Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!

Here's wishing everyone in blogland a happy holiday, whatever or whenever that may be. :-) Here at Loohoo Manor we celebrated Christmas this morning with a few gifts, having spent too much money recently (ahem serger) to justify any more extravagance.

I bought this fabric at Stonemountain and Daughter during my Thanksgiving trip with Christina to make DH a shirt, and have been stealthily working on it ever since. Discreet sewing takes a different skill than speed sewing, but they both have their difficulties. I am terrible about cleaning up my floor when sewing, and will often leave fabric scraps on the ground for weeks. Ask my husband how much he likes that. Anyways, I didn't want to leave scraps from the shirt on the floor for him to see, but I also didn't want to clean up everything or he'd be suspicious of that too. So I painstakingly picked out the shirt bits from the rest and mostly left the mess. I think I should just start cleaning up after myself.

Thanks to Cidell, I was able to finish the shirt yesterday afternoon and have it under the tree before DH got home from work. He wasn't expecting anything so it was a nice surprise. He agreed to model it for you all only if he could pose with his newish gun. *sigh*

The fabric is a 100% cotton, but it's got a unique feel to it, not quite a seersucker but it doesn't hold a sharp press. DH gave the thumbs up.

This was a TNT pattern I had made back in June for his birthday, by copying his favorite short sleeve shirt. All the construction methods are straight from David Page Coffin's Shirtmaking book, which sadly was checked out of the library the other day when I went to get it. I had remembered how to do everything except for the collar band and attaching the collar, but a quick email to Cidell fixed that. I owe that woman a gift basket.

We had plans to go to Idaho to visit DH's family for Christmas, but the storms have dumped so much snow the roads are practically impassible. So we decided to stay home and just relax. I hope to finish up some UFOs and mending, and catch up on a few blog posts. Hope everyone is able to find some time to relax as well!

Hugs and Stitches,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Vogue 2981 Pants

I finally got around to finishing my first pair of pants, this Vogue pattern that Adriana nailed recently. If mine look half as good as hers then I owe partial credit to her for all the help she gave me. Thank you Adriana! The other half of the credit goes to luckylibbet, who kindly invited me over to her home to help fit the muslin and take measurements. It was like talking to a library's worth of fitting books! Thank you H. I guess I'm out of halves, but I also got help from other bloggers and patternreview, you know who you are and thank you!!

Here are the adjustments I made to the stock pattern after all my tweaking:

-Straightened hip curve to a straight line from waist to hip
-Redrafted my own waistband from a piece of 2 1/2" bias canvas
-Added 1/2" darts over the back pockets
-Took in 3/4" from each side seam in the back
-Narrowed legs by 1/8" on inseam and outseam
-Changed slant pockets to double welt pockets

Fabrics and notions:

-An amazing black/white/green plaid stretch wool from Michael's fabrics. It was a dream to press, sew, and wear.
-Black silk underlining
-Cotton/poly pocketing from Charles Zarit Sewing Supply, which I really like since it doesn't tend to wrinkle.
-Black 7" YKK zipper, also from Charles Zarit
-Black rayon seam binding for the inside waistband and hem raw edges

I LOVE these pants. The underlining is far superior to lining, especially for pants. It moves as one unit instead of pants-within-pants. And the hem is handstitched to the underlining, so it's completely invisible. The fit is better than anything I've ever bought, it was worth all the tweaking to get here. And amazingly, I made no adjustments to the CB, CF, or crotch curve. I think I found a pattern that works for me.

This was my first project completed with the help of my new serger, and it was tempting to use it on everything I could! I restrained myself and used it only to serge the underlining to the fashion fabric, finish the fly and fly facing edges, and finish the pocket edges. All places I didn't want extra bulk, and I'm very happy with the look from the outside (no pressing cloth or padding required!), but my inner couture seamstress still prefers the look of a hong-kong or bound finish.

This was also my first attempt at double welt pockets, so naturally I decided to put in FOUR of them. Now to be fair, I did spend several hours just practicing different methods, so I felt pretty good about my technique before I tried them on my real pants. Out of the Vogue instructions, Debbie Cook's tutorial, and Kathleen's, I decided I like Kathleen's the best. It is slightly less bulky and quicker, however it is absolutely essential to make the pressing jig, and to sew incredibly accurate seam allowances. After trying the Vogue instructions, which involved seperate welt pieces, I decided I didn't like any of the methods that have you deal with welt pieces. Both Debbie's and Kathleen's are what I'll call 'integrated' methods, the welts are formed through the sewing and folding steps. It's hard to visualize, even with their great pictures, so I recommend trying them out for yourself.

