Saturday, March 21, 2015

Butterscotch Jacket - Vogue 9039

This little flower is a miniature iris and it is always the first flower to bloom in my yard in the spring.
Years ago I planted the bulbs randomly in the flower beds.  It is always a pleasant surprise to see them, but this year it  reminded me I needed to finish my jacket before it got too warm to wear it.

 The jacket  is sewn from a lovely tweed fabric in the golden brown color I call butterscotch. Butterscotch is a type of confectionery whose primary ingredients are brown sugar and butter. Family members will be smiling as they read this.  My favorite snack is made by smearing a piece of toasted bread with  butter  and  a liberal sprinkling of brown sugar. Microwave for 1 minute and you have  instant toffee on toast, yum!  Who wants to eat raw chocolate chip cookie dough, when you can eat the creamed butter and brown sugar mixture made in an earlier step of the recipe?   I love the flavor of  butterscotch, but I never wear the color.  For some reason, this fabric kept catching my eye.

 The jacket pattern  I used is Vogue 9039
I liked this  pattern because it was fitted, and the pointed, vented sleeves and the inset corners in the bodice seaming and the collar were style details I was interested in sewing. This jacket pattern looks very similar to popular jacket styles (shown on a lot of celebs) by Helmut Lang about 2 years ago. His jackets were where I got the idea to use leather for the collar.

 Set in corners, inset corners and  inset reverse corners are names used to refer to the same styling detail and they are featured in many patterns. 

They can be challenging  to sew depending on the fabric and the angle of the corner.  There are several sewing method  that turn up in pattern directions and tutorials.  I did some research to refresh my memory on how to sew them and list some of the different methods I found below.
Video-conquering-inset-corners Dressmaker method using organdy to reinforce corner

Blog Post -Inset-reverse-corners   Leisa uses similar technique to the video on ravely boucle fabric
Article "Conquering Inset Corners" in the June/July 2002 issue of Threads (#101).

Blog Post - Corner seams tutorial -interesting use of temporary stabilizing on the StyleArc Victoria blouse

 Blog Post - How-to-sew-a-corner-seam   Great pictures, but I prefer to stay stitch inset corner and clip before  sewing the seams

 Video - Louise Cutting   Threads Magazine Insider video ( will have to join or pay small fee to see extended library of articles and videos)  using Steam a Seam fusible tape and topstitching. Lovely, quick technique for sporty look.

DVD - Cynthia Guffey -  If you happen to have her "Corners "DVD in your sewing library. She uses low tack painters tape to mark seams before stay stitching  and takes a stitch diagonally across inset corner. She is my inspiration for precision sewing.

The inset corners were sewn quickly and without incident. The jacket was backed by  a fusible interfacing so raveling was not a problem. I use the easy method. Mark seam lines. Stay stitch inside corner seam along marking,  Clip inside corner, and sew seams pivoting at clipped inside corner.

The issues I had with this jacket, which derailed my sewing  momentum were:

1.Wide extended shoulders  The shoulders were very wide. I found this out when I tried on the assembled body without the sleeves. I reduced the shoulder width by ½ inch, but they were still a bit too wide and required extra interfacing to maintain their shape so they would not  collapse off the end of my shoulder. I did not want to use shoulder pads.

 2.  Sleeves too long. I shortened the sleeves by 1" so that the sleeve edge hit my wrist joint in the front. Yes, the pointed part of the sleeve does extend over the back of the hand. But the sleeve looks better when the front hem is where a normal straight cuff sleeve would normally end. Because the pattern directions have you finish the sleeve hem and vent before inserting the sleeve, I didn’t discover the problem until after I had inserted the sleeves in the jacket. So I had to shorten the sleeves from the bottom, re-cutting the shaped sleeve vent facing. I do not normally have to shorten full length sleeves on Vogue patterns.

 I like the jacket,  It goes well with the slacks and blouse I blogged about  recently.  And I found several other coordinating fabrics in my stash. Another top has been completed and a 2nd one is in progress. 

Vogue 9039 Front

Vogue 9039 collar close-up

vogue 9039 side view






Sunday, March 8, 2015


 I have no new sewing projects to share with you, but I will share pictures of wonderful garments sewn  by someone else for my sister.

