Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Did you dress up to go to a party?  I did.   I love Halloween.  I love the costumes, the candy, the just brings back fun memories from my childhood.  Every year, my mother or a grandmother would make me a costume and then with friends we would walk miles trick-or-treating and when we were young with my dad following us for safety reasons.  It was so fun.  I remember so much excitement and anticipation for the event and then I would never eat any of the scads of candy I collected because, weird child that I was, I was convinced that some pieces might be poisoned.  So the candy would sit in my room until Easter when my mom tossed it. 

See...small arms but lots and lots and
lots of fabric makes for a bigger than
normal me
Given that I always had a made costume, I can't now bring myself to buy a costume.  I am fine with sourcing a costume through items found at a thrift store or making one. However, for a Halloween costume, the making should be minimal.  Thrifting a costume seemed like too much work so I made one. I went for a simple costume as a Greek goddess.  It was an easy breezy costume which required minimal sewing.  By minimal sewing, I mean 2 seams and 2 buttons sewn on for decoration and my peplos was done.  My belt was a leather and velvet piece I had made a couple of years ago for something else but it didn’t work so it went into the stash.  This outfit had a lot of pluses but also a lot of minuses.  It certainly was not the ubiquitous sexy Halloween costume….hello, I have 5 yards of fabric wrapped around my body.  I think this costume adds about 20 pounds to my look.  However, it was really cool and since the night I wore it it was 72 degrees out well after midnight, it was a good choice in that respect.  Besides, no dreaded foundation garments such as corsets were required!  A major plus if I may say so.

The funny thing is that after I made this, I remembered a bunch of other already made outfits which would have been perfect such as my anime costume.  Doh….really need to think things through properly.

Here's hoping that everyone who had to experience Sandy are doing well, recovering and if necessary rebuilding.  Out here on the left coast, I could only look at pictures and imagine what it was like. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fiddly Bits

This evening gown not only has the challenge of being made in the evil and slippery silk charmeuse but it also has a lot of fiddly bits. 

Like the sleeves.  It took me hours when muslining this bodice it took me hours upon hours to figure out how to sew the sleeves.  They are cut into the back bodice piece and hellishly artfully wrapped around to the front bodice to create the sleeve.  Sounds easy.  It isn’t.  The cut on piece is oddly shaped and I just could not wrap my head around it.  Of course, the instructions made the process as clear as mud!

Due to the lapse in time between msulining the bodice and working on the real deal, I had completely forgotten how the sleeve from hell was constructed.   A few hours later, the light bulb went off and I came up with this:

Isn’t the sleeve rather sweet?  Hats off to the designer who thought it up

Other fiddly bits include the shirring mentioned yesterday and interesting “facings.”  The  facing only covers the shirring and you have to cut into the fabric to fold it down.  If you don’t cut far enough it does not work; if you cut too far you have a hole.  Ask me how I know!  Luckily the collar covers my patch.  Oh yeah, attaching the collar, another piece of fiddly hand sewing.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

You Say Shirring; I Say Gathering

Do you know what shirring is?  

I certainly didn’t until working on this dress.  I thought it was something utterly complicated and rather intricate.  What I found out is that it is just multiple lines of gathering perhaps done with a lot more precision than a typical gathering stitch.

Mmmm purpley 
This dress has “shirring”  at the neck and on hips.  After having a little stress out session on what shirring actually was, I got down to it.  I tried to be precise both the start and end of my stitching lines.  I also tried to keep the lines straight.  I tend to be more than just a little haphazard in my gathering.  The stitch line waving all over the seam allowance.  So it took some concentration to make the shirring precise.

I think I did a good job.  Though, I still keep referring to this as gathering.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Vintage Find

 We interrupt the sewing to share a recent vintage find.

Gah... a blurry picture of the clasp.
It looks much better in person.
Note, the ring for a chain/strap
I found this cute little purse with a lovely rhinestone clasp plus it is black and could be used in a variety of time periods.  It is truly timeless and a very useful find.

