Sunday, March 29, 2015

muslin #1 Marfy 3619 dress

It's time for another installment in Sewing for Mother of the Bride!

I had a bit of a moment when I tried on this muslin of Marfy 3619. Even in this raw state, the dress feels beautiful- just the feeling you hope for when sewing for a special occasion. Now that I have this option, my first idea (the column dress) is fading fast. I like this dress better!

It definitely needs tweaks, but I have never (I mean NEVER) sewn something straight out of the envelope and had it come this close to fitting well. This is what I usually get after measuring and altering pattern pieces before sewing the first muslin. Forgive me, but I am a little emotional at the moment! I am 5'9" (175cm) and I carry most of my height above the base of my armscye. It just surprises me to get a decent fit right away - does this mean that medium height people have to alter Marfy patterns? Is Marfy difficult for petites? I'd love to know -

I'll shorten the back waist-neck length and narrow the back a bit under the shoulder blades.
There are shoulder pads in place, by the way. 

It surprised me to find that the front bodice isn't cut on the bias. I think that might work well, so I'll try it on my next muslin. With a little more give from bias cut fabric, I might not need an FBA. Then I'll tackle the sleeves. I will be using shoulder pads - that is one of the attractions of this pattern. I'd like to create a strong shoulder line with shoulder pads and perhaps embellishment on the shoulders.

So ... about the fabric ....
New York City isn't that far from me, and there are stores there with ultra amazing fabrics. I am talking about places like Mendel Goldberg and B&J Fabrics. The embellished tulle I bought in January is really nice ... but ... I could save it for a future project, too, couldn't I? Of course I could! We'll see how that shakes out. 

In the meantime, I will get this pattern fitted. The first step in fitting, for me, is to take photos. I have 43 photos of me in this dress from every angle. I'll study them and then start the process which involves a lot of trying on, taking photos, taking it off and making the next tweak. I don't like to change too many things at once, so it is time-consuming. I can do it, but I am considering setting up a lesson or two with Susan Khalje. You only live once!

Marfy 3619

I also got the pattern for a matching jacket. I like it, but I am not even sure if I really need a jacket, you know? Maybe the dress will be awesome enough on its own.

Here is the jacket:
Marfy 3621

I am not sure if I mentioned this, but the main reason I thought about wearing a long dress was to hide my feet in case I needed to wear unattractive shoes. I had been struggling for many months with foot pain and after seeing a podiatrist, I went in another direction and tried acupuncture. I am delighted to report that I am completely pain free in my feet now. I don't know how it works, but I love acupuncture.

OK, off to make use of what remains of this weekend. I'll be back when there is progress to report. 
Thanks for checking in on me & Happy Sewing!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

capsule sewing

Every now and then I realize I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR. I sewed a few coordinating knit tops and easy pants and things are better now!

First up was an Alice Top by Style Arc and I lengthened the sleeves:
I kinda love those 80's mutton sleeves.
(I may have been barking instructions to my patient photographer here.)

 And a Tootsie Top:
This top revealed that I NEED to master full bust adjustments.
I am not crazy about the fit here, but it's sewn and I can wear it and I'll do better in the future! 

Then there was the Milly Top. Now this was fun because of all those pleats. I used the gigantic dressmakers tracing paper (bought from Susan Khalje's website) and traced the lines to the wrong side of the fabric. Then I took my time pinning and went down my little perfectionists' rabbit hole, happily sewing and listening to chick lit audiobooks. That is my idea of a good time.

To tell you the truth, I usually wear a long cotton gauze scarf with this - it keeps me warm and it hides the pulling in the armpits. You'll see what I mean in a few more pics down the page.
I love these pants! The print is like an interesting camouflage and it has the teal and magenta colors I am enjoying these days. So fast! So easy!

Elle pants by Style Arc
Next up is the Amy Knit Top (with more Elle pants):

This magenta knit top goes with the camo pants, and I like it with these denim paisley pants, too.

I changed out the cowl. The one that came with the pattern was just a rectangle and I didn't like the way it flopped - it wasn't a pretty drape. So I looked through my various drafting books and I figured out that I wanted a curved pattern piece. I got it to work, though there was a fair amount of fudging in the process.


If you look at the Style Arc website, someone else used this exact same fabric to make pants that look just like mine! She used a different pattern, though. 

