Thursday, September 3, 2009

Where the HECK am I???

I'm still here! I know I have not posted anything since forever mainly due to being super distracted with other things for several months. My sewing had to be put on the back burner but am pleased to say that I'm now free to return to it unfettered. Check back soon for updates :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What I'm Working On and the "Swoosh" Skirt

Yes, it's been a minute since my last post. Not much done by way of sewing as I have not been feeling that great. Badly enough to not be able to go on the Mother's Day fabric spree my family gave me as a gift. Now that's really bad, isn't it? The past few days have been better, so I am keen on picking up the project I'd been working on since I finished my daughter's dress. It's another easy wrap dress made from Vogue Pattern #8379. This time I am making View B with sleeves. Although I am steadily losing inches, I still haven't reached my upper arm toning goals, but that's another blog!

I am using a black jersey fabric from Vogue Fabrics. I toyed with the idea of making the skirt longer but nixed that idea.

If all goes as planned I should be done with this dress today. All that's left to do is sew the skirt to the bodice, the sleeves and the hem.

In other news, I have had my eye on a couple flirty godet skirts. While I only earned how to draft a basic A-line skirt in my sewing class, there are instructions in my pattern-making book for drafting godets. If I decide on a commercial pattern, I'll look to McCall's 5274.

While perusing the web I came across this really nice slide show put together by New York Time's photographer Bill Cunningham, featuring his NYC street fashion photo montage of the "swoosh" skirt.

Check out the narrated slideshow of fabulous skirts here: On the Street--Swoosh!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Vogue #8380, View B

Vogue pattern 8380, View B. The fabric is a cotton stretch print that I got on sale from Vogue Fabrics. I completed this dress a while ago but am finally getting around to posting it. I made it for my daughter. It's still not warm enough here for her to wear it, unfortunately. Chicago weather sucks lemons! Since the bodice is low in the front, she'll have to wear this dress with a little tee. Once I get some more fabric I plan to sew this pattern again for her, in View A. I like View B and will sew this one up for myself.

ETA: Hooray! It's finally warming up :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sooooo Slow to Sew

It's been a while since I posted last. An update on what's been going on:

  • I took the bodice and skirt apart on the plaid jumper from the last post. I just wasn't feeling it after much contemplation, so it is now an official UFO.
  • I picked up crocheting again. I am still not done with that project but will be soon.
  • I began sewing a dress for my youngest daughter, from Vogue 8380. I just need to add the zipper and finish the hem.

I only have a couple more sewing classes left. In the last class, I learned French seams. It looks like I'll have to sign up for another set of 9 classes in order to get to the topics I am interested in learning. It was kind of funny how the instructor kept getting on me about my foot. I have the habit of lifting my foot slightly above the pedal between stitching. He wants me to put my foot firmly on the floor instead. I'm finding that habit rather hard to break!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Jumper Dress Pt. 2

I spent most of the day working on the plaid jumper. I ended up sewing in some elastic along the hemline because my daughter fancies the bubble skirt. That ended up really ugly. No pictures of that crapola. So I cut the bottom of the skirt off and hemmed it. It's still not finished, I have a collar ruffle to add. Here is the dress so far.

I decided to go with asymmetrical pleats and gathers. Constructing those was, um, interesting. I'm sure what I did was all ass-backwards, but my daughter thinks it's cute and is willing to wear it. The bodice still isn't 100% right, even though I adjusted the muslin and pattern.

Attaching the bodice to the skirt was a trip and a half! I kept getting one or the other on the wrong side. I haven't finished the seams so ignore the funky line between the bodice and skirt. As for matching the plaid, I did okay with the front and back, but the side seams are off. They were fine while pinning, so not quite sure what happened there. As usual, I have a jacked up hemline, but it's slightly better than the others I have done so far. I was going for an updated modish sixties feel. I think it worked in that respect.

My daughter thinks that I should make the neckline a little lower on the front and almost to the skirt in the back. I'm thinking about it.