Gotta love the built in lipstick pocket
It was listed as a clutch but the reality is that it was missing its chain.  I love the details on the inside.  Not just a matching coin purse but with a place to put your lipstick.  Love!  I have never heard of the brand  “Frilo”  before but if anyone out there has, let me know.

So the fix for this bag was a $2.50 pewter looking chain from downtown.  I picked pewter over silver simple because it looked nicer than the silver chains I was finding.  Besides, the price was right.  I threaded it through and linked it back together and voila a fixed purse.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Going Slow ….or Doing the Easy Stuff First

I was seduced by that darn silver metallic thread again for topstitching.  I have had this stuff for ages ….why am I so enamored now?

After whipping out the cocktail dress, I wanted to start slow on the evening dress, so I start with the collar.  For interfacing I went the vintage route of just using muslin as interfacing.  It was perfect for the collar.  Just the right weight.  It added stiffness but was still pliable.
Collar pieces done.

Then the dreaded topstitching.  The thread kept breaking but I persevered. 

I also did the same muslin interfacing and topstitching on the belt.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Evening Gown

So now that the rush job on the cocktail dress is done, I have to make another silk charmeuse dress – this time a long 1930’s evening dress.

It looks black but it is not black
This is going to be in a deep dark purple.  Think night sky purple.  It is not too grapey but almost black.  The picture does not show the true color:

The pattern is this one. 
Find this pattern here

I did muslin the bodice back in April so I have the pattern ready to role.  I had to do an FBA which was a little difficult to figure out.  Though I am feeling more comfortable with the dreaded FBAs now.  There is no picture of the bodice because I had to take it apart to make the pattern but here is the mock up of the skirt portion in some heavy poly charmeuse substitute that I have acres of.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

San Francisco Taxi Drivers Redeemed

After that experience with bad San Francisco taxi driver I thought I would relate a story about the best ever taxi driver.  Yes, this happened the same weekend but it was the other end of the spectrum.

Again we were down by Chinatown but because of some event where streets were closed, we couldn’t get a taxi.  We spent about 20 minutes trying to hail a taxi…. not just standing on one corner but walking out of Chinatown heading towards hotels thinking that at least then we could get one.  Finally, a guy pulled over, hopping in we asked if he could get us to our B&B in 10 minutes.  He laughed thinking we were kidding around.  We were not.  We were going to be late for the car we had ordered to take us to the airport.  Now the B&B owner had warned us to be on time when she ordered this car for us because it was her name being used…and well you get the idea.  And here we were…late for the stupid car.

We told the taxi driver, no we were serious, could he do it and there will be good tip if you do.  He laughed and took off.  Think “Streets of San Francisco”.  We flew over those hilly streets.  I do think we caught air a couple of time!  It was fantastic.  The taxi drive LOVED every minute of it!  Every time we approached a yellow light we would egg him on to go for it.  Success…. we made it for the car which, of course, was waiting for us.  The taxi driver let us out at the EXACT designated pickup time.  He, unlike the other dude, was fantastic and really redeemed the whole San Francisco taxi driver experience!!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Cocktail Dress ---Revealed

Here it is in all its glory.  

It looked perfect for the occasion.  I kept it long though a friend thought I should lop off about 6 inches from the skirt.  Perhaps if I had thought about it BEFORE using all that silk, I would have.  But I wasn’t now going to chop off all that silk. 

Plunging neckline
Of course the BF was proud and went around telling people that I made my dress in a week.  I am much more stealth about my sewing; I didn’t really need this broadcast…lol.

