Sewing Classes and Lessons

Saturday, April 1, 2017

My Sewing Staycation

I had 10 days off of work in March, and instead of taking a fabulous vacation, I took a sewing staycation, and I got a  Spring mini-wardrobe done!  Here's probably my favorite of the bunch:

There are so many new trends that I was itching to try, and I'd been collecting some patterns for them.  Flounces, cropped pants, and asymmetrical hemlines are all trends that I wanted to try out this Spring. I had two woven prints in four yard cuts- one in white and grey, and one in blue and black- all from FabricMart Fabrics precut fabric selections.  So, these formed the basis for my tops and then I added in some solids for the bottoms to go with them

I thought of the white and grey print as my "test" fabric, as I liked the blue and black print more.  So, I started out testing Vogue 9067 which is a very loose fitting top with hem and sleeve flounces. The sleeve flounces are doubled, so you don't have to hem them.  I made a size smaller than my measurements would have indicated, and it is still quite voluminous.  This was really easy to sew, and if you like this look, rest assured that it doesn't take nearly as much fabric as the recommendations tell you!

I do like it, but wasn't sure that I liked it enough to make it out of the blue and black print.  So, on to test top #2 from Butterick 6456, a top with multiple sleeve options and a front pleat.  I chose the mid length sleeves with the flounces- they have just enough flare to be fashionable, but they are not long enough to get in the way.

This style I liked a lot better than the first top pattern.  The only downside is narrow-hemming that small circular flounce for the sleeve was a bear! I also made these pants from a white ponte knit, using the pattern from Pamela's Patterns- Pants Perfected.  This is an interesting pattern because it includes a DVD that you can watch on how to do things like fly zippers and mock welt pockets.  Pamela does a great job of explaining things, and her sizing is very generous, which is great for larger ladies.  I really liked the crotch curve on this pattern, and applied the curve to my next pairs of pants as well.

So, here is Butterick 6456 in the blue and black print.   Sometimes I can get away without doing a full bust adjustment, but in making the test version, I could see that I needed one, as well as a couple of other adjustments- shortening the v-neck and a forward shoulder adjustment.  Here you can see the difference that making these adjustments made:

See how the lower front curves upward in the grey and white print?  And see how it's pulling a little bit at the armholes?  Doing the full bust adjustment fixed both of those problems.  The white and grey one is definitely still wearable, and probably no one but me would notice, but I feel better having done it.  I have however changed my mind, and now prefer the grey and white print, so I wish I had reversed the order in sewing them!

For the cropped, slightly flared pants, I used a light blue stretch suiting fabric and Simplicity 8264.  I'm not sure if these pants really work with the top- they are both pretty bold.  I'd be interested to hear your opinions on this. For fitting, I laid the pattern for the back pants piece crotch curve over the Pamela's patterns version, and blended Pamela's curve into this pattern. It worked great, and I think that this will be the way that I can get a better fit with other pants patterns, but still incorporate the details like leg circumference and flare from the other patterns.  I like the gentle flare on the legs and the pockets on this one, but I don't care for the center back zipper.  I would move that to the side if I make these again.  Also, be warned- I think that these need a stretch fabric, even though the pattern doesn't indicate that. 

I still had plenty of the blue and black fabric left, so I chose one more pattern- McCalls 7579.

 This is a pattern for both a top and close fitting pants from Nicole Miller.  In the pattern, the top is actually cut into many different sections,but I didn't think that the seamlines would be noticeable with my printed fabric.  So, I loosely pieced the pattern pieces together on my cutting table, as well as I could, and then traced a one piece front and a one piece back. It worked, and was a whole lot easier than sewing all of those sections together!  I also simplified the pants by extending the upper edges 1-1/2 inches, and then making an elastic waist instead of a separate waistband and zipper.  I used ponte knit for these too.   You can see the interesting pant seam lines a little in the photo.  I do see that they are bunching up around the knees in the photo, so I think that means I need to tighten it up in that section so there isn't excess fabric.

I have just taken out the excess fabric on one leg, and that was definitely the fix for the bunching problem.  Here is a comparison- you can see the looser leg is shorter after sitting, and the tighter leg stays the correct length.  I will fix both eventually, but wanted to show the difference!😉

So, here is everything all together.   I already wore three of the outfits this week, so I'm pretty sure I'll get a lot of use out of all of these. 

