Pamela's Patterns #114 the Pretty Peplum Top

Pamela's Patterns are the brainchild of sewing instructor and author, Pamela Leggett.  She has been teaching fitting for many years, and had the vision to develop a line of patterns that already included the most commonly needed alterations.  How many more people would be sewing if they could get a great fit right out of the envelope?  My guess- a lot!

I've been wanting to try one of Pamela's patterns for a long time, and decided to start with this one:  the Pretty Peplum Top.

The pretty peplum top has both long and cap sleeve options, and keyhole or scoop neckline versions.  I chose the scoop neckline with the long sleeves for this top.  The pattern calls for 2-1/4 yards of knit fabric, but I think if you are making one of the smaller sizes, and lay your pattern out efficiently, you can make it with quite a bit less. I used a double knit with a sculpted design from FabricMart fabrics.  They don't have it in stock anymore, but I've been seeing quite a few similar fabrics lately with these raised patterns. 

One of the unique features of Pamela's top patterns is that she includes two different versions of the front- one with a dart, and one without a dart.  If you have 3 or more inches difference between your high bust and full bust measurements, she recommends that you use the darted front.  I have exactly three inches difference, and used the darted front, and it fit through the bust beautifully.

I'm getting a little fold right above the bust which Pamela suggested might be because my armhole is too long.  She does include shorten/lengthen lines on the front, back and sleeve for this alteration, so I will try that with my next version. I didn't even notice it until we took these pictures, as it disappears once my arm is not hanging straight at my side. 

The back of the Pretty Peplum Top truly is pretty!  The peplum is not too full- just enough fullness to give you some shape.

I liked the way Pamela has you finish the neckline.  You press the seam allowance towards the band, and then fold it over the seam allowance and stitch in place.  This gives it a little filler so that it stands out a little more.  You then trim off the excess binding close to your stitching on the wrong side.

Pamela also has fitting videos on You Tube to guide you in making any adjustments to fit your own shape.  I liked where the waist hit me on this top, so I didn't change it, but she recommends basting in these seams until you can try them on and look in the mirror to check the fit. 

The skirt is a delightfully easy pattern  #10 from the Fall 2014 Ottobre Women's issue.  It's just a simple one pattern piece gored skirt pattern.  I added 3 inches to the length and would have added a little more, but I was working with a remnant leftover from another project on this one.  I've made it twice, and really love wearing it with tights and boots.

I think that we still have one more of this issue left in stock at, but if you'd like it, and we're sold out, just let me know, and I'll see if I can get some more in stock.  I really think this is my absolutely favorite Ottobre issue ever.  (Of course, the next one comes out in February, and I'll probably think that's my new favorite, haha!)

I'm definitely going to be making the Peplum Top again. FabricMart is going to be having a Sew Along using this pattern starting in February.  Pamela will be giving her expert advice, and there will be a random drawing for a $100 gift certificate to Fabric Mart AND a $30 gift certificate for Pamela’s Patterns! So, if you like this style, head on over to Fabric Mart and sign up soon!

Happy Sewing!


Plaid Toggle Coat- Burda 6861

I love, love, love making coats.  There is something about the smell of the wool when you press it, how messy it all looks before it's lined, and then how, magically, it turns into something completely polished once the lining is turned right side out, that just makes me so happy.

I wanted to make my daughter, Serena, a long winter coat to cover her legs as much as possible while she waits for the train for her commute to work everyday.  She lives in Chicago, and the winter winds can be downright brutal there.   She picked out the fabric from my stash- a houndstooth plaid wool blend that I got for $4.99/yd from FabricMart years ago.

I only had 3 yards of this fabric, and searched for a pattern that would allow me to both match the plaid, and make a full length coat out of that amount of fabric.  That meant that it had to be cut pretty straight, with a very small overlap at the center front.  This eliminated a lot of patterns- anything double breasted with a even moderately flared skirt would not fit on this amount of fabric.  I found Burda 6861 which fit the bill.
I used the body length of View B with the sleeve and collar from view A.  The pattern shows it with zippers, buttons or snaps, so my version looks a little different because of the toggles, but it is the same pattern.

I was really impressed with the details of this pattern.   It had two piece sleeves, which give it a better fit.

The undercollar piece is cut smaller than the upper collar, enabling it to lay nicely, and the lining pieces are given separately. 

The only problem that I had with the pattern was that the sleeve cap was much too full for the armhole.   When I first put it in, it looked like a puff sleeve.  This was so weird, considering that everything else was so perfectly done with the pattern.  So, I reduced the sleeve cap height by about an inch, and then reduced the shoulder width another inch.  With both of these changes, I was able to ease in the sleeves without any obvious gathers.

I wanted to make it extra warm, so I underlined it with a flannel that was from my late Mom's stash.

