Monday, March 24, 2014

Shirt Tales

Our week long vacation on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin was wonderful. This is our third visit there. Instead of staying at a resort, this time we rented a “villa” (a townhouse) from the owner on the French side of the island, at Baie Orientale. The island has a French and a Dutch side, each with its own language, currency, telephone company (obscene international call rates!), store hours, and laws. There were French language editions of Burda Style magazine in the Grande Marche grocery store. I forgot to check for  Knip Mode  in the Dutch grocery store. I got sidetracked by a guilder to dollars conversion exercise with my sons to make sure we weren’t paying dearly for US soft drinks.   We have rented vacation homes from owners  before, though  mostly in the US.  All good experiences and this one was as well, though I have a few new questions on my “ask the owners” list for foreign countries.  Like how many stations on the TV, what language and are subtitles available?  Is the kitchen really fitted out for cooking?   Is there adequate task lighting for those of us who like to read local magazines, newspapers  and brochures (non electronic) after dark.  Don't get me wrong, I can rough it or live without for a few weeks, but sometimes it helps to be mentally prepared.

Pinel Island Beach

My four handsome traveling companions

So no topless sunbathing for me. Too American inhibited to do it in front of male offspring and their friend.

Lunch main course- Spiny Lobsters
I often fantasize about sewing a vacation wardrobe for our trips,  but in reality I spend most of the day in a bathing suit, maybe putting on a casual outfit for a couple hours to go out in the evening.

Beach - island of  Anguilla
   I did sew a shirt dress for the vacation. New Look 6214  It has princess seams,  attached skirt with waistline darts, shirt collar and front button placket.

I have always liked this version of a shirt dress because it was more fitted and tailored than other styles. I made view B with the shirttail hemline.  The pattern  was published in 2002,  I must have been the only person who bought it.  A Google search did not turn up one web or image link for this pattern.

Long ago I bought a giant bag of scraps from a factory that made men’s ties and shirts.  The shirting  scraps were of high quality, in various  colors and sizes of stripes. Reading about the in color" Radiant Orchid", I remembered one of the shirting stripes was in that color.  Not having enough to make a whole dress in the same stripe, I decided to do a color block mix of the shirting.  Orchid pink and white strip for top, blue and white stripe for skirt, the trim is blue oxford, and armhole facing is another size of blue and white stripe. Warning, these stripes do not photograph well.

 After finishing the dress, I noticed similar shirts/dresses in fashion magazines. I was probably influenced subliminally by the  magazine pictures.

It turns out this shirt dress incorporates several  spring 2014 fashion trends, chambray/oxford, color blocking,  and color orchid pink.

As one fashion blogger said "The cotton shirt has been reinvented for Spring/Summer into mini dresses, shirt dresses, and jumpsuits.  Crisp white poplin, oxford, banker blue, pinstripes, you name it.  Try wearing them with sandals for a relaxed look or with heels for a sexier look.  Keep it sleek and chic!"


The Villa Magellan St Martin

I can't return to my sober colored winter fabrics after the trip and the shirtdress project. On to the wonderful colors of spring!

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Long and Short of It - Burda 7073

The jacket style of Burda pattern 7073 is one of my favorites when I want an easy to fit and sew jacket.  It has princess seams in front and a center back seam that are great for fitting my body differences.   The center fronts meet, but do not overlap (no button holes) adding vertical style lines.  There is no sewn on collar. The neckline edge is raised and lies against the neck. This can be worn with a scoop neck top underneath and still covers a decent amount of upper neck or with a collared blouse.  It is a great style of jacket for a SWAP or mini wardrobe. 

Burda 7073

   I made the shorter jacket some months back  in a black and white silk tweed  and really loved it.

 At the sewing retreat I finished the 2nd,  longer version in a black and red wool tweed. It is only 4.5 inches longer that the short version, but for some reason the longer length felt strange to me when I wore it.   