Yes I matched up the plaid on the waistband and fly too. I didn't know you didn't have to so I was very very careful with the cutting.

I accidentally sewed the waistband facing in the wrong way, however in this case the only thing that happened is the CB seam is now offset, but it does reduce the bulk a little there. I forgot about this when sewing on my label. Oops!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Speed Sewing

What to do when you've got a Christmas party to go to and nothing to wear? If you didn't sew the answer would be shop. :-) Now the only thing that pops into my head is, "What do I have in my stash?!". I remembered this BWOF pattern I had copied from Cidell's issue, and how she was able to make it on short notice too. I had some stretch wool leftover from another project, and a few colors of silk charmeuse available, so I whipped this up in about 12 hrs total, from the time I started adding seam allowances to the traced pattern. Not bad.

I did do flat pattern adjustments before starting, and I have to say they got me really really close. I straightened the hip curve, adjusted for swayback, and added booty room in the back. I checked the armholes against my favorite TNT silk tank pattern and added a little where it would have gaped, and that was it. The back darts still needed tweaking but it was surprisingly close.

Since this was speed sewing, I committed some sins against fine fabric that I would normally never do. Nothing is lined, although it really doesn't need it with the fabrics I chose. I serged (separately) all the seam allowances, including on the silk (yes, 30 lashes, I know), but did press everything open. I chose to bind the armhole and neck edges instead of creating the ruffles, and I didn't hand baste them down either. I got really lucky my ditch stitching caught almost everything with just pinning, and I was able to redo some areas discreetly. I can't say enough good things about a 70 microtex needle and Coats XP fine poly thread on silk charmeuse. So forgiving.

I asked Cidell for help on this one, and she in turn called up the omniscient Marji, for additional help. Thank you both very much for your quick emails, they were much appreciated. Following their advice I put in a lapped zipper on the side seam, instead of an invisible in the back. It was my first time with a lapped, and it wasn't perfect but I was pleased with it. I can see how it will be much less hard on the fabric. And I do like the side seam location, my CB seam is very curvy and I'm not thrilled with the way zippers lay back there. However, the lap itself, even done well, adds some bulk to the side seam and sticks up more than an invisible. So I'm not crazy with the look, but if I hadn't tried that location I never would have discovered the advantage of the side seam zipper. One caveat though, all the instructions I found for doing a lapped zipper involve basting the seam closed, and when you are all done the area that was basted is visible. My charmeuse still shows the needle holes from that basting. FYI. It was fine on the wool.

This was right before we ran out the door, I had an hour to spare after finishing.

You can't really tell from the pic, but that is a burgundy shanked button. The only one in my stash. I bound the keyhole placket following Claire Shaeffer's High Fashion Sewing Secrets.

Top of the lapped zipper caught in the armhole binding. This held the lap down very nicely over the zipper stop.

Yes that's a brown zipper. It was all I had.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fabric shopping and another DVF knockoff

Thank you everyone for the kind wishes, it's amazing to me how many people are all too familiar with that feeling of violation you get after a home burglary.

I have been sewing a lot lately, but using my limited minutes at the machine and not the computer! So again, I apologize for the lack of updates. I had a fabulous Thanksgiving week, I took the entire time off work and sewed, cooked, played with the dog, and slept. I stayed away from the malls completely, and only stopped into one store on Black Friday, Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley, CA. Christina was visiting from Seattle, so I enticed her with a 20% off coupon they sent me. It wasn't hard.

I snapped up some DVF wool knits for, guess what, more DVF knockoffs. As well as some shirting for DH, silk charmeuse for the top of a dress, and a gorgeous DVF woven that Christina said I just had to have. I will take pics of all of it and post so you can drool too. :-)

Christina and I in front of a wall of silks, that's my Patrones skirt, and she's in a BWOF dress, but you can't really see her fabulous tights or grey suede boots.

I got home from purchasing the fabric at about 2 in the afternoon on Friday, by Saturday at 2 I had a DVF knockoff made for my sister's birthday that night. I was going to get her a gift certificate but I think this went over much better.