To underline it, I cut all of the body pieces from the flannel, and then used a spray adhesive on the wrong side of the flannel pieces, and just finger pressed them to the wrong side of the wool pieces. So much easier than stitching all around each piece!  The adhesive I used was Mettler Web Bond TA 101.  I've been finding lots of uses for this stuff lately! I found it at our local Hancock fabrics store.

For the lining, I chose a polyester satin with a red floral print.  It picked up the colors of the wool perfectly.

She wanted toggle closures, which turned out to be the most expensive part of the coat.  I ordered them from Pacific Trimming in NYC.  They were $4 each, plus $9 shipping, for a total of $25.  That equaled the cost of the wool, lining and pattern!  But, I think that she was right.  The toggles really finish it off nicely.

I used a leather needle to sew them on, and even then, used the hand wheel to go around them because I was going through so many layers of thick wool, interfacing and leather.

The scarf is a 1/2 yard of microfleece in cranberry red made into an infinity scarf loop.  I love how it frames her face.

I hadn't sewn anything plaid in a while, and was pretty nervous about matching plaids with a princess seamed design.  But, amazingly, it all came together perfectly in the end. Woohoo!

Even with all of the wool, underlining, and lining, it's pretty lightweight, which is good. Nobody wants to lug around 10 pounds of coat!  Whether it's warm enough for a Chicago winter or not remains to be seen.   She's pretty happy with it, which makes me happy!

If you've never made a coat before, give it a try!  It's not nearly as hard as it looks, and you will love it!


Idyllwild T-shirt and Dress pattern

Last month, I participated as a pattern tester for Itch to Stitch Designs newest pattern- the Idyllwild Top and Dress.  This is a fitted T-shirt and dress PDF pattern with multiple sleeve, neckline and length options.   Today is the first day that you can buy the pattern, and get this- the price is $1.   Wow! Here's one of my dresses from the testing stage:

I had made Itch to Stitch Designs Marbella dress in November and was pleased as punch at how well it fit me with no alterations.   So, I was excited when Kennis Wong, the designer, said that she wanted to do a basic knit pattern.  I've searched for such a pattern to teach my beginning sewing students, but I had never found one that didn't take a ton of alterations to fit most people nicely.  So, I was happy to help out with the testing of one that would fit that niche.

I generally shy away from PDF patterns, but Kennis' patterns have a nice feature that makes using them a little easier.  You can select just the size or sizes that you want to print from a layering feature. On multi-sized patterns, being able to eliminate lines that are unnecessary makes it much easier to work with.  You can also get a version for your copy shop to print to avoid the taping all together!

I also like that you choose your size based on your full bust measurement.  That just makes so much sense doesn't it?  I'm pretty sure that I've scared away a few beginning seamstresses by trying to explain the whole high bust/full bust adjustment thing.  And if you are full busted, and skeptical that this will work for you, I am a DD cup size, chose the size on my full bust measurement, and the fit was spot on.    I don't wear too many t-shirts, but I do wear lots of dresses, and this will be a great pattern to showcase fun knit prints, like this print in the dress below.

Kennis is donating all of the proceeds from pattern sales of this design to Salvando Corazones, who provides education, rehabilitative services, and unconditional love and support to child survivors of commercial exploitation.  So, check out the Itch to Stitch website for tons more information.  I think that you will love this pattern.  Try it out, and spread the word if you like it!

Happy Sewing!


A Wintry Mix- McCall's 7057 Jacket and Ottobre Leggings 5/2014 #6

If you are from North America, you know how cold it was last week- temps dipping below 0 degrees Fahrenheit for several days.   It was so cold, that our furnace couldn't keep up, and all we could do was huddle together, eat hot soup, drink hot cocoa, and watch reruns of Gilligan's Island to trick ourselves into believing we're warm!

No, honestly, I have to confess I haven't watched Gilligan for many years.  A much more sensible thing that we seasoned mid-Westerners do to stay warm is layering.  Two layers of just about everything is really helpful.  I will note that my husband was walking around in a short sleeve t-shirt today, but he's neither sensible nor a true midwesterner, so you can't go by what he does. 

I find that there is nothing that compares to good old wool to keep in your body heat.  I luckily can wear it- I know that some people find it too itchy, but I will put up with a little itch, just to get that warmth.  I made this sweater jacket out of a wool boucle sweater knit.  I bought this from FabricMart last year in both a blue and a white.  Wish I would have gotten every color, as it is super nice.  The pattern for this jacket was McCalls 7057.

The pattern originally attracted me as something that could be worn as a lightweight fall jacket.  I made this last Fall, and it made the cut in my New Year's Clotheshorse Closet Purge. It has a hood, in seam pockets, and belt to wrap around you to keep it closed.