 I just spent a week in sunny, warm Tucson, AZ.  My whole family flew out  to help my youngest sister celebrate her 50th birthday.   I am not sure she really wanted any fuss over her birthday, but it was the perfect excuse for the rest of her sibs to escape a snowy, cold, east coast winter  We all managed to fly out  between snow storms, with only small flight delays for plane de-icing.

 For her birthday party, my sister wore a dress and bolero jacket sewn by her close friend G. The dress pattern was McCall's 7085, a semi-fitted, lined dress (fitted through bust) with neckline variations and back zipper. G made view B with the short sleeves.

G added a flounce  from New look 6433 to the lower back. I think there were issues with fabric shortages or matching, but it was clever and very attractive solution.

and a bolero jacket from McCalls  pattern 5006. 


 The fabric for the dress was a cotton print of white birds on a gray background and the jacket was sewn from eyelet embroidered in a paisley motif.

 The two garments were beautifully sewn and my little sis looked wonderful in them.

M - 50th birthday. Photo taken by YB.

 The 3 sisters and SIL managed to sneak away for a quick visit  to SAS Fabrics, a fabric store that has been in Tucson for over 50 years.

The SAS stands for either Sew and Save, or Save and Sew, the staff wasn’t sure of the order. Though there is some fabric on bolts or rolls, most of the fabric is in pieces on huge tables.  It is one of those stores where you dig through a lot of junk in hopes of finding treasures. The store is not fancy and some of the stock looks like it has been around for ages.  Not the kind of store that appeals to everyone. It reminded me of the Jomar stores in Phila, PA.

  I found some light weight gray wool  and a coordinating gray and pink swirl textured fabric (it was on the minky table).  I am thinking sleeveless jumpsuit with funky shrug.

 During our visit, we stayed outdoors as much as possible to  enjoy the beautiful weather. Temperatures in the high 60’s, dry, with brilliant blue skies.  DH and I hiked in the Santa Catalina Mountains.  Steep rocky trails with a different desert view around each turn. Lots of Saguaro cactus. In fact every plant along the trail, and in my sister's yard for that matter, had spines or thorns.  I stumbled off the trail one time and had to pull pricklies out of my jeans and socks. We saw lizard and snakes on the trail,  but no wildcats or javelinas. Though my sister has seen both on her early morning en plein air painting trips.

Catalina Mountains AZ  Where's the shade?

The trail, almost to the top.

  La Fiesta de los Vaqueros - the Celebration of the Cowboys, was the week we were visiting. There are two major events that are part of the celebration. The Tucson Rodeo and Tucson Rodeo Parade. It is a big deal. Public school are closed on parade day, which we missed,  but we did go to the rodeo, part  of the annual Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit. We saw the calf roping, bull riding, and barrel racing. It was all quite exciting and very different.  I so wanted to be wearing a cowboy hat and kickin western boots like sis and  many of the locals in  the crowd.  Next time!
Sis’s house has a panoramic view.  Downtown Tucson on one side and different mountain ranges on all the others.  Every evening, the out of towners would run from one side of the yard to the other, trying to capture the rapidly changing colors of the mountains as the sun went down. Sis’s 4 terriers thought it was some new fun game. They were running  and jumping at our heels. We must have looked very comical to the neighbors. I leave you with my favorite pictures ( not photo shopped).


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Cranking them out!

Another post within a week and a couple more things to show. I am really cranking them out! I  was working on a jacket before the late Jan sewing retreat. The jacket fabric is a color I do not have in my wardrobe, so I shopped my swap for fabrics to make coordinates.  When I went to the retreat, I didn't feel like packing all the  parts of the jacket, so I  ended up completing the coordinates first.  Here they are,  both made from older Burda Magazine patterns.