It has a funnel neck, gathered front at the side seam, and a plain back. The fabric is a DVF wool double knit with a faint diagonal pattern to it, very soft and stable. When my sister came over for Thanksgiving dinner I had her try on the muslin I had made for this dress, she loved it so I told her I'd make her one for Christmas. She sure was surprised when she opened the box on her birthday!
I was also able to almost finish up my first pair of pants, and I sewed a '15-minute top' pattern I got from another sewing friend out of some more wool knit. I can't wait to show you the pants, stay tuned.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I'm back

There's nothing like a home burglary to steal your sewing mojo.  That's right, just a few months after Christina's home was broken into, I came home one night about a month ago to find our house had been robbed.  I can't even explain how terrifying it was to have walked into my house, set down my purse, and gotten all the way over to the bedrooms before I saw all the drawers pulled out and realized what happened.  

Apparently we had a considerate burglar, because he shut the door on the way out and didn't disturb anything in the house besides taking several guns, my husband's laptop, and one of my jewelry boxes.  A bunch of other random small things on the desk were taken too, but overall we were lucky.  

I'm going to take a second to encourage everyone to prepare for something like this, no one is immune, and if the police and insurance companies are right this sort of thing may be happening more often.  First of all, the second you realize your home has been broken into, GET OUT.  Do NOT walk into the house, and if you are already in LEAVE.  Call 911 and wait for an officer to come and make sure it's safe to go in.  You have no idea if the burglar is still in your home.  Second, after you do that you will likely have your cell phone with you, but if you don't have the numbers to your credit cards, bank, etc. it doesn't help in that moment.  If you do nothing else, put one of these numbers in your phone.  The 3 credit reporting agencies have a 'fraud alert' service, if you call one of them and report a potential identity theft, they will notify the other two.  This puts a 90-day fraud alert on your account, so if someone tries to open up new credit in your name they will have to call and speak to you first.  And if your credit card is used fraudulently, this shows the card companies you were on top of it.  

Here are the numbers for the credit-reporting agencies, all you need is one.

Equifax  1-800-525-6285
Experian 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion 1-800-680-7289

Go here for more information about a fraud alert.  (Thanks Christina!)

If you keep bank statements, credit card statements, or anything else with sensitive information in your home, it's a good idea to at least do this much to protect yourself.   If you really want to be prepared, then store all the numbers to your bank and credit cards in your phone as well.  Having the number to your insurance agent isn't a bad idea either.  And finally, what really would have helped is having a good inventory of the house.  I wish we had taken an afternoon to photograph the valuables, it would have simplified figuring out what was gone,
and provided evidence to the insurance company.  We were able to piece together this information anyways, and our insurance covered everything that was taken, but it was definitely stressful.  Just go take a picture of your jewelry box (and sewing machines!), you might really need it one day.

So things are pretty much back to normal now, except for the new alarm system and gun safe (Which my husband had purchased on a trip before the break-in and came home to find the guns robbed!).  I had some irreplaceable family jewelry stolen, so since I got a decent amount of money for the gold content from the insurance company, what did I do with it?  Bought a serger of course.

Say hello to my new baby, a Babylock Imagine Wave.

I kid you not, I brought the box home, took her out, and was serging within 10 minutes.   The jet-air threading and the auto thread-delivery system WORK.  You can spend your time fiddling with different stitches and thread configurations instead of trying to balance tensions and thread your loopers.  I plan to use it mainly for edge finishing, as I much prefer the look of a pressed-open seam to a serged one, but I do have some knit tops and tanks to make that will do just fine on the serger.  I scooped up a bunch of spools of Maxi-lock at a Hancock's sale last week, so I'm set for awhile.  

I have been sewing, but it took awhile for my energy to return.  I made another DVF style wrap dress in wool jersey that I'm fiddling with, and this morning I should finish up a sweater knit top from a pattern I got from friend called the '15 minute top'.    I apologize for my lack of posting, and hope at least one person benefits from what I learned!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

La Mode button ad

Thanks to Lolo for finding this, an ad for La Mode buttons from 1943. First off, I had no idea they had been around so long! Second, the message could easily be applicable today.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Vogue skirt and sewing labels

I was finally able to meet up with my friend to finish the Vogue skirt, as it turns out a few of us were able to get together Friday night to take her out for her birthday! This is what I was doing until about 15 minutes before our dinner reservation:

Hand-hemming the skirt to the underlining
But it turned out fabulously, she wore it that night and raved about the fit and the comfort. She liked it so much she kindly agreed to pics for the blog, so thanks R!!!!

With a red Elizabeth halter from J. Crew, and her adorable dog Marlo.