The design is really much like a robe, and I think you could easily lengthen this to a be a standard robe pattern.  You can make it with or without a hood, and I chose the hood.  Surprisingly, this is the one place where I had a problem.  The cover shows the hood wrapping nicely around the shoulders, which I thought was really pretty.

When I first made the hood, it wasn't big enough to go around my shoulders.  Luckily, I had enough fabric left that I cut a triangular insert to attach to the hood center back, which gave it 5 more inches. You can't really see it in the photos here.

Even though my fabric was described as a knit, it didn't have much stretch.  I would say that it was a firm knit, so perhaps a stretchier knit wouldn't have needed that adjustment.  And also, if you didn't want the off the shoulder look, it would have worked fine.

The pattern included a tie belt, but neglected to include the loops.  That was an easy remedy.  I cut a strip of fabric 10" x  2", folded it twice lengthwise, then stitched the folds in place.  Cut this strip into two pieces, and sew one at each side seam at waist level. This way, you can leave it open without your belt falling off!  This jacket is pretty darn thick, and I only have one coat that it will fit under, so it will probably end up being worn more in the house than out and about.

The rest of the outfit is me-made as well.  The leggings are from Ottobre Women's Fall 2014 issue.  Oh, do I love these leggings!  They have a yoke which is a little different than most legging patterns.  I've made it twice so far, and I think it will be a TNT (Tried and True) pattern for me.  

The long sleeved dress is made from a soft cotton interlock knit in  McCalls 6754.  This dress was originally a nude color which looked awful on me, but I dipped it in the dye bath after dyeing another fabric, and ended up with the pretty Robin Egg's blue color.  This dress has that skater dress silhouette that is so popular right now.  I love the shaping on the bodice, but be forewarned that the neckline is super wide.  Thus, the need for a scarf!

 The scarf is just 1 yard of chiffon that I got on the Hancock fabrics clearance table for just $2.50.  If I were more of a big spender, I should have gotten 2 yards.  But, cheapskate that I am, I got the one yard, cut it in half at the fold,  french seamed the pieces together, and narrow hemmed the outer edges. 

I do recommend all of these patterns, and will enjoy wearing them, especially on these cold, January days.

Stay Warm and Happy Sewing!


Time Tunnel to January 1969 Burda

When I turned 50 a couple of years ago, I had it in my head that I wanted a copy of a Burda magazine from the month that I was born- February 1963.  I searched Ebay, to no avail.  At that time, I couldn't find anything from 1963.  But, I did find someone in Minnesota who was selling entire years of the magazine from the later years of the 60's and all of the 70's.  I ended up bidding on a couple of years, and I won 1969 and 1976!

I absolutely love them, and I thought you might like to see a few pictures from the the magazines, so these are all from the January 1969 issue.

Can you imagine how exciting it must of been for this Minnesota seamstress to get this European fashion/sewing magazine in the mail back in 1969?  

I can just imagine her waiting for the mail everyday, anticipating all those wonderful patterns and big gorgeous pictures.  I wish I could have met her and talked with her about it.  I would have been that annoying kid next door constantly wanting to hang out.

These days, you can go online and see what the issue has, so when it arrives, it's much less of a big deal when you actually get the magazine.  You've already had time to decide what you like and don't like.

The models were more mature- I love the fact that they included a model who was probably in her 40's!  Oh, I wish that they did that these days! Ottobre Magazine does.  Kudos to Ottobre!

In this issue, the only models that looked like they were teenagers were actually in the teen section, not modelling the misses sizes.

These magazines are MUCH larger than the Burda Style magazines of today.  Here is a comparison between today's size magazine and this issue. 

It was more like I remember LIFE magazines- just huge!  They include quite a few knitting pages, tons of advertisements and recipes. 

But the general scope of the magazine hasn't changed.  It had a pull out pattern sheet that was even more cryptic than the ones today. 

And it had a pull out instruction sheet.  This one is in French, which makes me wonder if perhaps she picked up this issue while on a European vacation, or a visiting relative brought it to her.

And they of course had the obligatory traditional German Dirndl designs.

And what we've all come to love about Burda, the downright insane- here featuring a hairdo section.

 In some of them, Aenne Burda, writes a commentary that has nothing to do with sewing or fashion.  This particular issue doesn't have one, but the later issues do.  And the topics resonate today.  It's been a while since I read them, but one that stood out was a column that she wrote about either suicide or depression.  I mean, wow!  That had to take real guts back in that time.  She was really opinionated, and probably would have loved blogging! 

Even though I didn't get a 1963 issue for my birthday that year, I did get this awesome Bernina Birthday Cake!

Stay tuned and I'll snap some photos of the 1976 January issue next.  You'll be amazed at how much difference 7 years makes.


Are you a Clotheshorse?