   In the 80’s/90’s I wore a lot of longer jackets, but they were typically made of the same fabric as the skirt or slacks worn with them.     I started worrying about the proportions of the pieces that make up an outfit. Prompted by memories of proportion diagrams,  I decided to take some pictures of the two different length jackets worn with the same  knee length skirt and pair of  slacks . To see if I looked like a fashion proportion faux pas.

Sorry about the facial expression above. It was starting to sleet. Little, hard, cold icy pellets hitting my face.

My conclusion was that the  longer jacket actually looks nice with the skirt and pants.  I think the cut away front had a lot to do with it.  If the jacket front edge  had been straight across , it would have had a more cropping affect.

Well, the only proportion I will be worrying about next week is the amount of rum in my fruity punch or the length  of lily white legs I want to expose to the sun. Off to a warmer, sunnier climate. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Extended Stay

What a week! I enjoyed an extended business trip in Houston, Texas because my return flights, to areas hard hit by the snow storm, were canceled. Then I had to play the alternate flight game to get home. Thanks god for corporate travel services.   DH and I had a little competition to see who could  get home first. He was in Kansas City, KS and he won the race, making his way home through Cleveland, Ohio to Washington, DC, and renting a car for the remainder of the trip on Friday morning. I arrived back in the wee hours of Sat. morning.  On the positive side, Houston was warm and I was within walking distance of a mall with very high end stores, so I did some snoop shopping. I love the fabrics and style details of the clothes in those stores, but oh the prices!    And who knew Houston had palm trees. It is always  interesting to see where palm trees have been "imported for landscaping."
Palm tree in Houston

Once back at home I was able to finish New Look 6226, described as a lined baseball jacket with zipper-front, side pockets and comfortable elastic waist. And contrast collar, and sleeves for added flair.
New Look 6226
  I was attracted to the pattern  because it looked like it would be quick to sew. I could use large scraps ( 1 yard 60" each) of fabric I already had, and the jacket could be a light weight alternative to a blazer. The fabrics used were poly print for the body and lt/medium weight ponte knit for the sleeves and trim.  I did not line the jacket.    The casings are sewn on, which seems like extra work when they are the same width as the garment and sleeve bottom edges.   Why not extend the bodice and sleeve length enough to make a turned up casing for the elastic?  I appreciated that the finished garment measurements and the ease  were printed on the pattern pieces.  For this pattern, ease  was  10 inches over the body measurement. Too much for me in a blouson style jacket.  I used a size smaller than I usually do to reduce the ease.
Pattern Ease

I wanted the jacket bottom band to rest on my  high hip rather than be cinched at the waist.  I cut the waist elastic to the length I needed to achieve that, rather than to the pattern guide

New Look 6226

New Look 6226 Baseball Style Jacket

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Retreating from the Weather

I recently attended my first  sewing retreat. What a wonderful way to spend three cold winter days. Doing something you love in the company of 40 like minded ladies, stopping only to eat and sleep.  There was lots of stories, sharing, laughter and inspiration.   The retreat was organized by the Northern VA chapter of ASG. So  I got to socialize in person with fellow bloggers  from VA and MD.  Jane  Welmoed    Julie  and  Michelle    The sewing room was a lovely high ceiling ballroom with huge windows, in a historic hotel in Winchester, VA. The light was fantastic.  This is the room in the quiet of the morning, as the early risers were starting to come down for breakfast.

Sewing Retreat - Ballroom
 I finished a blouse and two lined jackets at the retreat.  In order to accomplish that in three days, I had to do a massive amount of prep beforehand. Pattern alterations,  cutting out the fashion fabric and linings, fusing interfacing.   I was successful in packing all the threads, notions and sewing supplies I needed. Too bad I forgot to pack my serger power cord and pedal. Duh! Fortunately there was no shortage of loaner sergers for me to use. 