But let me tell you about my adventure getting to the party.  BF had to leave early to go set up.  The party was at a restaurant in San Francisco Chinatown.  BF took a taxi from the B&B and ordered me a taxi from the same company.  There I am all gussied up, standing outside waiting for the taxi.  The taxi pulls up, and yes it is from the right taxi company.  BF calls me at the ordered time to make sure it arrived.  I tell him it just came and I am getting in.  I get into the taxi and the taxi driver confirms where I am going and then tells me he won’t take me there.  WHAT??  This should not be a surprise.  This is not a taxi I hailed; it was ordered in advance.  He asks, very nicely mind you, to please get out and get another taxi.  You see, his shift was ending and he did not want to drive the 8 minutes to Chinatown because it would take him in the wrong direction.  WHAT??  Is he serious…yes he was…. very serious.  So out of the taxi I get and call the BF who goes ballistic and calls the taxi company.  About 5 minutes later, the taxi returns…. same driver…he will now take me to the restaurant.  Hello…didn’t you ask me to get out of your taxi?  What is going on?   So I get in the taxi and he takes me towards Chinatown.  When we get to Chinatown, he stops the taxi and asks me to WALK the rest of the way.  He points out the restaurant about 5 blocks away but luckily it had a flag so one could pick it out of all the other buildings.  I am now late for the party, but out of the taxi I get and start walking in my really high heels to the restaurant.

Seriously…this was the WORST TAXI DRIVER I have ever encountered in this country.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Execution of the Plan

I am happy with the dress however it really veered off the plan.

Recall…this is the pattern.

My previous dress made with this pattern.
You just look at this dress
and it wrinkles

I started off thinking this was just going to be as the pattern intended but after cutting out the pattern pieces I decided I wanted a tie for the back.  I knew I was going to back off the piping for this dress and that stayed true to plan.  I also knew that from my prior make, I thought the sleeves were a tad long…just long enough to annoy the crap out of me so those were shortened.  I also wanted to lower the neckline.  Hello cocktail dress…. needs a low neckline.

I constructed the dress with French seams.  I love French seams in theory but they annoy me in execution because it really does mean sewing the dress twice.  I also hand basted the seams first before taking it to the machine so I could stop the slippery charmeuse from slipping and sliding all over the place.  Due to the time crunch I have to admit the basting was NOT pretty but it did its job.

Just the 2 rows of topstitching
and lower on the neck
First bee in the bonnet: I decided I should top stitch with silver metallic thread.  I had some wild idea this would look really cool.  Well, the first row of topstitching along the shoulder seams looked okay.  Sooooo I decided a second row would look better.  It was okay so why not add a third row??  So that’s what I did.  But when I stepped back and looked at the third row, I ….well I have to say I hated it!!  Really hated it and started re-thinking silver topstitching all together.  Out came the third row of topstitching but I just decided to leave the 2 rows remaining and revisit it later.
Notice how high the neck
is in the back.  Also you can kinda
see that there would have been a lot
more topstitching
When trying on the bodice with the lower neckline, I started making changes to the neckline in general.  I thought there was too much fabric in the back of the neck in that it was creeping up my neck.  But time was of the essence so no muslining changes.  When I bound the neckline with bias binding, I made further changes to the shape of the neckline which means that all the silly topstitching has all but disappeared.

Second bee in the bonnet: After piping along the waistline, I decided I needed to bring the silver metallic topstitching down to the waist.  I topstitched above the piping. …and it looked weird so I removed it.  I topstitched under the piping…better but the fabric was sliding and the topstitching was…well…very wavy.  So out it came.

This silly topstitching is eating up the time!!  I had to stop and just finish the puppy so I didn’t go to the party naked!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Stick a Pin in It

Pincushion of awesomeness making
the boring blue tomato bow to its
supremacy and no, I don't put pins
in the turtles!  
I recently received the most awesome pincushion EVER.  I love this pincushion.  What a thoughtful gift!

It has a wood base which I have never actually seen before but it rocks.  It is one of my favorite color combos….brown & blue and best of all it has sea turtles!!

A friend who knows me well brought this back for me from her recent trip to Hawaii.  She knows how much I sew and how my favorite experience in Hawaii was swimming with the sea turtles.  Don’t worry, I did not get too close but swimming out over the reef and being about 5 feet from turtles was AMAZING.

See.... it has sprinkles so it must be
a baked good.  
Now, as I sew I am reminded of that awesome experience.  Plus, I no longer need be embarrassed about my pincushion.  Up until I received the pincushion of awesomeness, I was using this sad little pincushion I received for volunteering at a sewing convention.  It worked but it has squished out of shape.  I have no idea what the stuffing is cause it is soft but needles go in and never come out.  Some day I must perform surgery and retrieve the lost needles.  At least it has personality; I think it is supposed to be a donut.  Or maybe it is a sad cupcake.  Well it is some sort of baked good.

