Thursday, December 4, 2014

Vogue 1203 - Fit and flare black w/ red polka dotted wool skirt

First I want to thank everyone who left a kind and heartfelt comment on my last post about baby Joshua. Your well wishes and encouragement really made my week. Adjusting to life as a family of six has definitely had its challenges (the laundry! packing!!) but I am gradually figuring it out.

Understandably there hasn't been a whole lot of sewing going on around here. I have managed to make a skirt out of some lovely Rebecca Taylor wool from Mood fabrics. I’ve been eying this fabric for awhile now but couldn’t quite envision what I wanted to make out of it. It’s been sitting in one of my many Mood boards just waiting patiently. I tend to go for bright/sparkly/interesting fabrics and this black wool is more quiet and subdued. But then I was checking through some of my boards hunting for fabrics that have sold out since I added them – as you do if you are as fabric obsessed as I am – and I saw that it was almost sold out. Ack! Into the cart it went, even though I still had no idea what I was going to do with it. And pretty much right after it arrived I knew exactly what I wanted to make.

This pattern is a Tracy Reese designer pattern that came out in 2010. Sadly it is now OOP, and I couldn't even find it on Vogue's website in their out-of-print area. (Though looking these patterns I see tons that I own and still plan to make. This is what happens when you let things marinate in your stash forever and a day.) One of the things I really love about this pattern is the shaped waistband. You can’t tell from the line drawing on the envelope, but the waistband flares out at the top, giving some nice breathing room to the wearer. I also adore the fit and flare shape. It's a nice change from the standard pencil or A-line that I normally go for.

Since my “print” was at such a small scale, I knew I could get away with a design with lots of pieces. However, I had to consider this fabric a stripe when cutting it out and stitching it up as I wanted all my dots to line up. Most of the work was done while laying it out on a single layer of fabric. I was also careful to pin the lines of dots as precisely as possible before running the seam through my machine.

Instead of the exposed metal zipper called for in the pattern I used an invisible black zipper. The envelope calls for a 9″ zipper but I didn’t paying attention and used my standard length zipper for a skirt which is 7″. Since this is a high waisted skirt I am sure I will have to wiggle into it. Next time I will use a longer zipper.

This wool pressed beautifully and was easy to work with. I would have been done with this skirt in record time but I at first thought I wanted to use the reverse side for the center front and center backs. It didn’t look as great as I thought it would so I took all the pieces apart and resewed them with the right sides facing out.

I tried really hard to line up my dots across the top of the skirt and waistband, and had to restitch this area several times. Also the waistband was abnormally large for a Vogue pattern. Normally I have to let this area out to accommodate my square shape but for this pattern I had to actually grade down for the waist.

The full lining was made in black ambiance from my stash. One thing to note is turning up the hem of the lining 1.5″ per the pattern instructions did not work very well with the flare of the bottom. I tried several different methods to make it work and finally had to cut off the excess fabric and do a simple 5/8″ double fold hem.

I am sure you are all tired of these dressform pictures. It's just not the same as seeing it on an actual body, right? Hopefully it won't be very much longer until I'm back in my pre-pregnancy clothing and am able to model my sewing creations. Yesterday for the first time I got a pair of skinny jeans on. (Never mind the muffin top covered by my loose blouse.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014


I thought you all might like to see a picture of my new little boy! This is Joshua Wesley, born October 16th at 8lbs. 7oz. and 21in. long. You might think that's big but I've had two bigger babies (and one smaller) before him! I am up about two times a night feeding him and am pretty exhausted at this point. However, all of my kids have slept through the night at 2 months so fingers crossed he follows the same pattern.

This little man gave us the scare of our lives. Born with the lungs of a preemie despite being full term, he was pronounced in respiratory distress minutes after birth and whisked off to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). My thoughtful nurse encouraged us to snap a quick picture before he was taken away.

