Monday, April 28, 2008

Liberty of London on sale at Textile Studio

I love Liberty of London prints, however the price tag has stopped me from ordering thus far. They typically run about $35/yd, and are usually only 36" wide. That's too rich for cotton, even for my 'champagne tastes'. Textile Studio Patterns just put up a few prints for a great price, and there's an additional 10% off everything on the site right now as well.

$24.95/yd 54" wide

$16.50/yd 36" wide

$24.95 54" wide

And if you need some inspiration, J.Crew is offering a few styles with Liberty fabrics. At their usual bargain prices of course. :-)

J. Crew $98

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

McCall's steps it up

I'm not a big McCall's fan, but I do remember being vaguely interested in this dress pattern.

McCall's 5658

Then while browsing I stumbled upon this number. Look familiar? I love it when knockoffs just fall into my lap. Especially when they are Diane Von Furstenberg.

Diane Von Furstenberg Sirabe Dress, $525 on

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Kors be continued

I was really trying to finish up this dress over the weekend, but unfortunately I didn't quite make it. Okay let's be honest, when I say 'quite' I mean it still needs a collar, hems, zipper, and seam binding for the waist and armhole seams. So at least a half a day's work at my pace. *

The inspiration: Michael Kors

However it is starting to look pretty nice, even if I do say so myself. The fabric is a dream to work with, and the lining technique went so much easier this time around. I used the same procedure as described here by LauraLo, adding 3/4" to all the lining vertical seams. The last time I tried this I only used 1/2", and it wasn't enough. 3/4" was a little too much it turns out, but this was better than not enough. How much extra to cut is dependent on turn of the cloth, which varies for each combination of lining and fabric. LauraLo talks about that as well.


I'm surprised at how well this technique handled curved seams, the raglan sleeve seams came out very nice. I think I was pushing it with the princess seam though, it looks fine from the outside but inside its a bit bunched up in the deepest curve. I should cut out a notch and sew it up by hand to make it lay flatter. And if I were to do this again I think I will take LauraLo's advice and sew the darts separately, pressing in opposite directions. They are a bit bulky for my taste sewn together. I also did not press the 1/4" seams open, just flat, and did not stitch in the ditch to hold the hong-kong finish to the edge. Pressing would give a slightly better edge but honestly I think it looks perfectly nice without it, and the ditch stitching was not necessary to hold the fabrics in place. With a more slippery fabric this might help, but it saves time if you don't need it.

I'm trying to decide how to finish the waist seam, LauraLo did a dress recently by applying ribbon to it to cover the serged seams. I may try that or I may put bias binding on both edges to match what I'm doing on the armhole seams, we'll see. Any preferences?

*You know those people that say 'oh I just whipped this up in a couple hours!'? I'm not one of them. Probably never will be. I'm choosing to believe it's my attention to detail and extreme pickiness and not my lack of skill.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Getting packages is fun. Even when DH gets them first and says 'did you order MORE fabric??' while holding up the box like it has a disease.

Fortunately this one was not of my doing, Cidell was kind enough to donate some buttons to my non-existent stash, and pass along a few patterns she thought I would like, that coincidentally were given to her by Caroline G. (thank you Caroline!).

I have some rayon jersey that would be perfect for that Hot Patterns top or dress, and while looking at the Vogue 1809 (OOP) I realized the seamlines are scarily close to that Lela Rose dress I was just posting about. Hmmm, I think she read my mind. Or her intern read my mind. :-)

Vogue 1809, look at view A

Thank you Cidell!!!!!!

Silk Jersey Wrap Top

I managed to finish up this silk jersey top in time to wear it to the symphony last night. This pattern is a morphed version of Vogue 8379 ,which is a dress. The last version was done in a leopard print silk jersey. Yes I have a thing for silk jersey, now let me get back to stalking my online fabric sources for it. :-) I purchased this fabric at Michael Levine in LA.

I made only a few changes in the pattern/construction, I was really happy with it the first time. The first change I made was to interface the cuffs with fusible tricot, they were too floppy without it.

And secondly I took even more fabric out of the lower back on the pattern, I had done a small adjustment the first time but was still getting fabric pooling under the belt. The fit this time around is so close to perfect I'm going to leave it alone.

And here's the inside, I don't have a serger so I make good use of my machine's seam/overcast stitch. I used it for all the seams. It has plenty of stretch and is very strong, however it is the most hair-pulling, expletive-screaming thing to rip out, ask me how I know. I've learned to be absolutely sure of the fit before I sew, and to be super careful the fabric is feeding properly. I only had to rip one small area in this top. So I was able to skip the expletives for the most part.

The top had it's debut during a night on the town in San Francisco, here's a pic of me on the balcony at Davies Symphony Hall with City Hall in the background. See my outfit? I wore the same thing with my leopard top during the PR weekend in LA, and while we were walking to a restaurant Melissa B in WA pulled me aside and said, "Those guys just stared at your butt!!!". Good enough for a repeat I think.
We went to a german restaurant called Suppenkuche and had some extremely rich food, including something called Spatzle that I will have to ask Christina how to pronounce.