Yawn....who doesn't have one of these?
My other pincushion that I keep on my bedside table because I do like to sew in bed is the utilitarian and ubiquitous tomato and strawberry.  Boring.  Everyone has one.  My mother had a red one; am I being a rebel because I chose blue? But more importantly who ever came up with the tomato/strawberry combination?  Why did this become the form pincushions took?  I know the answer is out there and maybe next time I don’t feel like working I will search for it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Building a Plan

First the Pattern

What pattern have I made that I could turn into a cocktail dress?  Running through the memory banks, the pattern that stood out was Butterick 7820 since if you look at the pattern art, it seems like it is supposed to be a late 30’s cocktail dress.  My make was a cotton poly day dress but why not?

Second, the fabric.

It is times like this when I love working downtown.  Off I ran to the fabric district to check my favorite silk store.  After fondling the fabric assessing my options, I decided basic black silk charmeuse was the way to go and $39 later I had my silk and was off to buy thread.
Can you tell this is black?  At first is was just
a black square.  Black is so difficult to

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Would You Do?

For months I knew I had a big 100th Birthday party to go to for the BF’s grandfather.  Almost once a week since April I asked what should I wear to the party?  Is there any guideline?  What are the other women in the family wearing?  What is your sister wearing?  You get the idea.  The answer was always, I don’t know.  So I would request that we find out!!  You know the saying there is no dumb question.  Well, the BF disagreed and kept telling me one of the following bits of nonsense:

1. It doesn’t matter what you wear, you will look nice
2. I am sure everyone will dress casually

I still worried.  I don’t trust men when it comes to what is appropriate wear for an event. I have just been burned too many times. I need to interject here that this was a big event.  Rooms reserved for a banguet; engraved invitations sent out in other words, this was not a gathering in a back yard it was going to be a big deal as a 100th birthday should be. So I continued to ask….hound…..the BF on this topic.

How I felt
Finally….10 days before the event I got emails of pictures of the dresses some were wearing.  Not one was casual ….not go to church type dresses: both of which I have scads of…..nope they were cocktail dress.  CRUD  I do not have a cocktail dress.

Of course my BF said just whip something up.  Yeah right …have you met me?  I am a slow sewer…I don’t just whip things up.  So off I went to Macys to find a cocktail dress.  Yeah right.  For a couple of 100$ I could get a crappy dress that did not fit.  Talk about woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I was seriously one hanger shy of a meltdown when the light bulb went off…… I guess the BF was right, I could make something to wear.  The mind started working.  If I used a pattern I have already sewn, I could run to the garment district and pick up 3 yards of silk charmeuse for only $40 and I should be able to sew something that actually fits in a fabric I liked.  BUT and this is a big but….time was against me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Summer Essential

Remember this make from…whoa nelly….years ago??  

I never wore it…until this summer when it has become a weekend staple.  This little Hawaiian dress gets pulled out almost every weekend because even with long sleeves it is cooler than wearing a t-shirt.  The only issue is that I was a few pounds heavier when I made this so it is tooooo big through the neckline area.  I would like to make another one with a better fitting neckline but this dress really does call for only certain patterns and I have yet to find one.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Catching UP

I am back.  It is finally cool enough, well today is cool enough, to sit in my sweat box of a computer room.  So here I type.  August and September are usually the hottest months out here and this year has not disappointed.  But really, what about the rest of June and July….where did I disappear to?

I was sewing.  I sewed yards and yards of silk charmeuse in July.  All with deadlines.  Don’t worry, pretty pictures will follow.  My draping class was wonderful but ever so time consuming.  I find that I am just not great at measuring or walking patterns.  What took everyone a couple of minutes, had my little brain puzzling over for long periods of time.  Seriously, you could see the  wheels turning and the smoke pouring from my ears.

