Saturday, December 29, 2012

Floral mesh statement skirt

I have made another statement skirt using my TNT straight skirt pattern, McCall's 3830. The fabric is a polyester ribbon mesh from Mood. The name they used to describe the color is Weimaraner, a very appropriate name for this slightly brownish gray (which you can see in some of the closeups. The sun was setting when we took these pictures, casting a warm glow on everything.)

 I really love the textural interest of the mesh ribbon roses and that the fabric is thin enough not to add a lot of bulk. After trying all sorts of colors for my underlining, I settled on white. It lets the skirt remain neutral and the roses to really pop. Plus I can pair it with all sorts of colorful tops.

You may recall that I attempted a similar skirt back in August, but was unhappy with the way the sides did not match up perfectly. This time around I paid special attention to matching up the roses along the sides and back seams.

For the waistband, I used the mesh along the selvage that had no roses sewn to it. It was underlined in the same white Ambiance and then interfaced.

Here you can better see the color and the roses along the side seams:

I happened to have a taupe colored invisible zipper in my stash that was just a bit browner then the fabric. Since only the tab shows, I think it blends in pretty well.

I used white ambiance for the lining as well:

I added a floral hem tape to make a neat finish along the inside, then slip-stitched the hem in place. You can also see the white underlining here, which is what the hem was stitched to. The line of white stitching along the bottom edge keeps the mesh and underlining together where it is turned up.

Since this is my TNT skirt pattern, I had no fitting issues and no reason to make a muslin. It was a relatively easy project once I got past the cutting out.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Military jacket Q&A

Howdy all! Thanks so much for all your wonderful comments on my latest wardrobe addition. I have been in southern Oregon for the past week, in a tiny little map-dot town that is terribly hard to get to. It's a beautiful place but it rained. the. entire. time. The town is called Brookings. Ever heard of it?

I usually try to answer questions in the comments but, as I was visiting family in that tiny town, I did not have internet nor reliable cell phone service. The horror.

Do the jacket front edges actually come together?

Yes, although there is no fastener in the front to hold them there. I am debating adding some large hooks to keep them closed should I choose to wear it that way.

What is your secret for having clothing that always looks professionally made?

Lots and lots of trial and error. My mother taught me some basic sewing techniques, but the majority of what I do is entirely self taught. If you desire to make garments that look store bought, you've just got to put in the work to learn and expect to make a ton of mistakes. Also a touch of perfectionism doesn't hurt. :)

Did you prewash or pershrink the fabric?

Not this time. I put a full lining in it, so I don't plan to ever wash it in the washing machine. And I've never had a thick cotton like this shrink from steaming it with the iron.

One of the many beaches along the shoreline of Brookings

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Burda style 5-2011-113 - Eggplant military jacket

Military jackets are very trendy right now. Last fall I made plans to make one, but didn't get around to it until now. I used a thick cotton twill in aubergine from It was easy to work with and has a great woven texture which you can see in some of the close ups.

This was the only design I liked from the May 2011 issue of Burda style. It is chalk full of interesting details: 20 buttons!, topstitching, sleeve cuffs, shoulder tabs, folding back front lapels, slanting back yokes and back belt. I opted not to trim it in bias strips per the instructions. I also added a full lining and shoulder pads.

After making a muslin, I added 1.5" to the overall length at the waist and .75" to the center back seam. The front dart was altered to slant up a bit. Both the inner and outer collar were fused with interfacing. Since my fabric was fairly thick, I left off all other interfacing suggested in the pattern instructions. I did iron small squares of it to the inside where the buttons were sewn on.

I moved the buttonhole placement on the cuffs over to 5/8" from the edges. The back belt button holes were also stitched 5/8" from the edges.

I initially had some trouble finding buttons for this jacket. I knew I wanted a military crest of some sort, but all of the ones I looked at locally did not have their crests attached the same way on each button, resulting in the crests facing all different directions. For the first time ever I ordered buttons online. These also came from Mood. The buttons on the shoulders, back belt and sleeves are the 20mm size. The ones on the front are 23mm.

I really love how the sleeves have built in forward curves to them.

Here you can see the twill texture a lot better. The fabric has such a nice depth to it that my topstitching sinks in ever so slightly.

I attached the outer collar to the jacket body and sewed the inner collar to the lining. Then I stitched the body to the lining along the edges, graded the seams, and turned it right side out. I stitched in the ditch by hand all along where the collar meets the body so that none of the seams allowances could turn up on the inside and become bulky.

I put a dab of fray check on the corners of the shoulder tabs after I turned them to prevent them from raveling out.