Black Forest cake, YUM
And this is how I get DH to take me to the city, with promises of plenty of beer and other assorted alcoholic drinks. He hates the crowds and the traffic, but puts up with it to make me happy. It does make his glass go down a lot faster than mine though. :-)

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spring Sew Stylish Magazine

I just picked up this issue today for $6.99, there's lots of great articles, including one by Ann Steeves of Gorgeous Things on welt pockets. Here's the rest of the contents from the Taunton website:

Spring Fashion is a special issue from Sew Stylish that previews the newest styles. As you create the featured fashions, you'll also master important sewing techniques that you'll use again and again. Just some of what you'll find here:

Draping 101 - covers dress forms, designer techniques, and how to use draping to achieve different looks.

Construction Zone - shows you how to master the bias, enhance your hand stitching techniques, perfect the welt pocket, and sew without instructions.

It's So Fitting - includes easy sleeve fitting, beyond the basic dart, and adjusting pants from waist to seat.

Best Kept Designer Secrets - gives you an insider's look at how to design by proportion and do-it-yourself modular design.

Make It Happen Studio - offers a quartet of spring fashions that are simple to make and sure to turn heads:

  • Elegant cover-up with a draped hood
  • Beautifully layered chiffon top
  • Show-stopping lacy top with pintuck pants.
  • Designer coat that you can customize your way
  • And so much more

Best-kept designer secrets
Charles Kleibacker: Pure Bias Brilliance 16
Design by Proportion 19
Make It Happen Project: The Painterly Touch 22

Discover draping
Meet the Dress Form 26
Magazine Extra: Make a Quick & Easy Duct-Tape Dress Form 28
Draping 101 28
Draping Details 30
Draping by Design 33
Make It Happen Project: Drape & Cover 36

Construction zone
Hand Stitch Nation 42
Perfect the Welt Pocket 46
Who Needs Instructions? 50
Drive Your Sewing Machine Right 53
Make It Happen Project: Sweet Overlay 56

It's so fitting
Let's Get Flexible 60
Easy Sleeve Fitting 63
Beyond the Basic Dart 68
Make the Adjustment 70
Make It Happen Project: The Perfect Pair 74

What else...
Cool Tools 10
25 Tips to Simplify Your Sewing 78
Common Terms 88
Behind the Scenes 90

Designer Inspiration

Online snoop-shopping can be a motivational experience, especially when browsing high end sites like Net-A-Porter. This Lela Rose dress immediately caught my eye, first of all it's yellow, a very hot color right now. Second, it can be yours for the bargain price of $1195, so of course I'm curious about what kind of quality that will buy. After staring at the pictures I noticed several details worth mentioning.
Lela Rose Spring 2008 $1195

One of my favorite details of this dress is the seaming in the front, the curved under bust seam and darts, coupled with the vertical and horizontal waist seams, beautiful! The topstitching brings out the detail, and I like how the horizontal seams stand out differently from the vertical seams .

Now take a look at the back zipper, it doesn't go all the way up the collar. I've worked on 2 different dresses with similar collars and never thought of doing this, as long as the neckline is wide enough to get it over your head it doesn't really need to open all the way. I really like how it preserves the line and shape of the collar.

Here's the inside view, this fabric is a double faced cotton so it doesn't appear to be lined right here, although the description does mention a partial cotton lining. Look how neatly the zipper is finished.

One more detail that drew my attention is the flap seam I believe it's called, the flap of fabric encircling the hip seam. I remember seeing a technique like this in Claire Shaeffer's High Fashion Sewing Secrets, but I'm not sure if I have the name right. It's not my favorite look and I probably wouldn't use it, but it is an interesting design feature.

The finished product, voila!

Now of course this doesn't compare to snoop-shopping in person, but you'd be surprised what you can glean from pictures. There's no reason why I couldn't incorporate some of those details in my upcoming projects, and for a lot less than $1195.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Pre-washing fabric

At Cidell's suggestion I am turning this into a blog post, you seasoned bloggers seem to think of everything in terms of 'how can I format this for my blog?' (which seems to me, 'do I have a picture relevant enough to justify my blabbing about it?'). So here it is, hopefully someone will find this useful.

I hate drycleaning. I wash everything, including silks, bras, wool sweaters, lined skirts, etc. I do however use delicate wash bags, a front-loading washer, and delicate detergents like baby shampoo depending on what I'm washing. About the only thing I won't throw in the wash is a blazer, too much structure to get screwed up there.

One of the big benefits of sewing your own clothes (to me) is the ability to prewash fabric before making a garment. Most fabrics shrink up to some degree when washed; weaving and knitting processes can place a lot of tension on the fibers. When you expose the fabric to water, heat, and/or steam, the fibers relax and assume their final form. As long as you pretreat the fabric in the same manner you plan to clean it when it is done, you can pretty much eliminate any sizing surprises down the road. A few caveats would be some fabrics (like denim) shrink progressively, meaning they shrink a bit more with each wash. I wash new jeans 3-4 times before hemming for that reason. Also, I've heard some silks (like dupioni) lose their sheen when immersed in water, and of course anything with a lot of structure or interfacing (like blazers) don't do well in the washer either.