Well, done sewing for the day. I'll probably start and finish the collar ruffle tomorrow.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jumper Dress Pt. 1

My sister-in-law gave me 3 yards of Burberry-inspired plaid lightweight stretch wool--thanks, sweetie! I decided to try my hand at working with my bodice sloper and started on a jumper. I made the bodice but had to adjust a little for fit. So far, so good. Next, the skirt. I decided to use draping techniques for ideas. Here are the ones I have come up with so far. Please excuse the way it looks on the mannequin, because it is not a dress form but probably could be for someone who is a size 2-4.

Idea #1: Two sets of pleats in the front, then pulled back slightly for fullness.

Idea #2: Side pleats gathered and draped across with a sash belt.

Idea #3: Crazy origami-inspired folds for an unusual twist on a rather conservative-looking fabric.

These probably look a little rough, but I think they convey the overall ideas. I'm still cranking out rough ideas and might just end up with a simple A-line skirt. We'll see. I'm totally new to the concept of draping, so advice and criticism is much appreciated!

I hope the books in the background aren't too distracting. Since it got so cold down in the Craft Dungeon where my sewing area was initially set up, I moved my machine upstairs to the library where it is nice and warm. I don't work well with frozen fingers. Once the chill is gone I'll move back down there. Hurry up, warm weather--and I mean everyday, not just once a week like it has been lately.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

FO: Burda Style Vivienne Jumper

I finished the baby jumper. I ended up using buttons instead of snaps. Overall, It could be better, but my next ones will be. Sewing this piece gave me the opportunity to work with a fine fabric, 100% Chinese silk, a new experience for this novice. Not that I'm ready to run out, purchase silk and start whipping up anything with it any time soon. But at least I got my feet wet with it, and have a few scrap pieces to practice on.

I'm going to go ahead and send the jumper, along with a few store-bought garments and other gifts. In the meantime, I really need to get more practice with my sewing machine. Lots more.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

March Sewing Contest and Thrift Shop Remixes

The theme for this month's LHCF sewing contest is the color green. Another idea that came up for a future contest was to sew an item made from things found in a second-hand shop. I decided to do a little bit of both for this project. My granddaughter's first birthday is coming up soon, so that inspired me to sew something with her in mind. Whether or not I'll give it to her and/or enter it in the contest depends on the outcome, of course.

My jaunt over to the 'goody shop' resulted in these finds, a 100% Indian cotton madras wrap, and a 3x sized 100% Chinese silk top. I paid $6 total.

I am using both these fabrics to make a jumper from Burda Style's free pattern downloads. This one is called the Vivienne Jumper, and I think it's an excellent pattern for the beginner. Why silk for a baby's dress? It was the only thing I found that matched the madras colors that could work as a lining. If I do end up sending this dress, I'll advise that they handwash and line dry.

Vivienne Jumper from Burda Style

I have downloaded several free patterns from Burda Style, but this is the first one I have printed out. After printing, I had to tile the pieces together, trim away the overlapping edges, tape them together, then cut the pieces out.

That was easy. The challenge was resizing the pattern, which is a size 2T that fits toddlers 18-24 months. My granddaughter is just turning 12 months, and if she does get this jumper, I'd like for her to be able to wear it this year.

The pattern instructions call for sewing the shell and lining separately, then putting them together. I decided to forgo buttons--potential choking hazard--and use snaps for the closures.

I thought I was done with the shell, but the hemming is a mess. Gotta break out my trusty seam reaper, dangit. I catch all kinds of hell with hems and it drives me nuts. I have a sewing class a little later on today, so I hope to get some tips for better hemming then. In the meantime, rip, rip, rip!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

O Tilda!

If I had to pick a favorite androgynous, alien-like, fashion-forward actress, it would be the Oscar-winning Tilda Swinton.