I really enjoyed my sewing staycation and feel refreshed and energized.  Better than a spa!  Have you ever tried a sewing staycation?

Happy Sewing!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Mauve Musings

I've always found the color "mauve" to be a little mysterious.  Is it pink?  Is it purple?  Is it brown?  Is it gray?  Whenever I read about color analysis, mauve is one of the recommended colors for me (a summer), so I thought I should find out a little more about it.   The first thing that I found out, is that I've been mispronouncing it my entire life.  It is not "mahv", but "mov" with a long o, as in stove or clove.  I'm already feeling a little more sophisticated!   According to Wikipedia, mauve was named after a pale purple flower called the mallow flower.  It's use didn't become popular until 1859 when a chemist trying to make a cure for malaria noticed a residue that ended up becoming a mauve dye.  The 1890's are referred to as the "mauve decade" because of it's popularity!

I ordered several different fabrics from Fabric Mart Fabrics to experiment with that all had mauve in the names.  You can see that they range in colors from kind of a pinkish brown to a dusty purple. There really is spectrum, but they all are a little "dusty" in nature.

I started with the cotton jersey, which has subtle silver metallic accents on it.  It's a lightweight and firm cotton jersey, so I thought that it would work well with something that required ruching or gathering, such as this Lisette pattern which is Butterick 6411.

Here you can see the silver accents a little better. I really love the ruched overlay in this design, and it's quite cleverly constructed- much easier than it looks. I'd like to try it again in a solid knit.

However, the dress is a little thin to wear by itself for winter, so I used a gorgeous dusty mauve wool jersey to make a cardigan to go along with it.  I knew that I didn't want just any old boring cardigan pattern for such a special fabric, so I hunted through my stash and found this one:  Simplicity 2148.  This is an out of print pattern, but I really love the details on it- the flared cuffs, the angled hem, and the ruffle detail around the neckline.

The little ruffle trim is made by cutting a large circle out of the fabric, and then cutting a 1-inch wide spiral out of the circle.  Then you run two rows of gathering stitches and pull it until you get a nice ruffle.  I also ironed on some sequins before I gathered it.  I've been watching Zelda (TV series about Zelda Fitzgerald), and have been inspired by the 20's fashions to use a little glitz here and there.  I know that I'm going to get a lot of use out of this cardigan. 

The honeycomb knit, also is a wool knit, but a little heavier than the jersey, and I thought it would be nice in a more fitted dress.   I used McCalls 7469, which is a Nicole Miller design with a boatneck. I liked everything about the pattern- the pockets, the interesting seams, the 3/4 sleeves, except I've never been a big fan of boatnecks.  So, I altered it to be a scoopneck, by lowering the front neckline about 2-1/2 inches using a french curve.   I also made this scarf from one of Fabric Mart's silk chiffons, and it is one of my favorites. 

After it was finished, I thought it was looking a little plain, so I used 7 iron-on gem cluster sets around the neckline as well.  This was surprisingly easy- just peel, stick and iron for about 5 seconds on the wrong side of the fabric. 

Even though the cardigan and dress are different shades of mauve, I think that this dress also works with the cardigan pretty well.  Here are the details a little closer up.

My last fabric was the faille which was a cotton poly blend.  I haven't worked with a faille before, and wasn't sure what to expect.  It turned out to be very stiff and rather shiny.  I washed it a couple of times and the end result was very similar to a washed silk dupioni.  It was less stiff, but still pretty firm, and had a rougher texture to it than before.  This was kind of a wild card in my mind, so I decided to go out on a limb and make into Kwik Sew 3577.

This isn't really my typical style at all, so I can't say that I'm going to wear this one.  First, I think it's too big, and second, the fabric creases too easily for my taste.

My daughter says that I look like I should be giving a speech.  I say I look like I should be serving drinks on a PanAm flight.  Neither of which will ever happen, so I don't know what I'll do with this one!  It might be my styling- the scarf is vintage 1960's and belonged to my Mom- I really wanted to work it in.  Maybe I'll separate the pieces and use them individually somehow.  I'd love to hear your suggestions on this!