When I was a teenager, my parents used to complain that I was a "clotheshorse".  I always thought it was a funny word.  I mean, horses don't wear clothes, right?  Well, apparently some do, but probably not of their own choosing.  I haven't heard that term used in a while, so I decided to check it out. 

Photo credit:

According to Wikipedia:

"Used figuratively, the single-word term "clotheshorse" describes men and women who are so passionate about clothes that they maintain unusually large wardrobes of the latest, most stylish clothes; will never willingly appear in public in unstylish or outdated clothes; and will often change into many different stylish outfits during a single day."

After reading through my last post about goals for the New Year, I realized that I was "protesting too much" when it came to cleaning out my closet.  Kind of like "Who me?  I'm not a clotheshorse!"

I was soooo in denial!!!  So, the thing that I said that I was NOT going to do, was the thing that I did first.  I cleaned out my closet, jewelry boxes, underwear and sock drawers. 

I do not have a big closet.  This is fact that I curse everyday.   But, it is what it is, and perhaps it's a good thing.  I have to admit that I'm a little embarrassed to post these photos.  But a picture is worth 1000 words.  The closet is an L shape, so I have to take two pictures to show you the whole thing.  Here are the BEFORE shots:

I have read about Project 333, where you choose 33 items and box up everything else, and then work with those 33 items for 3 months.  Very catchy, and a good starting point.  But the creator of Project 333 very clearly says that you should adapt for your own lifestyle.

I started to think about my own lifestyle, and I figure that I change my clothes no less than 4 times in one day.  Yup- that fits the clotheshorse definition!

First, a workout outfit for the gym. (shirt, pants, jacket, coat- 4 items)

Second, a nice outfit for work.  I work at an elementary school, where the staff dresses nicely, but not businessy. (skirt or dress, scarf or necklace, top, sweater, coat- 3-4 items)

Third, come home and change into something comfy.  In winter that would usually be leggings, a shirt and a sweater.  In Illinois, there are not many times in the winter where just one top will do.  It's just too cold!  We're predicted to get down to -9 degrees Fahrenheit this week!  (leggings, shirt, sweater- 3 items)

Fourth, pajamas and robe.  (3 items)

So, I really DO wear a lot of clothes.  Up 14 pieces every day in the winter!  33 items would just cover me for 3 days, not even! 

To be fair, Project 333 says not to count workout clothes, pajamas or loungewear.  But since those things count for 3/4 of what I wear, I had to pare them down equally.  I got rid of several pairs of mismatched pajamas, years old workout wear, and all of the matchless socks that I've been holding onto, hoping to someday find their mates.

Project 333 does say to count accessories though.  I have never, ever sorted through my jewelry.  I just kept buying more jewelry boxes to put it in, lol!  I emptied out two jewelry boxes, and fit everything into one jewelry armoire.  I got a fantastic hanging organizer from Hancock fabrics, that I am using to hang all of the jewelry that I might wear with my winter wardobe.  Spring, summer and fall jewelry is all in the armoire.

I picked out 10 scarves that go with the winter colors, and am hanging them above, so that I won't forget them.  Before, they were in another closet.  This is a scarf hanger that I got from Ebay. 

So, I narrowed it down to about 60 items of clothing, 12 necklaces, 10 watches/bracelets, 10 scarves, 7 pairs of boot/shoes.  99 items.  Alright, it's not even close to 33, but for an admitted clothes horse, that's pretty good.  I reduced it by about two-thirds. 

So, here are my after shots.  See how much more room there is between the hangers? 
I can actually feel them breathing.  I think my clothes were starting to be claustrophobic. And only 10 garments are RTW purchases.  Everything is else is me-made.  The ones that aren't me-made are sweaters. 

I realize that this is a first world problem if there every was one, but this is a little scary!  I hope that this won't feel like dieting where you get to feel deprived and fall off the wagon.  Right now, it feels very refreshing, very liberating!  I can see so many possibilities that were hidden by too much stuff before. 

Here's another cool thing:  a boot rack, so that your tall boots don't just flop around all over the floor. 

I took some things to Goodwill, some to a resale shop, but the things that I wasn't 100% ready to let go of are just being boxed up and moved to a spare bedroom, so I can still access them if I need to.  I don't want to wake up in the middle of the night in a panic attack, "OMG!  What have I done?  Nooooo!!!".   "It's all okay, calm down, they are still here, just go back to sleep."

I'm going to try to be rather scientific about this and really pay attention to what I end up using and what I don't.  I probably should be keeping some sort of checklist inside the closet.  Maybe while my husband is out shoveling our 5-8 inches of snow tomorrow morning. "Sorry honey, I can't help you today.  Gotta work on that checklist!"  

I am still going to keep sewing, and this project has definitely told me what I don't need to sew.

How about you? Have you ever heard the word "clotheshorse"  Do you fit the definition?