The lining is bemberg Ambiance. I happened to find a really good color match locally.

I had a lot of fun making this jacket. The details were challenging but not fiddly and I got to do loads of hand sewing.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Halloween costumes

Whew! I'm glad to have this yearly task behind me. Like usual, I waited until the last minute to get these costumes sewn.

Nathan is very into small furry creatures at the moment. He owns two gerbils and would really like to have an entire pet store in his room. Two gerbils are stinky enough, though, thankyouverymuch. He also currently wants to be a veterinarian when he grows up. We ordered the lab coat  and stethoscope off The only remotely crafty thing I had to do was iron on the patches to the pocket. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, as my boys like to say.

Daniel continues to pick his costumes for the weapon prop he gets to carry along. This was a way more involved project to stitch up. The vest took the longest because I added the gold inserts to the "sleeves" and slipstitched those and the one along the neckline invisibly on the inside. Then I made the black jumpsuit under the vest. I accidentally bought the wrong size pattern and had to cut it down to fit him. It was still too big in the width - he's pretty skinny - so I had to take the legs apart and make the rear end smaller. What a pain. Finally I made the red sash and arm/leg bands that I tacked onto the outside of the jumpsuit. This took me 4 nights of sewing to complete. All fabrics were purchased from JoAnn's and are polyester. We ordered the nunchaku from Amazon as well.

Since we homeschool, they didn't get to wear these costumes to school. And this year our church's fall festival was October 20 and didn't require dressing up. So, these were worn for all of 1.5 hours on Halloween for trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. I think next year they will have to raid their dress up bin for a costume and give me a year off.

McCall's 4951 - Used to make Daniel's jumpsuit
McCall's 6184 - Used for Daniel's vest & sash (shortened)

Rachel did not wear a costume. I am not a Halloween enthusiast and so only make costumes for little people who are excited about dressing up.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

McCall's 5974 revisited - Black + ivory polka dot dress

While taking stock of my wardrobe a few weeks ago, I realized I had only 3 dresses with long sleeves. One is my black funeral dress and one is a lace dress I bought for Les Miserables last year. The third is the first dress I made from this pattern, which I still love. (Check out those bangs - oi!) Since I like to wear dresses once or twice a week and enjoy variety, I decided to add to my meager long sleeved dress collection.

I used a border print ITY knit bought online several years ago. It has small dots along one selvage which slowly enlarge in size until they are colliding with each other along the other selvage. I cut the belt out of the very small dots so that it could be seen amongst the busy fabric. ITY knit is perfect for mild Texas winters in that it is very thin so I don't swelter but with long sleeves I still look season appropriate.

I cut this dress out on Friday afternoon, worked on it Friday night, finished it up on Saturday, and wore it to church today! Having made the pattern once before, it went together extremely quick. 

 This is a straight size 8. I am usually a 10 on top and a 12 on bottom, but like to go down a size for garments rendered in highly stretchy fabrics.

I did not care for how far the belt stretched along the side seams on the pattern envelope examples. It looks okay on the bigger busted woman, but kind of strange on the smaller one. I decided to fold out about 2" of the belt height on my pattern piece. I also cut 2.5" off the length of the skirt pattern before I cut out the fabric. No other alterations were necessary.

Special care was taken when cutting out this geometric patterned fabric. I wanted the front bodice necklines to match and not cross any lines of dots. I also wanted equal distance between the dots at the top of the back neckline and all the dots to match up size wise along the side seams and the sleeves. This is always a pain to do but pays off in the end.

I left off the interfacing the pattern calls for along the midriff band. I also omitted the back zipper. Here you can see the band without the belt tied around:

The neckline was finished with Wright's polyester bias tape. Click the tutorials label on the right of my blog for more information on this technique. All the seams were finished with my overlocking foot and the hems sewn with a twin needle.

I love the fit of this pattern and will most likely make it one more time, perhaps with short sleeves for summer.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Simplicity 2459 - Brown polka dot baby dress

Here is a little dress for Rachel. She's 2. Trying to get a 2 year old to stand still so you can capture the different design elements of her new dress is hard.

First she wants to dance.

Then she wants to wander away.

She spots something on the ground that peeks her interest. Fine, maybe I'll get a good shot of the back this way.

Or not. Taking a picture of the back of something on a toddler is just about impossible.


Aaaand, I give up.