And in Summerset's style, here's a parting shot. I received my 'loohoo originals' labels from, and proudly sewed the very first one into my friend's skirt. I am ridiculously happy about these. Maybe it's because I'm such a label slave.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My first attempt at pants

I had a fairly productive sewing weekend! The seam ripper actually spent a good bit of time in my notions box instead of glued to my hand. Sewing is so much more enjoyable when you don't screw up. I'll just do that from now on. :-)

I finished up my friend's Vogue skirt except for the hem, which I need to pin on her. I'll see if I can talk her into modeling it for us. I also sewed up a copy of a workhorse tank top in my wardrobe, from some rayon/lycra jersey. The RTW ones I have are getting holes in them from the weekly wear.

So my main hurdle this weekend was a muslin of Vogue 2981 Alice and Olivia pants, that Adriana nailed recently. This was my first shot at pants, and frankly I'm confused. I don't know where to start with the fitting. Adjusting the crotchal (is that a word?) area is all sorts of counter-intuitiveness. The actual sewing was fairly straightforward, I followed the Vogue directions exactly for the construction and fly zipper, leaving off the pockets and belt loops. I'm hoping you fitting mavens out there can help me with this. Pardon the crappy Joann dollar table cotton and the occasional panty line.

Front, which is too loose at the top and was falling down. I'm holding onto the zipper to kind of keep it up. I feel like there's too much fabric in the inside leg seams in the crotch area? It's also poking out at the hip where the side pockets would be,I think my hip curve is straighter there.

Here it is pulled up and cinched in a bit at the waist, I feel like this pulls some of the fabric out of my crotch, but I'm holding it too tight at the very top and I'm getting the dreaded 'muffin top'.

Side, again it is falling down and tilting to the back, but there is a breeze blowing from the left side of the photo so the fabric really doesn't fall that far.
Front pulled up, I think the side seams are pretty straight here.
Back, hanging too low and the crotch is too far down. Again feels like too much fabric at the inner leg.
Cinched in at the side seams, this also seems to pull some of that fabric from out of the inner leg/crotch area, but I'm not sure if this makes other things worse?

I'd appreciate any advice you have for me! I cut a straight size 12 on these, no adjustments, and by the chart I should have been a 14, so they seem to run standard big-4 sizing big. On dresses I typically make a swayback adjustment but not much else below the belt. Thank you!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

DVF Julian knockoff

This turned out to be easily one of my favorite dresses. I can see myself making this up in a bunch of different fabrics. I borrowed a DVF Julian wrap dress from a friend of mine (thanks again Lauren!!), and made a copy using the techniques I've written about before, see here. This one is so simple it's almost unfair. Most of the dress is only 3 pieces, a back and 2 fronts. Add a couple sleeves, a belt, some cuffs, and voila! Super cute dress that could go to work with a cami or out and about without. I already knew what the fit was like on the original, and I felt good about my pattern copy, so I completely skipped my usual muslin. I almost always make one with a new copied pattern, you never know how close you got to the original. I made this up in an afternoon, from some rayon/lycra I purchased at Stonemountain in Berkeley. I also found some green wool jersey while I was there, which will be my next reincarnation of this pattern.



I'm starting to think copying RTW requires less time than sewing from patterns! There's a whole lot less fit-tweaking to do, and you can make small adjustments after copying the pattern in places where you want to improve. I have one more dress style I copied as well, with a fuller skirt and long sleeves. Just need to find some more fabric...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Skirt progress

I managed to make a pretty good start on my friend's Vogue skirt before my husband and I took off for camping last week. It's made of a black stretch wool from Michael's fabrics, and lined/underlined with charcoal grey stretch silk charmeuse. Here are a few pics of the progress:

Front, belt loops were attached to the outer waistband only

Inside waistband, the rigeline boning was stitched through along the seam allowances
Inside of waistband, I only interfaced the front panel as I want to take advantage of the stretchy fabric.

Inside out, still needs the bottom edge of the waistband finishing, zipper, and hem.


I am still sort of dreading attaching the lining to the hem vent and back seam, I think it will all have to be done by hand due to the underlining method of attaching the lining. Does anyone have a good method for doing this? My RTW clothing all looks so neat on the inside, there must be a way to do it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

DVF cuffs--a tutorial

I've made vented cuffs on knits a few times now, following the directions for the infamous Vogue 8379 wrap dress. They work fine, but leave an unfinished seam allowance on the inside that always seems to fold the wrong way when I put my garments on. I recently made a copy of a Diane von Furstenberg dress that a friend lent me, and spent some time studying the cuff. I think I figured out the method used there, and took lots of pictures when making mine so I could put together this tutorial. I hope someone finds this helpful!! I know I was really confused by the Vogue instructions at first but it does work.