I absolutely loved her costuming in the movies Constantine, Chronicles of Narnia and Orlando. I wonder if when she reads scripts for projects, does costuming play a role in whether or not she'll accept the part? (I wonder the same about my other fave fashionable actress Diane Keaton). I am never unimpressed with Swinton's acting, but I'll admit I enjoy watching her costumes just as much--or more! And what she wears off camera is absolutely amazing (she wears lots of drapey Lanvin gowns)--and that has been interpreted in both positive and negative sentiment by the fashion press. Bah! Who cares if she lands in the "What Was She Thinking?" Tilda wears clothes that obviously please her and feel good to her, while other actresses are obsessed with being on best-dressed lists. Petty, but I understand.

And who better than the gamine, strikingly other-worldly Swinton to be the muse for AnOther Magazine's Futuristic Fashion spread?

Click on the link above for more futuristic silhouettes worn by Swinton, shot by fashion photographer du jour Craig McDean.

Image from

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sewing Classes!


I mentioned in a previous post that I was searching for sewing classes not too far from home and voila! I found the EWS Fashion Design Academy about 15 minutes away. Each class is 3 1/2 hours long, and I started my first of 9 weekly classes today. There was only one other new student with me, but there were 8 others present today working at various stages. Some were working on full scale patterns, others were sewing various projects. The classroom was awesome, equipped with many types of machines, including a few heavy-duty looking industrial types, an overlocker and serger and several newer computerized Singers.

Pic from EWS site.

The instructor, master tailor Eric Stiles, was awesome! Just so full of energy and without the help of an assistant, managed to keep track of everyone's work, teach us newbies, and offer criticism and advice to everyone without missing a beat. He is the epitome of multitasking, and he does it so smoothly.

The first lesson included learning a little bit of lingo, how to take proper measurements and how to draft a skirt pattern based upon the Tailor's Quarter Size. From there we will draft the full size pattern, test the pattern with a muslin, then based upon the final sloper make regular, flair, semi-circular and gore skirts.

I had to unlearn much of what I learned from the How to Make Sewing Patterns book, which was what I used to make a bodice and pants sloper, because it teaches you how to make patterns full-scale from the get go. Eventually I hope to incorporate what I got from the book with what I am learning in the classes.

For homework, we were given three sets of measurements and have to draft three patterns for each using the quarter size square. Learning how to draft patterns is really cool, but I can't wait to get to the designing and sewing!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Vogue #8379 Wrap Dress

Here is my first dress, from Vogue pattern #8379. I entered it in the February Sewing Contest being held on LHCF. Made it just in time as today is the deadline. ETA: I won 1st place and a gift card for the fabric store of my choice! Thanks so much to Queen SH for sponsoring the contest.

The pattern was categorized "Very Easy"...hmph. No comment. It took me 12 hours from start to finish. I had fit issues. I have been losing weight since being on the raw vegan diet so my measurements at bust and waist put me at a size 10. Sadly, my upper arms do not. I have those dreadful saggy wings that probably would have felt at home in a size 14 sleeve. And speaking of arms, the First Lady has definitely gotten me motivated to work those wings right off.

So I consider this dress my summer body motivation dress. It is made from a sheer cotton blend fabric I got off the sale table of Vogue Fabrics Outlet a couple months ago. It looks good from a distance but up close it is a mess! I used 4 different colored threads, the hem is uneven and the armholes are...well, I'd rather not talk about them. It's just too embarrassing. The dress looks good on me, though. The neckline is a lot deeper on me than the mannequin because I wanted a sexier take on this dress. I made a neck sash to give it a flirty, vintage feel.

I would definitely make this dress again, but with sleeves, both long and short. I would also like a longer version in a really nice fabric for evening. I love this dress pattern. I will practice my hemming before I make it again.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Vintage Patterns Galore!