This dress is the combined effort of my mom (who was in town last week) and me. She did all the major sewing, I finished up the details. I've made this pattern before in overall form. This time around we made the small for the width and the biggest size for the length. It seemed a little short, so a solid band was added to the bottom. The fabrics are thin whale corduroy, both from JoAnn's.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Vogue 1261 - Black + white colorblocked tee

The idea for this top came while I was making view A last year. I was just starting to notice the colorblocking trend and thought it would be fun to have one side in black and the other in white. During the month of August (aka the month of wadders) I stitched it up using some polyester jersey. The fit was horrible on that first one and the fabric was gross. But worst of all was that it looked like some sort of court jester costume. Hmmm, what now? I decided to cut the front in black and the back in white, a la the Michael Kors Spring 2013 fashion show. He did pants, though.

The fabrics are both bamboo knits, purchased with my September Mood fabrics gift card. For me, the hardest part of making these types of garments is finding two fabrics that are the same content but different colors, especially if I already have it in my mind that I want to use specific shades. Mood has this knit in 21 colors! Here is the black and the white. This is the second time I've used bamboo knit, and it definitely won't be the last. It's incredibly soft and feels like pajamas. (And FYI, I'd just had my daughter a month before those pictures were taken, and was about 25 lbs. heavier.)

Okay, let's talk about fit. I am not a fan of the original drafting of this pattern. See how wide the neckline is? Now picture it with 2 extra inches in the center front and center back. Yeah, that first one was so wide it was falling off my shoulders. I'd made the XS. Also, the ends of the sleeves were drafted too tight and they cut off my arm circulation. My alterations were to pinch out 2 inches from the center front and center back, resulting in 4 inches total eliminated from the width. I cut the front and back on the fold and added 3/4 inches to the bottom of the sleeves on both front and back, tapering to nothing at the underarm. I cut the neck binding 2 inches smaller then drafted.

Then, because I am always looking for little details to make my garments unique, I hemmed the white fabric in black thread and the black fabric in white thread. I used a twin needle to get a coverstitch look.

I have spent the past 2 weeks in pants making hell and needed an instant gratification project. Start to finish this top took approximately 3 hours, and I'm a slow seamstress. That's a quick make! I think it's super cute and the high-low hemline is really on trend right now. This is a great top to throw on when I don't feel like making much effort but still want to look put together.

Vogue 1261

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Red wool + leather DKNY dress knockoff

When I saw this advertisement of Ashley Greene in a DKNY leather and wool dress, I instantly knew I would copy it. Mixed material garments are everywhere right now, as are cutouts.

I was going to do it in black just like the example. However, as I was getting some winter projects together, I happened to set some red wool crepe next to my roll of leather hides. The reds were a perfect match, so I made a red dress instead.

The red lambskin I purchased awhile back to make into a skirt. I still have two skins of it left, maybe I'll get to that sometime this winter. Both fabrics were purchased online from Sometimes they have really good sales on their skins, and I think these red ones were $15 a piece.

When I started work on this dress, I had nothing to go by except that taxi cab picture posted above. DKNY has since released the RTW dress on their website. Personally, I think it's a bit of a disappointment. The leather is pulling across the front and the cutout looks smaller because the neckline under the collarbone is lower. Obviously they made that dress custom for the Ashley. Anyway, mine is different in that it has leather across the back and no sleeves. (I actually did make the sleeves, but they pulled terribly, so I went back and removed them.) Also, their dress has a seam at the waistline and more of an A-line skirt. The top of it has princess seams which, had I thought to do the same, would have made the bust a LOT easier to fit. Oh well, there's more then one way to construct a garment.

The hardest part of this dress was getting a tight fit through the bust. If it was too tight the leather at the neck would gap forward; too loose and I was showing off my strapless bra. I worked and reworked this area quite a bit, and finally got it to a point I feel comfortable with. Good posture is a must AND, I'll be wearing it strictly as a date night dress and not to church.

I used that same bias tape finish for the armholes as my last dress. I also added a facing to the lower neckline and started the lining below that. The triangular shape of the leather was slipstitched to the lining after the upper neckline had been sewn by machine.

This dress has a full lining made from red polyester. I usually like to use Ambiance lining but couldn't find any in a matching shade.

 I used a really old pattern from my stash, NewLook 6717, long OOP. I'm not sure why I hung on to it this long. I used to purge patterns after they'd been used and I made the ruffled version years ago. (It is now too big and I don't care for the floral anymore.) But, it's a nice basic dress with lots of variations and design possibilities. I made a muslin to perfect the fit and raised the neckline up to my collarbone. Then I drew a line where I wanted the wool to meet the leather and added seam allowances.

Knocking off designer dresses is fun and challenging. I'm hoping to get another one done in the next few weeks!