But there is a silver lining because I realize that I really do like the color of this fabric- I find it to be a very calming color.  It is more of a mauve taupe, and it definitely could serve as a good neutral for my coloring when looking for fabrics in the future.  This has been a good impetus for me to experiment with different colors.

At the end of every photo shoot, my photographer demands a latte.  A great way to relax and enjoy a little more mauve! 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Vogue 1479 Isaac Mizrahi Coat

Last week, my oldest daughter came over and saw this coat nearly completed on my dress form.  She said "Wow, that was fast!".  What she didn't know was that I had started this project back in December of 2015, when Pantone announced that their 2016 Color of the Year was actually two colors- Serenity Blue and Rose Quartz. I was so excited because I had the perfect fabric- this pink and blue plaid coating.  I remember getting this wool coating for $1.99/yd from when they still had great sales.  Oh, those were the days....sigh...

When Pantone announced the 2016 two color winner,they explained it with this:

Ahhh.  Such good intentions.  Maybe had we all joined forces and wore these two colors together, 2016 might have been better!  I was going to do my part after all.  I got my coat cut out in December of 2015, got the interfacing fused, and then the unthinkable happened- carpal tunnel struck!  To someone who loves to do things with her hands, carpal tunnel is a nightmare.  Now, looking back, I can see where I was getting some signals from my body that I ignored.  But when it really hit, it was like a lightning bolt, and I couldn't do anything with both hands without extreme pain for several months.

I did get better by summer 2016, but by then I had completely forgotten about winter and coats, and even the color of the year that I so desperately wanted to make something from.  It wasn't until I saw a gorgeous version of Vogue 1479 on EliCat's blog, that I was reminded- "Hey!  You've got this pattern too, and you even have it all cut out!"

So, here is the Vogue cover:

I really liked the oversized stadium look of it, and could see wearing big chunky sweaters under it.  Of course, this was in 2015, when we still had real winters.  Lately, it's been so warm, that I think I'm going to give all of my big sweaters away.  It was almost 70 degrees last week in Illinois!

Well, I'm digressing here, back to this coat- I call this my "coat of many pockets", and I love it.  I love every single pocket of the 7, yes, that's right, 7 glorious pockets.  How can that be?  Well there are two welt pockets, 1 inside pocket, and then the patch pockets are actually two in one- you can put your hands in the side or from the top. 

Here is the inside pocket. I used a hot pink grosgrain ribbon for it, and the finish between the facings and lining.

I even put in a hang chain and label!  There's a story behind these labels, but I won't go into it here.  The hang chain is vintage and so are the buttons.

I found these leather buttons on Etsy at  They are vintage Japanese buttons and were very reasonably priced for leather buttons.  They came wrapped in a beautiful handkerchief along with a small assortment of other interesting buttons.  I highly recommend checking this source out if you are in need of interesting buttons! 

 I won't lie, this was a complicated project!  And one that I would not recommend for beginners.  A few sections had me scratching my head.  They used very, very small illustrations of very complicated steps!   I know that I did the inside pocket wrong, but hey, it works, which is all that matters.  I did take photos of the patch double pocket construction, so I'll share those with you.

First, the gray lining, is piece #4, the Lower Pocket Lining.  You sew this to the pocket, but leave an opening for turning, shown by the chopstick in the photo below.  The black lining is piece #5, Lower Pocket Facing.  (I ran out of lining fabric, so didn't intentionally choose different colors, but it may help in visualizing how to do this step).  You pin the WRONG side of the facing to the RIGHT side of the Lower Pocket and baste.

Next, you fold down the lower pocket lining to cover the lover pocket facing and stitch.  (The wrong side of my gray lining is darker, so don't get this confused with the black facing piece.  What you are seeing is the wrong side of piece #4.)

Then you turn this right side out, through the opening. Give it a good pressing, and this is what it will look like.  You are seeing the wrong side of piece #5 on top here.

Now, you need to go in and handstitch the opening closed. 

Then you place it on the coat.  and slipstitch the wrong side of piece #5 to the coat.  Now here is something very important that I messed up- the "placement line" on the coat, is actually for the top of piece #5, not the top of the pocket!  There are circles that are for placing the top of the pocket.  Then you stitch around the pocket, leaving an opening on the outer sides.  This is what allows it to be a double pocket.  SO clever!