So yeah, let's talk about the ole FBA a little more. After finishing the teal top, it was too tight, so I added an underarm gusset to give me a little more room:
Of course I had already serged the side seams. Yeah. So I picked them out and added in that elongated football shaped fabric. This top looks really awful on the inside now, but I don't worry too much about making the inside look just as good as the outside. As long as it is stable and the seam allowances are neatened, that is good enough for me. But the good news: that gusset was the difference between wearable and not wearable. At this point you may have guessed I don't like to sew muslins for knit tops. I figure I might mess it up, but I will learn and do better next time.

After the teal top, I realized I had to do something. I have done traditional FBAs and they haven't always gone so well for me. So I did a "cheater FBA" on my next top. I just added an inch to the side seams on the front of the top. That meant I had to add the same to the sleeve, but it actually worked out OK.

My next top was the Dee Knit Top. In my mind, I wanted that twist to occur at my high hip level. But I neglected to alter the top to make that happen. As you can see on the illustration, the twist does ride rather low:



So I chopped it off and added a bit more fabric and I shirred it on the side seams:
I added a channel to the side seam using bias binding and put some narrow elastic in there.
I will try that twist feature on a future top - but I like this, too.
I especially like the way my cheater FBA turned out! It was easy and effective.

I think I better make a little list of adjustments and hang it on the bulletin board in my sewing nook. This cheater FBA needs to happen every time from now on.

So this is my late winter wardrobe capsule. Technically, it is spring now, but March is never sunny and warm - that won't happen for several more weeks. That's why the long sleeves are necessary. I stuck with rayon knits for the tops because I love the way rayon breathes while feeling very cosy. For the Elle pants, I made 2 pairs from stretch denim and 3 pairs from rayon ponte knit. Those fabrics will stretch out and get baggy, so I like to wear them at home before the pants are hemmed and finished. At the end of the day, I take in the side seams to make them fit again. Right after washing they might be a little tight, but they relax quickly and fit fine.

So, while I have been updating my everyday clothes, I have also been super interested in fancy stuff, too. On Thursday evening, I got to meet Leisa of A Challenging Sew.  We really hit it off! Then on Friday, I visited the Khalje Carpet Gallery where Susan has been holding her classes. [I love Maryand!] I saw all the delicious projects in the current class of The Couture Sewing School. If you aren't on Instagram, you might want to set up an account and check out @susankhalje. She is posting stuff that will make you just swoon! I'll write more soon about my latest plans for sewing formalwear. I am having so.much.fun with this! More to come -

Saturday, March 14, 2015

what is flattering anyway?

When the garment is tight in the right places and loose in the right places, it is flattering. That is my definition of flattering.

For so many years, I had no idea whether certain silhouettes would flatter me because I couldn't try them on to see how they looked. The shoulders were so far out of whack that I couldn't make heads or tails out of what I saw in the mirror. It took me a few years to fully understand my fit adjustments and now I can fit bodices and sleeves to myself. The world is my oyster now, right?

I can sew this for myself if I want to:
But just because I can, doesn't mean I should.

I know I can successfully fit those sleeves and shoulders on myself. I am sure of that now. Having a daughter getting married is providing me with a whole new opportunity to wear things I could never buy in the past.
Well, almost .... I don't want to go to all that trouble unless the finished garment will be flattering.

I am going to describe my anatomical situation using pictures off the internet instead of my own muslins. I may as well preserve a little bit of privacy! My bust measurement fits nicely into the numbers on the sizing charts of patterns. But the distribution of the bust measurement causes a bit of an issue. If you wear small bands with large cup sizes, you know what I am talking about.

When I make a bodice like this (below) there is a lot of fullness at the side. I added a line in the pic to show you what I mean.

My back is narrow below the armscyes, and before alterations, my garments fit the way this blouse fits the model below. This model and I do not fill out the backs of our shirts in the area under the armpits.

The overall girth measurement at the bust is fine, in terms of fitting into the garment, but it's not fine if you start looking more closely at the front and the back. Fit-and-flare styles are unsuccessful on me; to my eye they look a lot better on women who have a nice V shape in the back, and I don't have that.