I'll start with the blouse.  The colder than normal weather has motivated me to sew warm wooly fabrics.   And I wanted to up my winter weekend style from wool lumberjack shirt to something

lumberjack shirt

 warm and pretty.  My blouse is made of  a  55% Wool/ 45% Cotton blend fabric from Fabric Mart.  So soft and warm. It doesn’t crease when worn, but pressed and sewed like a dream. The blouse pattern is number 132 from Burda Style, Feb 2013 issue.

Petersham ribbon, in  3/8 inch width, trims the collar and armhole seams and 1” width is used for  the cuffs.  Petersham has a ribbed weave and  a a fiber content of rayon, cotton or a blend of the two.  It looks like common polyester  grosgrain ribbon. But the fiber content makes a huge difference.  It allows the petersham to be shaped and curved while still laying flat.  Try that with poly grosgrain!  I bought my petersham from Vogue Fabrics. It is also available from Etsy vendors and hat making Internet sites. I washed and dried both the wool/cotton fashion fabric and the petersham by machine before making the blouse. Even though the laundering recommendation on the fabric was dry clean.
I like how the trim breaks up the print and draws the eye to the face and shoulder area.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Walking in Tall Cotton

If you opened a recent copy of  Vogue Pattern magazine, you might have been startled  to see a picture of me on  page 14 of the Feb/Mar 2014 issue.
Vogue Patterns Feb/Mar 2014
Vogue Patterns Star Blogger
 Due to  a interesting turn of events, a  recent project of mine is featured in the magazine.   Not one of the wonderful tailored jackets or fashion forward dresses I sew using Vogue patterns.  Nope, the project is a jacket made of mesh bags and fabric scraps.   How did that come about? Do you remember the Fabricista Challenge sponsored by Fabric Mart Fabrics? The contest which I impulsively entered because I was suffering from empty nest syndrome. 

The first challenge was "Make a garment out of recycled materials or materials that would have otherwise been thrown away, such as scraps from your sewing room or grocery bags. You can reconstruct a garment to make it more fashion forward and utilize unconventional items to add accessories and embellishments. Be creative!" 

Not knowing  much about the contest judges or judging criteria. I went a bit extreme on the  use of throw away stuff. I wove fabric scraps through the holes of fruit mesh fruit bags to make a fabric. And sewed the fabric into a jacket.  I didn’t win the challenge  and the judges’ feedback was

“The treatment you used on your jacket is unique and inventive; however we were not too crazy about the look of it. It made the jacket look dated and ruggish. We would like to see you push yourself in the next challenge with something a little more modern."

The  judges feedback was helpful in  letting  me know I had missed the mark. The winning entry, a  wedding dress refashioned into a cocktail dress, gave me a better idea of what the judges were looking for. And it was on to the next challenge.

A couple weeks later I received an email.

“I’m an editor for Vogue Patterns magazine, and we’re planning a project for an upcoming issue that uses fabric strips woven into a mesh base. We saw your Recycle Challenge jacket made with fruit bags and thought it was a fabulous take on the concept. Would you be willing to have your jacket included as a sidebar in the magazine? Let me know what you think.”

My response back was “ I would be thrilled to have my jacket included in the sidebar of Vogue magazine.   I am a long time subscriber and really love the direction the magazine has taken in recent years.  I had to laugh when I thought of how ironic it is that with all the Vogue patterns I  have sewn, this jacket is the one that might appear in the magazine.”

While I was assembling the requested high resolution pictures and writing the in depth description of my creative process, I thought a bit about the magazine.

Vogue Pattern Magazine   has been a part of my life for a long time.  My mother subscribed to it when I was growing up.  I remember looking through it and admiring the dresses and suits. But Vogue patterns were expensive, advanced and the patterns/styles did not fit my lifestyle or babysitting income budget.   When I started sewing my own clothes as a teen, I used Simplicity and McCalls pattern and made no alterations except for lengthening at the hem edge.  But my mother, a stay at home mom with 4 kids, would use them to sew special occasion clothes for the holiday parties given by the company my father worked for.  And the outfits she wore when she accompanied my father on business trips.  She always compared the garments she made from those patterns against the clothing worn by the executive’s wives, and felt they more than held their own for fashion ( Vogue) and workmanship(her own).