When I first put the top of the pocket on the placement line, my plaids didn't match.  I was so bummed, but then I thought, "Oh well, I guess I didn't have enough fabric to match the plaids".  After all, it had been over a year since I cut this thing out!  So I sewed them in place and completed the rest of the coat anyway.  It wasn't until several days later, that I pulled out the instructions and realized my error.  Then I had to undo the lining, take off the pockets, and move them up to the correct position.  Duh!  But thank goodness, the plaids matched, which would have eventually driven me crazy if they didn't.

The back of the coat is rather plain, although there are two piece sleeves. EliCat added a back belt with buttons that jazzed hers up nicely.  But after repositioning the pockets and sewing up the lining again, I didn't have the energy to add any extras.  You can see the dropped shoulders clearly here.

I cut the medium, which is plenty big.  I did add about 1-1/2" to the length on the body and sleeves.

If you enjoy a challenging project, I really recommend this pattern.   Just be patient, get all of the pocket pieces straight in your mind, and allow yourself plenty of time.  Even if it takes over a year, like mine!

Happy Sewing!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Winter Travel Wardrobe for Barcelona

In my last post, I showed you my travel wardrobe and a few hints as to where I was going to wear it.  And the correct answer was:  Barcelona, Spain!!!   My family and I were in Barcelona for 11 days at the end of December.  It was our first time ever in Spain, and we were very excited because we were going to get to see our daughter, who has been in the Peace Corps in Madagascar for the last 10 months.

The first two days it was raining, and I definitely needed the centerpiece of the wardrobe, this coat- made from a double knit, trimmed in leather, using Butterick 6384.

The above shot is at an outdoor Christmas market where they were selling all kinds of greenery, flowers, nativity scenes, Caga Tio's and Caganers.  Caga Tio and Caganers are very unique Catalonian traditions.   I won't go into them here, but definitely check it out if you don't mind a little potty humor.

When we travel, we always stay somewhere where we have a kitchen, so that we can cook one or two meals a day at home.  We could spend hours in supermarkets, just fascinated by the different foods, and deciding what to cook. Wine figures predominantly in the Barcelona culture, and you can buy really good wine straight from the barrel for $2 a bottle at the supermarkets.  I love how they've wrapped the wine barrels in garland for the holidays.

There are crazy sculptures everywhere you turn in Barcelona.  This picture is in front of a very famous sculpture called the "Barcelona Head" which is on the waterfront. Barcelona is on the Mediterranean and is a historical port.  After the first two days, the sun shone every day, and I really had no more need for the coat!  The weather was gorgeous, but still a little chilly, so I was really reliant on the fleece vests. This red one is made from a quilted knit and Butterick 6388.  It doesn't have any pockets because I didn't have enough fabric, so I liked wearing it with this striped top that had patch pockets.  When traveling, pockets are incredibly useful.  As long as something has pockets, you feel secure!  I did carry a purse, and never felt like I was a target for pickpockets, but that might be different in the summer when there are more tourists.  Audrey from SewTawdry did a great post about how to add hidden pockets, which I would like to do for future excursions. 

I wore each outfit 2-3 times, so here you see it again in the Els Quatre Gats bar, having Spanish hot chocolate and churros.  Their hot chocolate is really like a hot pudding.  Out of this world delicious, and muuuyyyy fattening!  We tried to have this every day, it was so good.  Els Quatre Gats means “The Four Cats,” which is derived from a Catalan expression which means “only a few people", or nobody important.  This is where Picasso hung out when he lived there with his cool artist buddies. It's ironic that many of the "cats" that hung out here became really important.

Here I am in the same outfit at the Boqueria Market on the Rambla, eating fresh scallops still in their shell.  Seafood is really popular here, as is paella.

