tips I’ve put on other sites here for ease of searching. This is one that I use all the time, especially in home dec applications. My students just love it:

When gathering fabric, rather than using the “double row of long stitches” approach that most patterns and books recommend, I sew over dental floss ( preferably unwaxed) with a very wide zigzag stitch, making sure to center the floss between the stitches. I set the width of the zigzag to 5.5-6 mm and the stitch length to 2.5-3 mm. Once the dental floss is in place, it’s a snap to gather very quickly, and it is very easy to control the fullness of the gathers. I use this technique all the time for home-dec, but it is equally useful for fashion sewing, especially if you are attatching ruffles. I also find that it saves wear and tear on the fabric, because you don’t have to manipulate the gathers with as much force.

Makes me kick myself for buying that Pfaff ruffler!

Today I am Going to…


Yes, I’ve been away from the sewing room all week long. I’ve made no progress on my Cosmo dress in the silk, so today I am going to finish that puppy, dammit!

I will post any results here later. It’s a rainy day in the neighborhood, but nothing like what’s forecast for tonight and tomorrow morning. To my marathoning friends, be careful out there! I’ll be watching from the comfort and warmth of my house.

Happy sewing!

Sewing Tip: Applique Foot for Precision Sewing

I do quite a lot of work that requires precision sewing. My straight sewing foot has been useful, but I still have difficulty seeing the exact position of the needle on the fabric. Then one day I had an AHA! moment: use an open-toe applique foot. With this foot, which is available for many machines, you can see the exact placement of your needle on your fabric. I have one for Pfaff machine; I used to have one for my Viking, and they are available for Kenmores, Berninas and Brothers, and probably others as well. You can see exactly where your needle is going to be on the fabric. It makes sewing tricky areas much easier.


Trying to Muster Excitement

Have you ever had one of those days when you just can’t get your sewing mojo going? Today’s one of those days for me. I’m trying to get going on the Cosmopolitan dress, but I keep distracting myself from it. Sigh. Well, let me slog back to the sewing room and see if I can build up some momentum on it. Once the bodice is done, it’s pretty much finished anyway.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen it already, check out Musical Mondays at Project Gay. Tom and Lorenzo are absolutely hilarious, shredding classic movie musicals. Be warned, there is some profanity and suggestive writing. But you’re in for an addictive, gut-busting bellylaugh!

Happy sewing!

There's the Snap to Miller. He Drops Back and…


Yep, I could drive myself bonkers, snap at my kids, growl at the dog and kick my husband, or I can just get Zen about the whole thing and do a great job on the Pucci print Cosmo dress in time for my trip to NYC in a couple of weeks. And since the house looks like a bomb went off in it, and we have a crowd coming for Easter tomorrow, and I have to sing at the Vigil for 3 hours tonight, and sing at the 10:30 mass tomorrow, including a solo prelude of “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah, I’d rather minimize that particular self-induced stress.

Now the question is, “What to wear? What to wear?”

Happy Easter!