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 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!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

gown muslin #2 - Burda Classics 1/2012/0004

Here is Muslin #2. If this were an ordinary dress, I'd move on and cut from my 'real' fabric and fix as I go. But 4-ply crepe silk is too special to risk messing up, so I will make the final tweaks and sew up one more muslin with facings and everything.

In this version, the armholes need work and I have added a princess seam to the front bodice - that needs a little work, too.

Let's talk about foundations! Miss Celie told me she was in a local lingerie shop where they do alterations to bustier bras and I think I need to go there! See, here is the thing. When I tried on the bustiers I bought online, they were really hard to get into. Of course, that makes sense - you need a snug band for a bra to be effective. In a bustier, that snug band is long and being in the back, it is pretty hard to reach, much less identify alteration solutions. What hadn't occurred to me is that a lingerie shop can perform fitting adjustments to a RTW bustier. Duh. Consider this information to be filed away for future consideration. I'd love to wear summer tops with interesting details on the shoulders (more lace!) and I'll be wanting a strapless solution for that.

For my dress with straps, it is a Spanx situation:
Skinny Britches - I criss-crossed the straps in the back to work with
my rounded & sloped shoulders. And at the risk of TMI, there is access
for use in the Ladies Room. I think you know what I mean. I've had these
Spanx for a while - I can't remember if it came with the trap door,
or if I added it. But that is a necessity, you know?

OK, back to the alterations. Here is where I have actually learned something during my blogging years. Pre-blogging, I would have just taken in the side seams and wondered why the dress still fit poorly.

This is altered Muslin #1. I know the armholes still need shaving, but that's easy and I left that for last.
The very first alteration I made was a horizontal alteration where the bodice meets the skirt. In the back, that amounted to sway back adjustment and it continues around to the front where it tapers to nothing. Next I narrowed the front piece vertically, along the center front line.

After the garment was balanced, I proceeded to decrease the size of the bodice - both in the front and in the back. I just sewed along the darts until I had princess seams.

The vertical tuck along the bust apex was like doing a FBA in reverse.
Once I had all the altering figured out, I went back to my paper pattern and transferred all the nips and tucks back to paper. Then, I just sewed the whole thing up again. The front darts created little bubbles that displeased me, so I'm not sticking with darts - I am going to have princess seams on the front of the bodice.
The dart under the bust is not ideal for me.  The only way to prevent a pointy tip is to curve the dart to match my shape. I thought about making that dart smaller by rotating some of it to a side dart, but I still don't think it would give me the smooth shaping I am after. So - I am going to make a princess seam that goes to the neckline. That way, I can keep the neckline from gaping, too. Also, it's not a big deal, but I am going to shorten the back darts to leave a little more booty room in the skirt.
I do like this length. It works with heels or flats.

I am curious about how this fit will really work. There is still quite a bit of wearing ease in the area where the bodice joins the skirt. After years of unsuccessful fitting attempts, overfitting myself, this time I am NOT making a snug fit. All it does is make my butt look big. Yes, I still have a 14 year old girl in my head. I could even add lightweight boning to those skirt darts to keep them from collapsing. If it doesn't work, you will be the first to know. Right after I find out. If you have experience with this, please share!

Next steps:
Once I have the dress pattern fitted, I will make a muslin for the jacket. The jacket will follow the lines of the bodice in the dress - in other words, I am envisioning a cropped style. Bolero jackets seem a little dated to me, plus I don't think it's a flattering look for me unless the jacket has vertical front center seams. Therefore, I am thinking more of a layering piece that closes in the back. 'Jacket' is the closest word.

I admit I had a flash of panic over all this and briefly felt like "I CAN'T DO THIS! I am just not sure how this is going to work!!" But that feeling passed and I realized the process will provide the answers. If adding sleeves to the dress works better than having a separate 'jacket' layer, then so be it.

The reason I am sharing that feeling of panic is because it is part of sewing; it is part of my sewing anyway. It can be stressful to buy expensive fabric and make something you don't wear every day. After all, a t-shirt that doesn't work out is not a very big loss, is it? But an outfit for a daughter's wedding HAS TO WORK OUT. It is a one shot deal and it needs to be right. Otherwise, her marriage vows won't stick! Ha ha, just a little reality check there - of course it will all be FINE.

Maybe I will have a jacket muslin to show the next time I post here. I hope so!
Are you doing anything interesting this weekend? Howie and I are celebrating TEN years of wedded bliss and we will have a fancy steak dinner downtown this evening. I sorta wish I had this jacket NOW. I'd dress it down, of course, but I wouldn't mind sparkling this evening.

Happy Sewing!

Friday, January 16, 2015

gown muslin #1 - Burda Classics 1/2012/0004

I sewed up a size 46 with no adjustments and I am happy with this first pass. I took photos in order to study the fit and here's a shot depicting the narrow width - which is my mistake because I didn't leave the slit high enough in the back.
The bodice needs to be narrower to prevent gaping in the neckline when I move around.
There are no seam allowances on the neckline or armscye of this muslin - I cut those at the finished edges.

The slit in the back still needs to go higher so I can walk easily.
There are no seam allowances on the neckline or the armscye - and the back of the bodice needs to be narrower.
There is excess fabric in the bodice under the arms, so overall, it is just too big.
Ordinarily I would have cut a size smaller, and it would fit the shoulders a bit better, but then I would have to do a FBA.
Eh, six of one and half dozen of another, right? Need to alter it regardless of which size I start with.

There is a LOT of excess fabric in the back (above the level of my elbows) but I don't plan to over-fit that area.
 I think it looks more balanced and proportionate to leave a "suggestion" that my back area is a little bigger there.
Also, it keeps the dress from getting too snug around my belly, which wouldn't look so hot either.

I like it on me better than I expected to. 

I have a couple ways to approach this and it boils down to choosing whether to make a dress or separates.


  • add the 3/4 length sleeve
  • make the sleeve from the embellished tulle
  • body of the dress in solid 4-ply silk
  • embellish bodice with beaded tulle, adding an illusion boat-neck neckline

I blurred out the embellishment on the lower part of the dress - I only want bling on the bodice.


The dress would be sleeveless and sewn in the 4-ply silk. The jacket would have an organza base layer to support the embellished tulle.

There are so many ways to sew a jacket - here is just one inspiration pic:
Isn't that gorgeous? 
And, of course the jacket could have fasteners in the back instead of the front. Imagine this with 3/4 length sleeves:
I think I have just talked myself into separates. 
Way back in the past, I was a working musician and we generally wore black for gigs. I had a wardrobe of black separates that I mixed and matched liberally. I guess that's why I lean towards wanting separates. I could imagine shortening the dress later and I can imagine wearing a beaded jacket /top with a leather skirt or slim pants.

So yay for blogging! This is helping me make decisions. Before I started writing this morning, I made the mistake of looking at the internet. Anne (the Clothing Engineer) just posted lots of pictures from the new Marfy catalog. Just having a piece of beefy silk on deck makes me susceptible to images that take advantage of the amazing drape in 4-ply silk. And it makes me think "Oh I should make something more interesting than a column dress!!" but that is not helping me move forward! There are always a million ways to do something and it doesn't have to be the ULTIMATE, BEST, MOST PERFECT DRESS EVER. That kind of thinking will paralyze me!!

I need to keep moving forward!
hmmm, cute blinders
I could make some like that ....