The silk print for the blouse was so large and irregular that it was hard to decide on a pattern. It was also slightly linear so I thought the pleated waist might provide some visual interest. The pattern is for a stretch woven. My silk had no lycra, but worked just fine with no size adjustments needed. 
Burda 8 2007  117 blouse

 The pants are wide leg with unique seaming.  I really should do a muslin for designs like this. I sewed them up and then had to unsew them to alter the waist . The fabric is a gray  poly rayon lycra, soft and oh so comfortable

Burda 12 2009 115

Side view of Pant

My poor jacket. Can you guess the fabric color?  It has already been preempted by another project. I am presenting the program for next Saturday's ASG meeting. I spent the weekend cranking out samples for the program.   I can't believe I am saying this but I am so tired of sewing right now.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Misusu Shirt

My beloved sewing machine, a old Husqvarna Designer 1, was recently diagnosed as terminally ill  and passed on to spare part heaven. The timing was horrible.  A week before a sewing retreat.   I had planned a number of projects to work on at the retreat.  Learning to use a new sewing machine was not one of them.  Fortunately work bonuses were announced, and mine was enough to finance the latest Designer model.  The first project made on the new machine was a blouse designed by Elles of the blog Misusu & More.   Downton-abbey-inspired-shirt        I found her blog through a Pinterest picture of the shirt. 

Downton Abbey Inspired Shirt  Source:

 Elles was inspired by a blouse worn by the Lady Mary character in the BBC series Downton Abbey. Her pattern didn’t look like anything I remembered Mary wearing.  The double breasted look reminded me more of the chauffer’s uniform. But after a bit of Internet browsing,  I found this picture of Lady Mary. Based on the picture and the version of the blouse Elles made for herself (Check it out on her blog), I‘ll bet this is the inspiration blouse .   

 There are drafting instruction available for sizes S, M, L and XL sizes. I drafted a size medium per the instructions.  They were very clear and complete.  The only changes I made to the pattern after it was drafted were to lengthen the sleeves and the bodice above the bust. 


   An interesting feature of the blouse is the slash-gathered darts at the waistline to add volume over the hip.    According to one of my sources, this technique first became popular in the late thirties and was used extensively in the fabric shortage of the 1940’s.

I can see how it saves fabric. This usually replaces a seam between two pieces of fabric where one piece is gathered.   When a slash replaces a straight seam,  the sewing line resembles a dart.  A dart with one leg longer than the other. The fabric in the longer leg is gathered to fit the shorter leg or side.  While this is a charming vintage sewing technique, I find it can be challenging to sew.   Half of the height/intake of the dart is the seam allowance and in this blouse the height was 1 cm .  I think the slash gathered dart is easiest to sew in light weight, high thread count, non raveling fabrics. The fabric I used, a cotton chambray from Denver Fabrics, was all of these.

 Below are instructions for sewing the Slash Gathered Dart. They are a compilation of instructions from several vintage patterns and  McCall's Easy Sewing Book 1960 (Thanks Urs !)

Slash Gathered Dart
1. Mark the seam line, and the length to be gathered. Reinforce the point of the seam line using smaller length stitching- suggested 14 stitches/inch. Fig.

Slash Gathered Dart Fig 1

2. Sew line of gathering stitches on edge to be gathered.  Note: some instructions say to 1. Slash dart before sewing gathering stitches and 2. Sew gathering stitches above seam line but below the slash line. Because there would have been so little fabric above the seam line after slashing on my shirt .5 cm.,  I did not slash until step 3.  And I sewed the gathering stitches close to, but just below the seam line. I removed the gathering stitches after final sewing. I knew, with the fabric I was using, there was little possibility of marks or holes after I removed the gathering stitches.
3. Slash to within ¼” of point. Fig. 2    Note – if gathering line is above the stitching line, take care not to cut through the gathering stitches when slashing.

Slash Gathered Dart Fig 2
4. Pull gathering stitches to gather fabric evenly to fit other edge of dart
5. Pin right sides together and stitch as for standard dart. Fig. 3
Slash Gathered Dart Fig 3
6. Press seam away from gathers.
7.  To control gathers and prevent raveling.
  • Topstitch on right side of fabric. Fig. 4
  •  or ZigZag or hand overcast seam allowance. Fig 5
Slash Gathered Dart Fig 4

Slash Gathered Dart Fig 5

Though this blouse has a rather A line look on me, I really like it and will wear it over jeans or under a jacket.  If I make it again, I will reduce the waist gathers or distribute them more to the front. So it looks  more like the front view on the dress form.