So my sartorial choices have come full circle! When I was younger and confused about how to fit myself, I just sewed things that were a little blousier. I always thought I would wear more silhouettes once I figured out the alterations, but I have revised that expectation.
A blouson style is still better for me, like this:

This beauty is by Carolina Herrera.
Instead of diving into the construction of my MOB outfit, I am going to work on patterns for the silhouettes that work best for me.  I am just going to stop pursuing things that aren't right for me. I guess now is as good as time as any, right? ha ha (I will turn 58 in a couple weeks :)

In other news, since my last blog post, I have accomplished a few little miracles! Yes I am bragging, let's get that out in the open. I figured out my crotch curve!!! It is kind of a "U" shape. I had sewn and improved the Barb pants a few weeks ago, and I was very close. When I sewed 2 more pairs of pants, the different fabrics showed me that I still wasn't quite where I wanted to be.

I invested some time and energy into a pattern many women find useful - Eureka! Pants That Fit and while doing that I had a brilliant idea. I still had a pair of beautifully constructed pants from about 10 years ago. I keep them in case I re-gain a little weight. I realized I was re-inventing the wheel by messing around with a new pattern and all that muslin-making, so I pulled out the old pants and rubbed off a pattern from them. Perfect! All I needed to do was take in the side seams. It just goes to show that once you have the crotch curve figured out, you can lose or gain weight - but the crotch curve won't change. In addition to that old pair of pants, I have a very slim pair of pants that I bought on clearance from Lands' End. To get a pattern from those pants, I unpicked them. Once I made the pattern, I just re-sewed them and they are back in circulation. What struck me most was that both patterns have the exact same crotch curve. Now I can sew skinny pants and looser fitting pants with these 2 patterns. Yay. Or maybe I mean YAY!!!

Also, I feel like I have developed a new method of sourcing my materials. For the last couple of years, I have started winter and summer with a pile of fabrics that coordinate. As the months roll by, I sew down the pile. Because the colors coordinate, it doesn't matter too much whether I make a top or a bottom out of any particular fabric. It all works somehow. And here is another small but very important aspect of this method - I keep buying the same solids, but in different colors. I am buying from an online vendor that carries basics and I can go back season after season and buy more colors of the same fabric. This is REALLY important to me because once I understand the properties of the fabric, I am so much better able to create successful garments. I know how much it will stretch; I know how much ease I need; I know what kinds of hems and finishes will work. This knowledge saves time, and I don't have a lot of free time. I don't put my fabrics into the closet - I keep them out where I can see them and sew them. This way I am not adding to my stash (which I have reduced significantly by giving away stuff I no longer want to sew).

I dunno, it just feels like I have "gotten my groove" back. That's how life is - sometimes you go through a couple years that don't feel very settled, kwim? Moving and job changes certainly play into it, but other things factor in, as well. I am talking about the state of blogging, the explosion of instagram and the pleasure of Pinterest. I don't think I will ever go back to the intense amount of blogging I did from 2006 - 2012 and I don't need to! I can collect my thoughts on Pinterest and I can share my makes on Instagram. Blogging remains the place I can write a lot of words. As I have done just now :)

OK, all y'all - Happy Sewing! I am going out to shop for shoes with chunky heels and ankle straps. Wish me luck!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

muslin #1 Marfy 3443 dress


I have been sewing a lot muslins lately - this time it is Marfy 3443. This is a dress for the stepmother of the bride. She and I are approximately the same size and I modeled the dress because it looked so dumpy on my dress form. Besides, I would not ask a civilian to model a muslin. I am out of touch with the perspective of a non-sewer, but I am assuming they don't want to post unflattering pictures of themselves on the internet.

I.LOVE.THIS.DRESS. (even though it is too big)
It was only available in 3 sizes and I took the largest,
hoping it would be the easiest to alter.
I stitched up this muslin in short little increments of time here and there, which makes me feel like it almost sewed itself. This is my first experience sewing a Marfy pattern and I can guarantee you that I will sew more. These patterns come already cut out! I loved that more than I can say.

It is Marfy #3443:


I used a silk knit purchased from Banksville Fabrics in Connecticut for $18.99/yard, thanks to a tip from Anne the Clothing Engineer.  That is a crazy low price for silk jersey - but the fabric is a little "rustic" compared to more expensive yardage. It is nice, though, no doubt about it.

I am also inspired by Anne's dyeing successes, so I also purchased the necessary supplies (from Dharma Trading) to dye it a dark teal green. Now, logic would tell you to dye the fabric first and then sew the dress, but I decided to go with the raw ivory color so that I could see the alterations needed. I find it much easier to see the lines of the garment when my muslin fabric is light. One way or another this dress will be wearable eventually (if all goes well, that is :) If Leigh doesn't like it, I'll make it for myself.