If you are too afraid to wash your entire yardage, you can cut swatches and test those first to see how they behave. Cidell found these awesome coatings at Michael's fabrics that I immediately ordered some of, they are double-faced cotton with a 'classic' stripe pattern on the reverse. She sent me swatches to test so I washed these 3 in cold water, baby shampoo, delicate cycle, and then air dried.

I outlined the swatches on paper before washing, after they dry you can line them up to see how much shrinkage occurred. None that I could see, this is nice fabric. :-)

I only washed half of each swatch to compare, the washed pieces are on top. There didn't appear to be any change of finish or color.

Other information I obtained from this experiment was the fabric is already somewhat water resistant, it kind of beaded up when I took the swatches out of the washer. The red swatch looked like the color had soaked through to the tan stripe side at first, however once it dried the color returned to normal. Don't ever assume one color will behave exactly like another! And finally it hardly frayed at all, I wouldn't expect a tightly woven double-face to anyways but that's good to know.

Weekend projects

The J.Crew boatneck top knockoff is officially done! I was having issues with the silk twill drooping lower than the cotton batiste underlining and was debating on whether to start taking apart seams. I decided to just do the hand hemming of the sleeves and hem and hope it turned out okay, this seems to have worked this time. :-) There was one bubble on the right sleeve that I thought for sure I'd have to fix, but somehow in the hemming and pressing it turned out fine for the 3 feet test. (If you can't see it from 3 feet away it's good enough!)

Morph of New Look 6356

Back, showing my puckery hand-picked zipper


Inside showing the hong-kong finished seams and hems

And my new Consew iron decided to provide a nice little display of it's power, by scorching a brown spot into my sleeve. Notice how it went on the cream area of the sleeve? Not the brown where it would be unnoticeable? It's so smart. I may have to keep it anyways. Note to self: do NOT lay your almost-finished garment haphazardly across the board and then leave. It WILL fall against the side of the iron. Murphy says so.

And finally I got started on another fabric from the LA PR weekend, a silk jersey from Michael Levine. I pulled out a TNT wrap top pattern morphed from Vogue wrap dress 8379.
It still needs cuffs, collar, hems, belt, and front edges. I should be able to finish it this weekend, but isn't it pretty so far?

Friday, April 4, 2008

New Fabric!

Unfortunately it's not for me. :-) I offered to make a knockoff of this Michael Kors dress for a friend using this Vogue pattern.

We've already done 2 muslins, and I think the fit is very good. However she is in Virginia, and I'm in California. Did I mention I agreed to do this long distance? So far the only part in my favor is she's very similar to my measurements, although she has a fuller bust and smaller hips. Sigh, life isn't fair. I've had her looking for fabric for a month now, she finally picked this gorgeous tweed wool from Emma One Sock.

I had her ship it to my house directly, and I gasped when I opened the box. That tends to happen whenever I order fabric from Linda at EOS, she has the nicest fabrics. I'm super excited to start working on it, I just have to order an invisible zipper and get some more cotton batiste for the underlining.

And I have to thank Cidell for awarding me my first ever blog award, not bad for only being around less than a week. I will do my best to live up to the honor!

I know I'm supposed to pick 10 other blogs to pass along the award, but honestly I think they've all been nominated already! I'm going to have to do some digging and come up with some others.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Milly at Hancock's?

I was browsing through my local Hancock Fabrics today when I found this gem tucked in next to some hideous poly 'prom' fabrics.

While inspecting the print more closely, I found the name 'Milly' scattered throughout the fabric, which is characteristic of the designer Milly. Sure enough, I found this dress on Net-A-Porter on sale for $412 right now. The fabric is a lovely silk charmeuse, it was labeled as silk but nothing more, for $16.99/yd.

Milly Satin Bandeau Dress

Does anyone know how Milly fabric found it's way to Hancock's??

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

More J. Crew

I like J. Crew. A LOT. * Not only is much of my wardrobe from there, I often find inspiration for my sewing projects on their website and in the catalogs. As soon as this cami came out a few months ago I was smitten.

J. Crew Joelle cami, $78.00

I decided to go out on a limb and make my own pattern, I won't even call it draping because I don't have a dressform and I'm sure I broke all the rules, whatever they are. I just took some muslin fabric and started pinning and cutting. Here's what I came up with:

Now while I think I got pretty close to the real thing, I wasn't thrilled with it. I've been trying to figure out why and I decided it's just not that flattering on me. The gathers at the waist kind of poof out at the belly, and the pleats on the top just look better on someone with a smaller bust.
Like the lithe J. Crew model you see here.

I have 2 more colors of silk charmeuse ready to go that have been languishing while I mulled this over. Leave it to Erica B. to come up with something equally cute but probably a better fit for my figure, this simplicity top also done in charmeuse. I think the tank style, coupled with the princess seams and less tucks will be much more flattering on my shape. It just so happens simplicity is on sale at Hancock's until tomorrow, I think I will pick up this pattern and make up a quick muslin to confirm my hunch.

*DVF you will always have a place in my heart (and my closet), but I just can't wear pretty dresses everyday.