There were quite a few fabric stores, and really nice ones too!  I think that Ribes and Casals is like their Mood- two stories, lots of really beautiful sequined fabrics, laces, etc.  You could spend some serious dinero here.  And this place was hopping- lots of customers and activity!  The business hours in Spain are frustrating for Americans.  Many shops open at 10, close at 1, then open again at 5, and stay open until 10 pm.  This gives the employees a chance to go home, have a nice lunch and be with family and friends.  We would often seek out a cafe and have more coffee or hot chocolate during this period.  Which was good because it gave us time to catch up with our daughter who has been in the Peace Corps in Madagascar for 10 months.  Barcelona was a halfway point between us, so she met us there.  Here we are catching up while the Barcelonians are on siesta.  Notice, here is my brick tunic, from Simplicity 8265. 

Now, I do have a funny story regarding this daughter.  Coming from Madagascar, she didn't have any clothes appropriate for the cooler climate in Spain, so before we left, she asked if she could wear my clothes.  Even though she's smaller than me, she has always loved wearing my clothes.  I said, "I've gained weight since you saw me, and my clothes would be way too big for you now, so no, you can't wear my clothes!  I'll pack a suitcase full of some of your old clothes that will fit you."  The very first morning, I went to wear the dress that I had made, and it was missing- and I found it on her!  She said "You really didn't think that I wasn't going to wear your clothes, did you?"  So the travel wardrobe got worn by both of us, the whole trip! She hardly wore anything that I had brought specifically for her.   Here she is in my brick dress with her sister, having some sangria and tapas.  This dress was probably in use more than any other piece in the wardrobe, mainly because she kept wearing it!

 And this is what tapas look like in Barcelona.  Tapas are little snack plates that you eat in between lunch and a late dinner at 10 pm or later.  They are pretty economical- usually between 3-5 euros a plate. 

And here I am in the same dress at Parc Guell, the masterpiece park of the architect Gaudi. Gaudi's work is all over Barcelona, in apartment buildings, parks,and an incredible cathedral.  Barcelona has 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and most of them are designed by Gaudi.  He is truly one of a kind.

Here my daughter and I are in front of one of Gaudi's apartment buildings in the "Block of Discord", so named because of many unusual buildings just in that block.  I'm wearing the black fleece vest and brick tunic.  The black fleece vest got worn equally as much as the red one.  Both were smart picks.

I  brought the black tunic for wearing when I felt like something a little dressy was needed, and on Christmas Eve, I wore it to a Flamenco performance at the Palau de Musica, another must see spot in Barcelona.  Flamenco is a traditional Spanish dance, and the costumes were gorgeous.

And I wore the black tunic again when I went fabric shopping in our neighborhood. This is in a store that was filled with beautiful woolens, floor to ceiling.  I haven't ever seen such a selection of wool!  Which is kind of surprising, as I don't think it ever gets very cold there.  But based on the clothes I saw in second hand stores, wool, leather, and fur are all quite popular.  I came home with the blue and purple piece that my arm is resting on.

The most spectacular place in Barcelona is the Sagrada de Familia- the Gaudi cathedral that has been being built for over 100 years. Words cannot describe it- you really have to be inside it to appreciate it.  Our apartment was just a couple of blocks away from it, and this is the breathtaking view that we had at night.

Regarding the other items, absolutely everything got worn at least twice, most 3-4 times.  My one regret: I should have taken more comfortable shoes.  I really was being vain not bringing tennis shoes, and I paid the price for that with sore feet!  The only thing that I would change regarding the clothing is to have made everything out of synthetic fabrics.  We did do laundry a couple of times, and there are no dryers there- everything has to be line dried.  So, my cotton french terry tunic took almost 24 hours to dry.  Everything else dried quickly.

I was pleased that the color palette I chose was spot on.  Just about all of the stores were featuring some combination of black, grey and red.  Here is a look at a wall in the Barcelona brand- Desigual:

I wish that I had the opportunity to do more snoop shopping for ideas, as the city is really filled with interesting boutiques. A lot of the apparel that I saw was made in Spain, and the quality was a notch above what I see in stores in the US.  I brought home some incredible second hand finds, cuts of fabric (of course), and some issues of the Spanish pattern magazine- Patrones.   And best of all, I am still wearing the heck out of this travel wardrobe here in Illinois!

So, all in all it was an incredible trip, and I feel so lucky to be able to have all of our family together for the holidays.  If you've never been to Barcelona, watch the movie "Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona" for a great view of the city and Javier Bardem!

Happy Sewing!
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