Dress by Pierre Cardin
Image from The Frock

I love, love, love fashion from the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s and it is my dream to be able to sew beautiful garments inspired by these silhouettes. I have lucked up on eBay before and managed to win a great 60s frock pattern for one dollar plus shipping, but got outbid on all the others. Then I happened upon a wonderful site that specializes in beautiful vintage patterns but their prices are too steep for my budget.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we went down to Arcola, Illinois to check out some Amish furniture and antiques. I was more interested in the quilts. My gosh, those quilts--absolutely breathtaking. My gosh, those quilts' prices--absolutely astronomical! But worth every penny, you'd better believe it.

We bopped into a little quaint antique collectibles shop and browsed their wares. They had an old black antique Singer sewing machine in-table for $300--tell me how I left without that? What a beauty. On the way out, partially hidden in the corner of a bottom shelf was a plastic shoe bin filled with what? Vintage sewing patterns! At 50 cents a pop!!! Here's what I bought:

I also managed to find three very unique antique cast iron trivets to add to my collection (I collect trivets and have them proudly displayed on a wall in my kitchen). After we left that shop we sauntered into a fabric shop a few doors down. My, my, my. A quilter's delight! The fabric prices were comparable to those here in the city so I didn't buy any. But I did manage to pick up some very nice Indian horn buttons for a linen jacket I want to sew, some crochet needles at 2 bucks each and some skeins of yarn at 2 bucks each. And now, I don't know what to do next, crochet or sew something? Perhaps a little of each :)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

My First Vogue Pattern: #1020 Top & Skirt

After seeing several rave reviews on Pattern Reviews for this t-shirt top from Vogue pattern 1020, I was convinced that I had to have it. And I would, of course, put my own little spin on it. Probably not the best idea when you're a self-taught beginner like me, but what the hey. The pattern's dress also caught me eye, as it faintly reminded me of this little number from Narcisco Rodriguez.

I love the neckline on this dress, and attempted to do my V1020 top's neckline in a similar manner. So much for trying. Here's my version of the top, in black matte jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics, as well as the skirt from the same pattern.

This was the first top I ever made, and I am quite pleased with it. Setting the sleeves was tricky at first, but not as bad as I thought. I did make other changes to the design of the top besides the neckline. The pattern called for ruching on the right side at the waist. I lowered mine to hit the hip to add a bit of asymmetry at the bottom. I also added a little ruching to the left upper side seam for soft gathers across the chest. They didn't come out as pronounced as I wanted them to.

The pattern instructions called for a side zipper. Why, I wonder? The pattern calls for stretchy fabrics, no zipper needed. As for the ruching, I used the zigzag stitch and string method with no problems.

As for the skirt, it's not that great looking on the pattern envelope pic.

Maybe it's the color? Anyway, I am pleased with the way my skirt turned out. It was very easy to construct and sew.

Both pieces greatly flawed in terms of construction details--slight puckers at the armholes, uneven stitching at the hemline--but I wore this out to a party tonight all the same. I am ready to start taking sewing classes. Where to go is the question. Hopefully I'll be able to find something not to far from home.

Friday, February 6, 2009


In preparing to sew the top from the Vogue 1020 pattern, I decided that I'd like to have the ruching on both sides instead of just one. Sure, the asymmetry of the original pattern's gathers to one side gives this basic tee shirt a nice twist. However, I got tummy issues that would be emphasized with that. One thought that briefly flitted in my mind was "Will this look dated?"

In my search for examples of ruching on both side seams, I got my question answered when I came across this New York mag article:

Bunch Up: Ruching Takes Over Pre-Fall

1/13/09 at 6:51 PM


Photo: Courtesy of Burberry

If the pre-fall collections are anything to go by, February's runways will be covered in texture. You'll practically be able to feel the fabric through your computer screen. Ruching — the gathering of fabric with elastic — was so prevalent, we wanted to break out our old prom dresses. Burberry opted for a textured mini with diagonal downward panels, while Donna Karan had asymmetrical creases finished with untied ruffles. Vera Wang's ruching sticks to the center of a black satin dress, and Nicole Miller and Reem Acra scrunch material from the waist up. For more on the trend, click ahead.

See more trends and the best of pre-fall.