What happened to the summer skirt?  Did it get finished I hear you ask…wait is there anyone out there even wondering what happened to the skirt.  Fear not, I am going to tell you anyways. 

Skirt is finished.  At first it was too small.  I measured the pattern…what was the problem?  However thank goodness it was a modern pattern with those HUGE 5/8th seam allowances so I let out the seams, then I took them back in and by the 4th go around I had a skirt that fit. 

The colors are great; this little beauty goes with so many t-shirts in my closet.  I used a baby hem.  Down side is I used a tricot lining which I really do not like at all – I find it sticks to me which is just not a plus when it is 100 degrees in and out of the house.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer is Here!!

It's the longest day of the year, the start of summer, the summer solstice.

My favorite time of year.  I love summer and everything that goes with it: the heat, going to the beach, summer BBQs, watching fireworks and many more things.  What special things do you like about summer?

One thing I can’t do, and it makes me sad, is eat ice cream.  I get terrible migraines. 

For the first day of summer, I always go out and get a milkshake.  I have to endure the migraine but I get my desire of ice cream and ice cream related items out of my system.

This is my fabric for my new summer skirt! 

It is lightweight and flows so it is perfect for a summer skirt.  Will probably need to line it.  I have had it for years tucked into the stash.  It is a polyester chiffon which ravels like the dickens so serging is a must!

Alas, I just don’t see this fabric working with any of my vintage patterns, so I think I am going a more modern route with it.  It should be a quick make, I just need to cut, serge and sew.  Sounds simple enough…..

Monday, June 18, 2012


A few of my dressforms

I am taking a draping class.  It has been not just a learning experience but a lot of fun.  It is hard but in just 3 classes, I can drape no less than 10 bodice darts.  Fun!

I also have a use for my dress forms other than modeling my makes.  I have something on which to practice. 

Now I need a duct tape dress form of myself so I can start draping something that will fit me.  I am excited!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Better Late Than a No Show

Polka dots on parade dress was finished in a timely manner.  It was worn to the event, very successfully I might add.  I went with a whole 1940’s flavor that I enjoy so much

What I love about this dress is the piping I added.  I think it just ramps up the dress from ordinary to a little special.  I am particularly pleased with the way the piping on the sleeves turned out.  Thanks to the incredible Carolyn for providing a tutorial that took me from huh to wow!

What I do not like about the dress is the material.  It definitely has polyester in it.  I danced for a couple of hours at the event and this material did not breathe!  Ugh and the room where the dancing took place was HOT.  Hey at least it doesn’t wrinkle too badly.

Courtesy of D'Nalof Designs
Yes, it's me.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Down the Pipeline

Lots of corded piping!
I have been  making a lot of black piping.  Do you make your own piping?  If so, what do you use for the piping?  Do you use straight strips or bias strips.

I use string for my piping.  Ordinary cotton string.  It is less than $2 at the hardware store and I use it for gathering and piping.  I love this stuff and it is so cheap.  I also think it makes the perfect size piping.

This time I did both bias strips for curves and straight strips for the sleeves.  It should come as no surprise, I do hand baste in the piping. 

I love the finished look piping gives an outfit!

Monday, May 21, 2012


Crazy busy week.  Too much going on with work to sew.  This weekend did see some sewing time.

Shoulder detail
The bodice came together like a dream even with the top stitching on the shoulder detail.  I did make a slight FBA but felt with the gathers and because it is a bigger size than I normally, I would probably be alright.  Fingers crossed this holds true.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Polka Dots On Parade

The next dress is going to be out of this white with black polka dot fabric.  This fabric is notable in that it was one of the first pieces of fabric I bought when I started sewing.  It is a cotton poly blend and was one of my $1 a yard finds. 

The dress will be this pattern.

It has a distinctly very late 30’s early 40’s look to it and very reminiscent of this one.

Off to trace the pattern.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Water Circles


Its done, its done!!!  YAY!  My first dress using a modern pattern and modern fabrics.

Whew…it was challenging.  I know some of you out there can knock out a dress like this in a couple of hours but not me.  It took a while and I am not at all confident with these techniques.