It feels nice and swishy to wear.


  • I bought 3 yards and pre-washed the fabric in warm water. I didn't really have enough, so I had to cut the skirt front off-grain - but in a knit it might not matter so much.
  • This is sewn straight out of the envelope with NO ALTERATIONS at all. Size 50 (Italian sizing). It is enjoyable to sew without doing any alterations first.
  • The stretchiness of the fabric makes it hang longer than it should. 
  • I sewed up this dress in such a way that I can take it apart and alter it. There is too much length in the bodice. And I'm going to use powernet as underlining to stabilize the knit.
  • I will explore benefits of applying interfacing to the waistband.
  • I am also open to making any design changes necessary - for example I might extend that front waistband around to the back. Then I could make it snug around the waist to provide a bit more structure & support for the skirt.
  • It calls for a zipper, but it wasn't necessary.
Obviously, I don't do full hair and makeup on Saturday mornings when I am planning to stay indoors and sew all weekend.
So, I think this would be exquisite in a 4-ply silk woven fabric, too. If Leigh prefers that, I will sew another muslin using a woven fabric instead of a knit. Then I am sure it will need the zipper and the fitting alterations would be a little different, too. 

So, anyhow, that is just one of a few things I have been working on. I did sew several muslins of the lace jacket for myself and I had to put them in the time-out corner.

I set aside my MOB project because I need to re-think it. When I had the jacket fitted, it didn't function as I expected. It is a cropped jacket with the closure in the back instead of the front. If I moved my arms about, it made the jacket ride up and form creases above the bustline. Not a good look and certainly not comfortable to wear. So, I am stepping back to think about whether that is even a good plan. 

There are so many competing issues!! For example, I decided early on that I would cover my arms. But after I struggled with the sleeves to the jacket, I wondered if it might be easier to just start doing pushups every day until September 19 and go sleeveless. I mean, really - which option is ultimately easier? I am all for staying in shape, but ... 

So, I ordered another pattern from Marfy and I'll muslin that as soon as it arrives. Ever since we moved, I cannot find my waxed tracing paper! Well, I take that back - the only thing I can find is white waxed tracing paper and that is not too useful on ivory colored muslin fabric. How annoying - I finally caved and bought more. The good news is that I found giant waxed tracing paper on Susan Khalje's website. I wanted the big paper, anyway, so there!

While I was on Susan's website, I gazed longingly at the schedule. She teaches in Baltimore much more nowadays and I feel like a week of sewing with other women would do me good. But alas, I am spending a fortune on all my commitments this year, so maybe next year I can go back for a class. It will be good for me in 2016, too, right?

Happy Sewing all! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. It is so nice to be sharing again.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

plaid vest with brass zipper




There are patch pockets on the front - shaped just like pockets on a hoodie.

Hey Happy Valentine's Day! My rosy plaid vest is just right for a cold winter day. I made this from a double faced wool from emmaonesock.com and lined it with eggplant colored 4-ply silk, finished off with a brass zipper (also in eggplant).

This project took a little longer than I expected because the fabric was not as stable as I first assumed. Every time I sewed a seam, it had to be meticulously basted first, or the plaids became mismatched from the pressure of the presser foot. If I still had my Pfaff, it would have sewn up better, but I gave it to my niece when I saw how advanced she has gotten with her cosplay sewing. She needs a good sewing machine and I can always use an excuse to buy a new one. (and the new one is a Juki F600, which I am really enjoying these days)

I had to cut one panel upside down - and if you look closely at the white stripes, you can see the direction of the nap.

The other issue I had was extremely limited yardage. The fabric was a little pricey and I had no intention of taking the time for a jacket right now, so I just bought a yard to make a vest. I forgot to consider the plaid, so oops! It does feel good to finish a project with very few scraps leftover.


The wrong side of the fabric has pretty purple stripes, but it's hidden now inside the lining. I stitched the seam allowances down, using catch stitches so that everything would lay nice and smooth.


As you can see, I wasn't able to match the plaids vertically at center back, due to insufficient fabric, but I did the best I could. I can live with it.


The lining really makes this a pleasure to wear. The only color I liked was a 4-ply silk so the lining cost even more than the wool plaid! That's why I sewed it up right away. I don't like to let expensive fabric marinate in the stash - it always feels better to just get it sewn and into my closet.