DVF Cuff Tutorial

Catching up

Well a new hard drive later and I'm still having computer problems at home, so sorry for the lack of updates. I have been sewing, shopping, and brainstorming so I have lots to tell you about but my laptop decided it hates blogger and ditches my internet connection every time I tried to get in.

First of all, thank you to Lindsay T and Sigrid for nominating me for a blog award, thank you so much! Lindsay I am so flattered that you want me to blog more, and Sigrid I am amazed that I actually inspire YOU. The debt is certainly on my end.

In other news, I have again accepted a 'sewing for hire' project, if all goes well I may actually let my friend take me out to dinner upon completion. However this time said friend is somewhat local, and she happens to live within 10 minutes of Stonemountain fabric store in Berkeley. No of course that didn't influence my decision. :-) Last weekend I went over her house to fit the muslin for this Vogue skirt, she has a dress by black halo that she adores and wanted a skirt just like it.

Knowing LauraLo and Erica B already made this one up, I figured it was a shoe in. The muslin fit like a dream the first time, even though I had to blend two sizes and take out 3 inches of length between the waist and hip. Girlfriend was obviously talented with the measuring tape, since I didn't measure her! I also found some goodies at Stonemountain, a rayon/lycra print that I already made up into a DVF knockoff last weekend (pics to follow), a DVF wool jersey, some silk organza to play with, and a couple rayon/lycra solids for some knit tees.

I had just recieved a packet of swatches from Michael's Fabrics, with a bunch of gorgeous wools and silks, so I brought that with me for my friend to paruse. She ended up finding a lovely black wool/elastic blend, and I couldn't resist getting some of this great plaid for wool pants. I picked up a couple Vogue Alice & Olivia patterns a few weeks ago, I figure it's probably time for me to attempt some pants. I think this one is the front runner right now.

And finally, I managed to snag a copy of Patrones Extra # 272 from the lovely Christina, who has just posted some pics from the magazine and is kindly having a contest to give one away on her blog! I've got several things earmarked already, stay tuned...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Clothing label sale

Well I was going to wait to announce the news that I finally purchased my very own clothing labels for loohoo originals, but they just sent me an email about a 20% off sale. Of course I ordered a few days too early to take advantage, but for anyone else who's interested here it is!

Code: "halloween" for 20% off the entire website until Monday September 15.

This site is one of the few that makes custom woven labels with very small quantity requirements, I ordered these which take about a month to get according to the site, but the cost is very reasonable, 50 for $22 with the code. And I know Christina at assorted notions has ordered from them before and was happy with her purchase. If you've been thinking about it now's a good time to do it!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Going with the Flow

Remember this linen shell from months ago? The one I said I had several colors of silk charmeuse ready to go for? Well I finally dug out this pattern again, made some final tweaks, and sewed it up over the weekend. Only it didn't turn out the way I planned.

Do you see anything different here?


Yes the pleats are backwards. That's because I decided I wanted the dull side of the charmeuse on the outside, but forgot when I was doing the french seams and sewed it inside out. Of course I didn't notice after only one seam, I think I had the entire front section together. So instead of ripping it all out I decided to just go with the flow, and make it up shiny side out with inside out pleats. I meant to do that, right?

On the upside, I did draft an all in one facing for this version, following the instructions in Claire Schaeffer's High Fashion Sewing Secrets.* I interfaced the facing only, finishing the raw edge with pinking shears. And I made my very own fabric covered button for the back neckline, and a fabric loop also following Saint Claire's book. Why is there a button there you ask? Oh just a little problem with a too-short zipper. The sewing gods obviously did not want me to finish this shell the way I had imagined. They were probably also responsible for the grease/dirt spots my sewing machine left on the right shoulder when the fabric bumped up against the needle arm. *&%$^$ Luckily after washing it 3 times after finishing it, I was able to get them out. And I can now say with confidence that pinked, interfaced silk charmeuse holds up perfectly well to machine washing.

All-in-one facing, it faces the neckline and armholes together,
and is tacked down at the princess and side seams.

My fabric-covered button (thanks Susan K!)

I will take some outfit photos later this week, but I'm planning on wearing it tucked into skirts and pants with a cardigan. I really needed some interesting layers like this for work.


In other news, my wonderful friend in DC for whom I made the Michael Kors knockoff is sending me two more Diane von Furstenberg dresses to copy. She has an impressive library of them, (most of which are my size!), and is generous enough to let me borrow whatever I want. Now to find some more silk jersey....

*I feel like I should send this woman more money, I have used so many techniques in that book.