He was suppose to be in the NICU for only a few short days until his lungs could adjust to breathing normal air. However, at 48 hours old, he went into a downward spiral. His oxygen levels dropped dramatically because his left lung collapsed. The doctors got that re-inflated and he stabilized, only to have the oxygen start dropping again. This time they inserted a tube into his chest to suck out the oxygen that had leaked into the space between his lung and his lung cavity, causing the lung to collapse again. Once more he stabilized, then again started to drop his oxygen levels. The doctors were scratching their heads about what was causing all this trauma, and were having to resuscitate him in between procedures and bedside x-rays. He finally ended up on an oscillating ventilator, hooked up to a tank of nitric oxide and given a dose of synthetic surfactant. Five hours after the initial lung collapsed he stabilized for good.

Sitting in a waiting room for that amount of time while your baby is fighting for his life is terrifying. It was the darkest night of my entire life, and the only thing that got me through was my faith in God and in his being in control of the situation.

Everyday of his stay in the hospital I got up early, got my kids ready for school, and went to spend the day with my baby. I had no time to heal, to rest at home while my body recuperated, to enjoy the solace of being surrounded by only my family. Every afternoon I had to leave him there in the care of strangers and hope that he would still be there when I returned. If you've never experienced having an infant in the NICU I cannot explain how hard it really is. I was so grateful for the care of the doctors and nurses who saved his life, but I was incredibly sad every night that I didn't have all my children under one roof.

We were warned that Joshua might have a few more setbacks after that really horrible night but he never did. Thanks to the prayers of hundreds of people all across the country, we saw our little man get steadily better and better. I brought him home on October 29, thirteen days after his birth. It was the first time my other kids got to meet their brother.

Going through something like this has a way of putting all of life's experiences into perspective. Five days after Joshua came home a spark plug exploded in our minivan, ruining the engine and causing thousands of dollars of repair work to be needed. We ended up completely replacing the vehicle. Had this happened a month before I would have been super upset. When it did occur, though, I could only be mildly annoyed. The worst thing in my life that could have happened didn't. My baby did not die in that hospital. Every other setback pales in comparison.

Life is precious.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Vogue 1200 - Black + white houndstooth jacket w/ black leather inserts

I am on an outerwear kick. There is a whole pile of these types of garments in my queue that always gets shoved to the side for pretty dresses or simpler patterns. No more! I love outerwear and can't currently make fitted things anyway. Might as well stitch them up. This particular pattern is an Anne Klein design that came out in 2010. I purchased it right when it was released, decided on the fabric, and placed them both in my "winter planned garments" bin. As far as I know nobody ever made the jacket and blogged or wrote a review about it, and the pattern went out of print. Which is really too bad because it is a great design with some lovely details.

The design details I liked include the over-sized collar, bias sleeve and hem bands, bias sides (although I ended up changing those), two-piece sleeves, snap closures and topstitching. I decided to change the sides and undersleeves to leather for an on-trend look. In the end I had barely enough houndstooth for what you see, so that decision saved me from wasting my fabric.

The fabric is a woven houndstooth of mystery content purchased locally, most likely from Hancock fabrics. It is really thick but has a loose weave, so that it shed like crazy and had some drape. It did iron well, though, so there must be some cotton or rayon in it. It does not feel like polyester. I am not sure how insulated from low temps I am going to be wearing this jacket. However, because I live in southern Texas, I still think it will get plenty of wear.

Cutting this jacket out was almost the death of me. There are 19 pattern pieces, most of which are cut twice. Then, because the jacket is almost fully interfaced, you cut them all again in interfacing. I matched the houndstooth print across the fronts and made sure each side mirrored the other. This all had to be done on a single layer of fabric, and I used my triangle to make sure everything was square before I cut into it. I spent 4 days cutting it all out and really sweated those last few pieces fearing I wouldn't have enough fabric.