I am particularly inspired by this example:

After reading the pattern instructions, then skipping over to Pattern Reviews, I found that there were certain issues with the pattern itself, such as Vogue's weird inclusion of a side zipper. Also, there was mention of using elastic for the ruching, whereas the instructions call for the good ol' two lines of basting and pull technique. I was not comfortable with either, so I called upon my friends and family for input. The technique I am going to try is the zigzag over a string technique. Thanks, Nikkablue and Momi :) And now, off to practice the technique on an old shirt. I refuse to cut into that beautiful matte jersey I got from Gorgeous Fabrics until I am confident with every step of this project.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My First Crochet Hat

While feeling under the weather over the weekend plus it being extra cold down in my basement sewing area, aka the Craft Dungeon, I spent most of my time convalescing in bed. All the while, though, I was itching to make something. And I did--my very first crochet hat.

I got the idea from this episode of Thread Banger. I learned the basics of crotchet as a child from my older sister but never stuck with it long enough to make anything. I am happy that it all came back to me as soon as I started, just like riding a bicycle, but making that hat was no easy feat. I kept getting ruffles. I must have started over at least 5 times. Being sick and under the influence of cold medicine probably didn't help. But I was determined to make it.

I began to get a little frustrated with the ruffling but convinced myself not to pull the yarn loose yet again, so I called a friend over to help me out. She convinced me that the hat would turn out fine, but next time keep my stitching tension even. Yes, ma'am! She began crocheting last fall, having learned from workshops with the Double Stitch Twins, Erika and Monika Simmons. She brought over their wonderful book, Double Stitch: Designs for the Crochet Fashionista, and a few of her pieces she learned from the twins. Her pieces were so funky and fabulous! Halters, chokers, headwraps, collars--It was just the inspiration I needed to go ahead and finish up that hat. But first I went online straight away and ordered that book along with another she had with her, Stitch 'N Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker by Debbie Stoller.

I really enjoyed the crocheting experience and look forward to doing more of it.

More Fabric Store Field Trips

Finally made that trip to the "Fabric Dump", which was not a dump at all. The Textile Discount Outlet is just your basic, run of the mill fabric heaven! Three full floors of it. Every type of material under the sun. And the staff were nice and helpful. The selection and prices there were amazing. There was a wide selection of trim and embellishments. As for the organization and cleanliness, the basement section was probably not a good place to spend too much time in. I sneezed several times down there, but again, I am getting over a cold. Otherwise, the store is well lighted, well organized on the main floor, very well stocked and definitely a must for anyone in or around Chicago who sews and designs.

*Please excuse the bad camera phone pics.

There were not a lot of shoppers there, being mid-week, I'm sure, but those that were there were mostly interior design people buying home decor material and lots of it. There were so many wonderful and interesting fabrics. Lots of beaded and embellished specialty silks that reminded me of the elegant saris that Indian women wear. There was some really fabulous lace fabric that reminded me of the lace garments in the latest issue of Burda magazine. I saw a nice sized piece of distressed leather in caramel brown that was calling my name and telling me that it wanted to become a bag. It was hard to resist at only $2.50 per square foot! But resist it I did.

I didn't purchase any fabrics at all, since I promised myself to use what I have already before I buy any more. A promise that I sort of already broke...Prior to going there, I made a stop over at the Chicago Vogue Fabrics to say hello to a friend that works there. She was off, but the designer sample bin was on! And unlike the huge paradise flagship store in Evanston, where the bin fabrics are $4 per pound, the Chicago location's bin price was $2 per pound. I got 6 pounds worth: 2+ yards of really nice white linen, 2+ yards of taupe linen and about 4+ yards of grey cotton twill that has spring jacket written all over it. So that's it for my fabric field trips. And now, let the sewing begin!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Easy Breezy Wrap Skirt, Revisited

My first sewing project for myself (and 4th project ever after one crappy apron and two somewhat decent pairs of PJ pants for my daughters) was the Easy Breezy Wrap Skirt pattern from the S.E.W. Sew Everything Workshop book by Diana Rupp. I used some black cotton broadcloth given to me by a generous donor--love ya', girl! My first go around with the skirt resulted in sewing in a lining and omitting the wasitband and ties. I just wasn't feeling them at the time. Here's what it looked like:

Although I was thrilled to have sewn something that resembled a skirt, I was not happy with it at all. I cut a size medium based upon the sizing chart in the book, and it seemed a little big. After a couple weeks of just hangin on my mannequin, I decided to go ahead and try and work that skirt into something I could at least wear once. And I did!