Thursday, December 25, 2014

Feliz Navidad!

Feliz Navidad is the holiday greeting used here in Puerto Rico,  where my  family and my sister's family are for our holidays. 

The latest garment out of my sewing room was one  for the trip.  Yes, it is a two piece bathing suit. Yes, it is for me, Yes, my age is closer to 60 than 50. A two piece? yes! Why? Because I can.  Because I am not dead yet!

The fabric is a snakeskin print swimwear fabric from   Quality, adult themed printed swimwear is one of the hardest fabrics to find, even from online vendors.  When I saw this, I hit the Buy Now button even though shipping from the west coast is not cheap. The top is  Butterick pattern 6578, a OOP pattern from 2000. It has halter straps extending into princess seaming on the cup.

  The pattern had pieces for A/B cups and C/D/ cups.    The suit is lined with a skin colored knit swim suit lining. I used the zigzag stitch on my sewing machine to apply the elastic to the inside of the suit edges so I would have control over the stretch of the elastic in key areas of the suit  that have to be snug fitting.  I used my  cover stitch machine for the final finish, turning the elasticized edge to the inside and top stitching with the coverstitch . It was the first time I had used coverstitch for this purpose.  I was impressed by how quick and easy it was .

 The suit bottom is copied from a RTW bottom that fits me well.  I have sewn exercise and swim wear for over 30 years.  I have the same problems with swimwear bottoms that I have with slacks.  Typical pattern drafts  assume that someone with my hip measurement has a booty. Nope, my caboose is wide and flat.   The patterns have too much fabric in the center back and not enough width to cover the assets. When I found this RTW bottom at an end of summer sale, I was delighted and have made a pattern from it.

How did we come to be in Puerto Rico?

My niece’s boyfriend S. is from PR and he suggested we visit and he offered to show us around.  We jumped at the opportunity.  We  rented a lovely modern house  in the town of  Luquilla through the website VRBO (vacation rental by owner).

   Puerto Rico is a US territory.  I won't go into the difference between state and territory, but what it means is Caribbean island passport required. While the cars and road infrastructure are very American, the language is definitely Spanish, and there is a district culture.  We did all the touristy things, like visiting Old San Juan,  and hiking through El Yunque tropical rain forest.

San Juan

Waterfall - El Yunque Rainforest
We took the ferry over to the island of Calebra for a day trip. It has beautiful beaches and snorkeling. It made me angry to read that  the US Army used the island for target practice military exercises until 1975.  As a result there are abandoned tanks scattered about the island which the locals have painted in interesting designs, prettying up the eyesores.

Tank on  Calebra
 In the central part of the island, the cousins zip lined from mountain top to mountain top, 680 ft over the trees . Sis and I watched, taking pictures with the 300x lens of her camera and still only catching small dots moving across the spaces between landing spaces.
Ready for Zip Lining

The guys went deep sea fishing, and caught mahi-mahi, which made a tasty dinner.  Though anyone who has paid for a fishing charter trip, knows that is the most expensive fish they will ever eat.  We also ate at the local barbecue places like Bebo's below,  waiting in long lines for roasted ribs and chicken, rice and (crowder) peas, yucca with onions, and  blood sausage.

 Every morning we visit a local  neighborhood bakery for fresh pastries.   S's family really made us feel welcome. His mother cooked special snacks for us. We ate at his cousin's restaurant, visited his brother at work in Old San Juan, where his boss insisted on giving us free drinks. And yesterday, S’s extended family invited us to their  Christmas Eve party. It was held in a residential neighborhood at the home of his great uncle.

 The meal featured  lechon asados,  roasted suckling pig.

 Some of my family made the trip to the pig farm  the day before to pick out our dinner.  I did not. The party was wonderful, everyone was very friendly despite the language barrier (I speak some French, DS1 is studying Italian, but  no Spanish). There was lots of food, drinks, loud music and lively dancing by people of all ages. It was a lot of fun.

We are already talking about coming back to this lovely island, with its friendly people, and lots to see and do.