I was a little fearful this big collar would obliterate the shape of my shoulders, but it sort of curves up at the edges. I'm not sure if this is by intention on the part of the pattern designer or is caused by using a really thick fabric, but I really love the playfulness of it. Besides changing the sides to leather, the only two other deviations I made were to leave off the interfacing on the undercollar and omit the shoulderpads. With a collar covering a good bit of the shoulders, I didn't feel them necessary.

The lining is black Ambiance bought from JoAnne's. A nice thing about this pattern is the facing and lining to not meet up over a bust apex. Lots of big 4 patterns do and you end up with a seam right over the bust, which isn't too flattering. I also appreciate having a back facing.

You may notice something a bit different going on at the bottom of the lining. It is actually finished with a piece of grosgrain ribbon as per the instructions. This was my first time doing anything like this, and it really gave it a nice finish without the need to handstitch the bottom lining to the jacket.

I used large brass snaps from my stash for the closures. These use to come in black as well, but I thought the brass a nice change from all the black and white already present on the jacket. I went to replenish these the other day and they were no longer carried at Hancock fabrics. Hopefully JoAnne's still has them or I will have to find an online source instead. Sewing on these snaps really takes some time since I like to make sure all the snap holes are consistently the same along the entire edge.

The leather I used was purchased years ago from They use to carry leather skins every fall and have a half off sale around Thanksgiving each year. I have a nice collection of colors and weights now that I'm slowly working my way through. I did interface the leather on the body to give it the same weight as the houndstooth body fabric. The sleeves were left un-interfaced, also per the instructions, so that they can bend easily and not look stiff.

Topstitching through two layers of thick fabric and two layers of interfacing was a bear. I had to stuff everything under my machine foot and the thread broke over any seams. I also broke at least 4 needles before wising up and using a more substantial leather needle.

Dressform pictures:

This project took at least 2 weeks to complete because of all the steps involved, but I had a lot of fun making it. The fabric behaved itself nicely and once I saw how flippy the collar was I got really excited. I'm extremely happy with the fit. I did not muslin since this jacket is suppose to be somewhat loose fitting, and I love how it skims the body without being overly boxy.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Vogue 9006 - Dark olive cowl-neck silk blouse

Here’s the latest installment for my silk blouse collection, this time with short sleeves. The fabric is a lovely dark olive silk charmeuse from Mood fabrics – now sold out – but they have lots of other prints and colorways available. To add interest I used the shiny side for the front and the matte side for the back, back collar and sleeves.

The pattern is Vogue 9006, view B. I made a straight size 12 and cut 2″ off the hemline of the pattern pieces before cutting out my fabric for less of a tunic look. The back and back collar were cut on the straight grain instead of bias, just because I wasn’t sure how it would hang with a bias back. Obviously the front needed bias to get a nice cowl drape.

I washed and dried this fabric before cutting into it. Silk charmeuse does look it’s best when dry cleaned, I’ve found, but this girl does not dry clean on the regular. Lined and tailored dresses and skirts, yes. Everyday blouses, no.

I found that this pattern has a lovely fitted shape for a pull on design. There are no zippers or buttons but look how nicely it contours to my dressform. I will definitely be using this pattern again.

 I starched the bias front along the top, bottom and arm holes before attempting to stitch it. This is an old trick of mine when dealing with bias garments. As long as you plan to wash your finished item, it’s a great way to make sure the seams don’t stretch out while you work with them.

I turned under the cowl facing once and stitched to give it a nice finish. Everything else was sewn with french seams, as I do all my silk blouses. The hems are machine blind-stitched.

This was a simple and fun blouse to stitch up. I have hardly any green in my closet and I thought this color perfect for fall. I also ordered a wool tweed in olive to make a matching skirt, but that will have to wait until I can muslin it to my body.