I can't remember the last time I did so much hand-sewing. The lining was installed completely by hand, with slip stitches in the armscyes and fell stitches around the perimeter. When I sew by hand, I lose track of time. It feels like it didn't really take very long, when in fact several hours have passed. I kinda like that.

With this vest finished, I have moved back over to wedding sewing. I am working on the 3rd muslin of my jacket /bolero thing for my Mother-of-the-Bride ensemble.  It is coming along. It is wonderful to be so excited about sewing again.

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

pants fitting #2

Thank you commenters for the helpful advice in my last post about pants fitting.
Here is today's version of pants:







To refresh your memory, here is a pic of pants version #1:
Lots of under-butt-cheek wrinkles and
the dreaded jodphur effect on the side seams.

Big improvement, eh?

Here is how I approached it. I pinned out the excess fabric under the butt cheeks and this is how that looked:
This is the flat bottom adjustment explained here.

Then I pinned out horizontal wedges to get rid of the jodphurs:
This is the back pattern piece - I did the front the same way.
This shortened the side seams.
In the front, I also shortened the center front seam by taking out a horizontal wedge at the waistline. I never actually lengthened the back seam, though. Interesting business, this pants fitting! I bet the problem could have been solved with other alterations - this was the one I tried and it worked so I am going with it. The flat bottom adjustment is explained well on Style Arc's website (here). I don't have a flat bottom, but it works!

This was a very productive sewing weekend! I am still waiting for my lining and organza to arrive so I can't start on my Mother-of-the-Bride dress yet. Maybe I will sew some more pants now that I have a better fit. I'll tell you what, those Barb pants sew up really fast. It was nice to reduce the stash a bit, too. Hope you are having good times with your sewing projects!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

pants fitting #1

Hey there, sewing friends. Who is in the mood to critique pants fit? I am lucky in the sense that I can buy RTW pants and wear them just fine. Nevertheless, pants are so fast and easy to sew that I hate spending money on RTW.

I sewed up the Style Arc Barb pattern using stretch woven fabric:




I would really love to take a pants fitting class with Lynda Maynard. Margy has a wonderful pants pattern achieved from a fit session with Lynda. (I am so jealous!) Alas, I live on the East Coast and have no travel plans to California in 2015. Maybe in 2016? Must plan ahead!!

Here is the pattern I used:


Have you any ideas for me? Thank you in advance!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

thank you Vogue Patterns

 When I checked my email this morning, there was an announcement that the spring 2015 Vogue patterns are out. Approximately one zillion patterns caught my eye.

This sure does look like my MOB fabric and isn't it a lovely use of 4-ply crepe silk.
I love that it has 2 options for a cover-up on the top. I'd make the sleeveless shell from something fancy. And wouldn't you need a slit in that skirt for walking? That would be easy to add.
This is a dress - not a jacket over a dress. I don't care for the black and white, but I would use a dark color in the dress and a lighter /brighter color for the bodice as they have done. The darker color recedes, so it works for my figure type. Seems this would be very nice in a ponte knit.

I love the shape of the faux jacket - great for those of us with smaller shoulders.
oh this is pretty but modest

It would take some commitment to attempt a full bust adjustment, or to change the bust point.
But there are a lot of seams available for alterations. 
I'd wear this whole outfit just as it is. I am not usually willing to wear leggings as pants, but I could do it here.

I like the longer blouse under the jacket.
Oh I like this - because it is pretty simple but interesting and the seams in the back would make alterations easier for me.
What an interesting top with lots of opportunity for color blocking. I like view B with the little tuck in the front.
This neckline is pretty - love the combination of fabrics. I'd feel feminine wearing this.
Not now, though - it's too cold for the back of my neck!
This pattern would make an awesome MOB skirt for me. I love that it has pockets.
And my favorite:
Those shoes are so cute with this outfit and I love this pale yellow on this model.

I love all three pieces. That is a lot of time-consuming sewing right there, so not too likely that I will go after this,
so I am just enjoying the eye candy.

Have you seen the new Vogue patterns? Did you find as many appealing options as I did? I would like to see more women of color amongst the models and I hope that someday it is normal to see models of more average height, build and age. But those are minor quibbles. The hair and makeup are soft and natural, which I love. I really enjoyed shopping the new collection.

Congratulations on a beautiful collection Vogue Patterns!