 One article is very vivid in my memory.  It was probably in the early 70’s. Vogue selected several real women who worked in Washington, DC, and showed them in their work environment wearing clothing made from Vogue patterns.   I remember the women were mostly secretaries or assistants to congressman, and all the garments were suits or dresses. But the fabrics were high end and the garments fit perfectly. They were sewn by professional seamstresses, not the women wearing them. It was fascinating to see the pattern garments on real people in real work environments. Remember this was back before the internet, blogs, discussion boards and national sewing groups.  Seeing patterns sewn up and on real people was not common. I remember looking at one women, and my mother saying something to the effect of  “Boy, they had to make a lot of changes to the pattern to get it to fit her.”  The woman under discussion  had one of the common variations of a woman’s figure.  I can’t remember if she was pear shaped or busty. But she was definitely not a skinny  model.  That was a “duh huh” moment for me.   It had never occurred to me that the garments, as sewn straight out the pattern envelope, did not fit everyone, and that it was okay or even desirable to make changes to perfect the fit. 

Of course  now that my body has matured into its adult form, I have to make alterations to every pattern I sew.   Fortunately there are lots of books, blogs and internet sources to learn from and motivate me to keep working toward the perfect fit. My mother stopped sewing clothing when more alterations were needed,  her lifestyle changed, and RTW knit clothing became readily available.

I still subscribe to Vogue Pattern Magazine and I appreciate the changes the editors have made in recent years. It appears to be moving away from being a catalog of Vogue patterns to a sewing magazine with  articles on advanced sewing techniques, the latest fabrics, replicating interesting designer details, all which can be used with Vogue patterns.  These are things I feel are worth the magazine subscription price. The original  catalog features; the large clear pictures, sale coupons, and easy ordering are now available free on the Vogue Pattern internet site.

It was quite an honor to be featured  in a magazine that I have read and enjoyed for years, though the project was not the one I would have chosen. When I showed the article to my mother, her response summed up my feelings and made me a laugh.  “I really must comment, but what can I say!   Wow!!  I must of done something right! or where did I go wrong?  I believe that makes you a national celebrity, or as we everyday folks would say, "You're walking in tall cotton. "

Thanks Mom!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year Transformation.

I hope everyone's 2014 is off to a good start.  I have already accomplished one transformation in the new year. No, not anything personal, a sewing project.  I did a lot of traveling after  Xmas, but did get home in time to whip up a casual top to wear to the family New Years Eve celebration, which consisted of sitting in front of the fireplace while watching the countdown on TV, with champagne chilling for the midnight toast. The top is McCalls 6841, one of several loose-fitting, pullover tops with draped front, and back collar. I made view C.

  I liked the long draping at the center front  of this top and thought it was very elegant. Though I did note that neither the pattern nor the McCall’s Internet site showed a side view of this top. I wondered about all that drapery in the tummy area.   My fabric was a lightweight, crinkly textured, black knit with gold specs from the JoAnn’s red tag table. I have no idea of fabric content, though I suspect mostly poly.  Great drape though.   This pattern is really easy to make. The pieces are odd shaped, so be sure and follow the pattern direction advice and use good marking techniques. It took a couple of hours to cut, sew and finish. I used my new to me (Ebay purchase) Babylock coverstitch machine to do all the hems.  I see why there are a lot of Babylock fans. 

Front Original

Side Original
 The top is fun to wear, but as I thought, there was lots of fabric on the tummy.  On me it pooled mid abdomen, above the crotch of my pants.  On the pattern picture model, it ended below crotch which was much more flattering.  I wore it with slim cut pants to give the illusion that the tummy area was as slim as the thighs. An illusion needed because of all the Christmas cookies I have eaten.