Front - full length
What is that bump?
That being said, it is definitely wearable!  Which is really a plus since I do like the fabric.  I plan to give it a test drive at an art gallery thing tonight. 

What I did…in case anyone out there would like to know.  All hems are done on the serger as a rolled hem.  The front lap was pick stitched closed so there will be no wardrobe malfunctions but the back was left as is.  It is fully lined in a flesh colored tricot.  I gathered the midriff in various spots and then sewed down some of the gathers to insure this lightweight knit actually stayed gathered.  It seams to have worked.  Not sure what the bulge in the pictures is…probably just bad styling.
Back view......same as
the front

I think I need another 1940s dress to relax with as next up in the queue.  

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Evil Ease

The Water Circles dress is almost complete.   There is one major hold up….inserting the sleeves.  I just can not ease them in without lots of gathers showing.  Now, I don’t think these sleeves  are supposed to be gathered on the sleeve cap…I certainly would prefer that they were not.  However, after a couple of tries using different methods, I am about to give up. 

The irony is that I did take out some of the ease from the sleeve caps but obviously not nearly enough.  I cannot imagine what these ease monsters would have been like if I had left those extra 2 inches in.
Sleeve pinned in
From the back, a sleeve pinned in

Saturday, May 05, 2012

It Makes Me Smile

I had a vintage event last night after work which meant if I was going to dress up, I would have to wear something to work.

I chose this dress…..

partly because it makes me smile and partly because I rarely wear this dress.  I packed my petticoat and nice shoes in a bag and off to work I went. ( You can read about the construction of the dress, here, here, here and here).

Action shot
While wearing this dress yesterday, not including while at the vintage event, I received no less than 5 compliments on the dress.  I was surprised…nay almost shocked.  Yes, I like the dress but I have never worn anything that I made that received the sheer number of compliments I received yesterday from this dress.  The compliments crossed many lines, young and old; men and women.  Two women actually waved me down in a train station to tell me how much they loved my dress.

Wow…no wonder this dress makes me smile.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Serger Wars

Front.  I moved the overlap for
more coverage.
A little plunging
I have am losing the battle with the serger.  I think this dress will be about 1/2 serger and 1/2 sewing machine.  I guess you need to start somewhere.  One shoulder I was able to gather beautifully on serger, the other not so much.  For the necklines, I have to admit I gave up and used the sewing machine.  I really did not think it would work well.  I have a problem with seam allowances on the serger but then I am terrified of using the knife and almost always have it disabled.  Really, you could lose a finger with the knife.

On to the midriff pieces …….

Monday, April 30, 2012

Breaking Needles

So, I had to get my serger out and ready to roll with this dress which will hereinafter be named the bubble dress cause the fabric looks like bubbles.  I inserted my stretch needles and started in on some scrap pieces of fabric.

Blammo…right needle breaks.  Ok, that is unusual.  My serger needles never break.  Re-thread, put in a new needle and away we go.  So far so good.

Change the stitch length to figure our how to gather using the serger….blammo…right needle breaks again.  No biggie….re-thread, put in a new needle and away we go.

Blammo…right needle breaks again.  Stop, do not re-tbread.  Do not insert new needle.  Stop now before injuries occur.

Any ideas what is going on with the serger?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sewing Outside of My Comfort Zone

I have a serger and I would like to make something using my serger.  A lot of the blogs I read have sewists who use their sergers to construct garments.  I only use it to finish seams.

Soooooo….for something completely different I am going to make a dress with t-shirt material (I have no idea what it is called….jersey? knit?) and I am going to try to use the serger to construct it.

Here is the fabric…..ooooohhh pretty.  My favorite colors, blue and brown.  It seems this is a remnant of a designer fabric.  Note the seam allowance notes.

You might ask what pattern?  Well I do not have patterns for knit materials so I am going to try and use Vogue 8182,, View B which I do have in a size which is too big for me.  When checking out pattern review for this pattern, a number of people made it in a knit and omitted the zipper.  So, I am going to try and do that!