First, I cut that lining out. It was adding lines to the main fabric that were not very flattering. Second, I took the side seams in by half an inch on both sides. Here's the result:

While the skirt is far from flawless, it's way better than it was, IMO. I actually wore it out today! This pic was taken after I arrived home from Hancock Fabrics....which leads to a side story.

In my previous post I mentioned the Butterick Pattern B5315 as a possible option with which to sew a Dior-inspired dress. I found out yesterday that all Butterick patterns were on sale for $1.99, so I went over there this morning only to learn that a) B5315 was not in stock and b) almost all the really nice Buttericks were GONE. Just my luck, huh? Well, all was not lost. I did manage to pick up a few things I needed, like some snaps for my big Russian hat that lost one, some pattern tracing paper, regular pattern paper and some black buttons for a blouse I'm going to be working on, as soon as I am done tweaking my bodice muslin. Aaargh, that muslin! Saving that for another blog post.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ideas for Spring 2009

One of my favorite types of dresses is the basic shirt dress. One of my favorite types of collars is the Peter Pan collar. One of my favorite fashion designers is Christian Dior. One of my favorite non-black/white/grey colors is garnet red. Put those things together and voila! You get the above.

I love the simplicity of that dress. There's an elegance to it that is soft and understated, yet powerfully feminine. Tres Francais, n'est-ce pas?

While visiting a forum I frequent, someone posted that the new Butterick patterns were available online. I clicked the link and what was the first thing my eyes did see? This pattern:

I'm really feeling like I could pull of a Dior inspiration with this pattern, which happens to be in the category of 'Easy'. And so I wonder: which will be the more challenging aspect of sewing this wonderful inspiration? Affording the type of fabric I would like this dress made from, or being able to put this dress together in time for Spring? Because I'm no Speed Queen when it comes to thread banging, y'all. Well, sometimes it does snow in April :)


Last weekend I went in to the main Vogue Fabrics store in Evanston, IL, and can I just say WOW!??!?? It was too much. The place was huge, and the fabrics---Lordy, the fabrics, from $1/yard cheapy stuff to $30+ high end fabrics like gorgeous silks and sweater knits....and that $4/pound designer sample scrap bin that has 2-4 yards each of high-end, high quality fabric...mercy, me! They have a separate section for home decor that was amazing. I just stood there and redecorated my house in my mind.

All the workers I encountered there were super friendly and helpful and are eager to demonstrate things for you. I saw a young woman come in with a half sewn garment and her pattern and asked for help. The worker took her over to a table and they went over her problem. That was impressive.

There was a room where classes were being held. I peeped in on them. There were about 10 students and maybe 2 teachers. Everyone looked happy yet serious, like they were really into their work. If Evanston weren't so far away from me, I would definitely sign up for the classes there.

It took a will ten times bigger than my countenance to be able to walk out of there without any fabric. I did buy a few notions. When I have some serious extra cash I will go back and stash up. It was very inspiring to look at and touch a piece of fabric and imagine a garment for myself. Even the buttons were inspiring! I wished I had taken a sketchpad and gotten swatches. I will definitely do this when I go back.

My next fabric store trip is to a place called the "Fabric "Dump" by a few friends. It's a huge warehouse type place in Chicago on 21st and Damen--if anybody knows that place, do share. I have heard the place is a serious dust bomb, the staff are unfriendly and the fabrics are very disorganized. We shall see soon.