New Years Eve
  I knew I would probably not  wear  this top again. as is.  So I did a little strategic cutting and made it into a drape front cardigan.  I simply cut up the center of the cowl/draping, which was originally on the fold of the fabric, hemmed the edges and voila, a top I will wear often. 


Front after Transformation

Side after Transformation

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Biker Jacket Blazer - Burda 7_2013 102

Its been so long since I blogged, I’ll bet you thought the contest put me off sewing forever.  Not at all.  I started sewing a jacket in early Nov, but it  took forever to complete. Lots of different reasons. Holidays,  business trips  that kept me away from my sewing machine  and  required traveling on the weekend to be on site early Monday morning.  Boy, do I resent it when work encroaches on my precious weekends.  And,  oh yes, some sewing mishaps and sourcing issues.

 The jacket  is from Burda  July 2013 –102  The full sewing course instructions are included in the issue.

The jacket is described as" biker jacket meets blazer". It has some biker jacket details, but they are rather weak.  Burda made it in  “ natte” because it was “ soft and breathable.” I have never heard of natte so I looked it up – it is more a weave than a fabric. A basket weave made with contrasting colors in the warp and weft; also  a fabric with such a weave woven usually from silk, rayon, and cotton. 

 My fabric was very different,  a black lace bonded to grey felted wool blend,  purchased at JoAnn Fabrics. The face  is 60% Cotton 40% Polyester, the base fabric: 40% Wool 60% Polyester

   It all over the internet. Vogue Patterns made a cape from it.

 One of the participants in Marcy Tilton’s Coat Sew Along  (no name provided in Marcy's post ) made a suit from it. Which I love.

  And fellow blogger Sigrid   has a lovely blue background version that I like even better  than my fabric. I can't wait to see what she sews from hers.

 I chose the pattern because I thought the edge binding would be a good finish for the heavier double sided fabric and  give me the option of wearing the jacket lapels open, with the contrasting gray showing.

I made a number of changes to the pattern. The lapels are single layer, not faced as per the instructions. I rounded the corners of the shoulder and pocket flaps to echo the lapel's rounded style.   I eliminated the shoulder seam in the shoulder flaps to get rid of extra layers of fabric at the shoulder sleeve point. The pattern directions called for double welt pockets with the pocket flap sewn under the top welt. The welts were to be 3/16 “ wide. I know the limits of my abilities and 3/16 welts in just about any fabric is one of them. I went with a single welt pocket with flap, where there is one bottom welt.  I made the welt 3/8" and of  the same lighter weight fabric used for the binding.

The jacket required  5 " open ended zippers in each sleeve. Specialty zippers are impossible to find at local stores. I was thrilled when I found two in my stash.  It was only after inserting  them  and sewing up the sleeves, that I realized they were dark navy blue, not black and one had silver teeth, the other gold. Was I wearing my glasses that day? Out they came, replaced by two black 5 " purse zippers with closed ends. All I could find.  I  cut the ends open with my  husband's dikes ( portmanteau of "Diagonal CutterS" pronounced "dikes")  Now if my electrician/ husband ever asks me to hand him the dikes, I know what he is asking for. There was a bit of confusion when I described my zipper issue and he told me what tool to get from his toolbox.

Closed End Zipper


 The jacket is fastened with snaps. Since they would show when the lapel was open, I thought about using covered snaps, black on the fabric face and gray on the back. But I hate fiddling with the home sewer  method of covering snaps with fabric. You know the "cut circles of fabric, work a running stitch around edge of circle, gather .....etc."  Recently  I was putting away a summer jacket with covered snaps, and noticed that each side of the snap had two parts, like a covered button.

 I searched the internet for snaps like this. "A cover your own, with snap on backs" No luck. Lots of already covered snaps though.  If you know of a source for  no sew, cover your own types of snaps,  please let me know. I ended up going with black metal snaps.

 I have had no time now to take pictures of the jacket on me. I will try and do it in early Jan. Right now I need to get off my computer and wrap some presents.

I wish everyone joy filled holidays and  I will be back in the new year!