I actually finished an awesome jacket before this blouse but want to get a picture of it on me and haven't been able to find the time. Hopefully I'll post that this weekend. Currently I'm working on an unlined jacket in wool boucle that is looking promising. I seem to be having a very productive fall sewing wise, which is sure to come to a grinding halt when baby boy arrives. ;)

Friday, September 19, 2014

McCall's 6992 - Black + white fashion sweatshirt in quilted cotton knit

These fashion sweatshirts have been popular for the last few years, and I have finally gotten around to stitching one up. I enjoy making garments that are interesting and different from what I find in department stores, and none of the thicker knits I was seeing really caught my eye. That is until I saw this awesome quilted cotton knit at Mood fabrics. (It has just recently sold out but they have other interesting quilted fabric, though currently none with stretch.) I loved the subtle city buildings at night print and the texture, and only needed to order a yard.

 For the sleeves I used black ponte from my stash and some fun black rib knit for the neck and sleeve bands. Rib knits are hard to find locally around here, y'all. I kind of thought those types of fabrics were store staples.

 I used McCall’s 6992 for the pattern, which I chose because the sleeves and bodice looked somewhat fitted. This design has a slight high-low hem to it. The darts on the top of the sleeves enable a close and flattering fit. I cut one size down from my normal big 4 pattern size, a typical choice when sewing knits, and the fit is spot on. This pattern has great variety to it, and I can see myself making at least one more, maybe with some fancier sequin fabric.

Taking pictures of black garments is always so difficult! Here are some close ups so you can see some of the details better. I really adore the mix of textures that make up this top.

Although the quilted fabric is a knit, it was very prone to unraveling. I finished the side seams using the overlocking stitch on my machine, but the edges really stretched out and I had to aggressively press them into submission. The rest of the garment was finished with hand whip-stitching. I actually really like how neat the inside turned out, as most of the time when I'm working with knit fabrics it doesn't look so nice.

This was a fun project for me because the knits I worked with were somewhat thick and stable. I have the hardest time with the thinner variety! In fact, I have given myself permission to buy any good quality knit garment that I like and not try to tell myself I can just go make it instead.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Burda 1-2009-123 - Green w/ aqua military style parka

According to Burda, parka jackets were all the rage 5 years ago. I'm not sure if that's still the case, but I think this style of jacket is rather timeless. I was drawn to this design for its patch pockets, stand collar, cuffs, topstitching, snaps, and belted middle, and bought this lightweight poly taffeta from Gorgeous Fabrics especially for it. I'm trying to make things that I don't have to worry about fitting perfectly when baby boy is born, so after 5 years, this jacket finally made it to the front of my queue.

I really liked the belt and belt casing of the original design, but sever fabric shortage forced me to amend the pattern. Instead I made an elastic casing by sewing the outer fabric and the lining together, threaded the 1.5" elastic through, and stitched the ends closed. I always love garments with waist definition, even though I currently look like a brick from behind.

Dressform pictures:

Wow, was this jacket a lot of work. The fabric was a complete bear to work with. It stretched, its edges wobbled, it shrank in when it was pressed. The patch pockets took FOREVER to complete because it was so hard to get a crisp and straight edge. Plus there's three lines of topstitching. I really love the look of topstitching and actually enjoy doing it too, but 3 times around was a bit much. Oh, and 16 snaps. Sixteen snaps y'all, with top and bottom pieces to each one. My house rang with the sounds of hammering for days.

I had a little bit of this aquamarine silk crepe left over from this dress I made in August of last year, and knew it was the perfect shade to match the blue bits in my fabric. I ordered another 2 yards of it from Mood for the lining. That front facing is suppose to extend down to the hemline, but I had to improvise, again due to fabric shortage.

Here are the pictures from the magazine:

I love my new jacket, but I am really relieved to be finished making it. August was not a great month for sewing. I started 4 projects that either ended in wadders or the need to purchase more fabric. Sitting on the floor cutting out fabric is really tough on my poor body with this huge bulging belly, and to have the project end in an unwearable garment 3 times in a row was frustrating and depressing. I still have a strong desire to sew, though, and am hoping to be super productive in September. Baby boy is due mid October.