Monday, May 30, 2011

Fashion Design Studio Makeover - UPDATE

Click here to see more "after" pictures on Manhattan Nest.  Daniel Kanter designed workspace for Daniel Vosovic's (of Project Runway fame)  fashion studio in NYC.  Sufficient space is a luxury - look at all those shelves just the right size for bolts of fabric.  Hmmm, I want to touch that fabric.  I wonder what it will become?
 The studio is much more stylish now!  Wouldn't it be fun to sit by the windows, drink coffee and hang out, watching motivated people hard at work.  Yes, I would find that entertaining.

I want to thank you for your wonderfully supportive and appreciative comments on the prom dress I sewed for Maggie.  It was so rewarding for both of us.

Happy sewing, friends -

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Prom Dress Reveal

Here we have the prom dress I sewed for my niece Maggie:

The final fitting happened (on my lunch hour!) the day before the prom.  And it was a very busy day at work, too.

(stressed out? what makes you ask?)  

The dress fit pretty well - the changes were about the style.  The ruching that had extended down to hip level was changed to end at waist level.  I snipped out the previous seam which had been bound with narrow twill tape, and sewed a smooth seam.  If you can follow that, it means the dress became 1.5 inches too long.  This was a VERY FAST alteration.  I had nerves of steel, if I do say so myself.  I snipped, sewed a long basting stitch to test the fit, then serged away.  I serged a new hem, too.

 Maggie had died her hair fuchsia for a play that ran last week.
Maggie as She-Devil in the Flaming Guns of Purple Sage
I had a really good time making this dress.  I liked her design choice.  I liked that I was allowed to use spandex and the serger.  I would not sew something if I didn't like it.  Now, I am a bit of a fabric snob and would normally prefer working with fine silk - but, come on!  This was a prom dress for a girl who is already thinking about the next thing on her very full social calendar.  I just couldn't see investing a lot of time in it.

When I sewed Kelly's coat, it was like that, too.  I really liked her design choice and I was allowed to sew it using the fabric and construction techniques of my own choosing.  For that project, I did use  high quality fabric, but that's because it will be worn for a long time.  So that makes sense.

I am rambling.  I can feel it.  That means it's time to stop typing, maybe read this over and edit out any excess words and click PUBLISH POST.

*update at 6:36pm*
More photos are appearing on Facebook.  I cannot resist posting.  Nor can I resist stating an opinion.

The hair color?  I don't care.
The nose ring?  I don't care.
But a dress that fits?  I care.

Maggie could have worn this neckline much lower because the dress is very adjustable.  That was the whole purpose of sewing with 4-way stretch spandex.  Fitting was a breeze. 

It strikes me that she likes to be in total control of her image.  She doesn't do cleavage.   Last year's request also had a high neckline.  That little black dress came in handy - she wore it to Senior Awards this year.  This is delicate territory for a blog like mine - I am not a fashionista and this is a member of my family.  

I am just saying that sewing is a very useful skill.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Interview Podcast on Sew Forth Now

You probably read Girls in the Garden blog and listen to podcasts on Sew Forth Now.  Lori is someone you see often in the comments of many blogs.  That made me feel like I already know her - and I was pleased to speak with her last night.  She has already loaded the interview and you can check it out here:

You can download at iTunes just search "Sew Forth Now" or directly each episode via libsyn
Show notes at

We talked a lot about attending Couture Boot Camp. It was a pleasure, Lori!! Thanks for enjoyable conversation!

The podcast is about 45 minutes long and our conversation starts about 10 minutes in, running 30 minutes or so. 
Confession time:

I am a late adopter of Apple products and I didn't have an iTunes account or the necessary software to listen to these podcasts til recently.  I found I can leave it running and listen to it while I do other things.  It's fun!

OK, gotta run... I am running late and I have a very long day of work ahead of me.
It's that time if year when I get busy and work long hours, so please do a little sewing for me, ok?
Happy Sewing!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ahhh, Tuesday and Nice to be Back!

Greetings!  A lot happened over the weekend, none of it about me.  It was pretty sweet, all around.  Those college administrators probably say the same thing to every graduating class, but when it is your loved one, it does produce a misty eye.  Or unexpected sloppy sobs, as the case may be.  

But now we are back to the routine and - hey, it's about me again!!  What did I wear?  That colorful jacket on the sewing table was intended for the graduation ceremony, but as you may recall, there was another (more pressing) sartorial crisis in the family.  
A quick trip to Talbots to see if anything there fits (answer is still no! hee hee) but isn't this scarf lovely?  I knew it would be cold in Boston and an extra layer like this does a lot to add warmth.  The purple worked well with my raincoat and I tested out some fishnet hose.  The fishnet hose get a resounding thumbs up!  They kept me warm and felt good on my feet in a way that panty hose does not.  For some reason, regular pantyhose make my feet slide out of shoes and it becomes very uncomfortable as the day progresses.

Little black dress - [italics are mine] 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
little black dress is an evening or cocktail dress, cut simply and often quite short. Fashion historians 
ascribe the origins of the little black dress to the 1920s designs of Coco Chanel,[1] intended to be long-lasting,
versatile, affordable, accessible to the widest market possible and in a neutral color.  Its ubiquity
is such that it is often simply referred to as the "LBD."[2][3][4]  The "little black dress" is considered essential to 
a complete wardrobe by many women and fashion observers, who believe
it a "rule of fashion" that every woman should own a simple, elegant black dress that can be dressed up or 
down depending on the occasion: for example, worn with a jacket and pumps for daytime business wear
or with more ornate jewelry and accessories for evening. 
Because it is meant to be a staple of the wardrobe for a number of years, the style of the little 
black dress ideally should be as simple as possible: a short black dress that is too clearly part
of a trend would not qualify because it would soon appear dated.

I am 100% sold on the concept.  It worked for me!
Thank you all for the great ideas you posted about the colorful jacket.  Hey, I bet I could wear
it with a little black dress!

Happy Sewing!

Friday, May 20, 2011

OK, where was I? A jacket for May?

The prom dress has been finished and delivered to the teenager.   I return my attention to ...  where was I?  I was sewing another jacket.  Sheesh, is this really a good idea?

Seriously, I stand in front of the closet every morning, saying, "I have nothing to wear!" Look at this jacket-in-progress:

A view of the inside-in-progress.  I had just enough fabric to line the yoke and the front facing.  The rest is likely to remain unlined.  The edges are serged in gray thread.
Now look at the images posted on my inspiration board.  I dream of Lands End separates!  Yes, I admit it.  I am as plain vanilla as they come.  I really just want to wear some simple separates.   Meanwhile, I sew the bright, cheerful fabric that beckons:
I chose this design for the yoke and the shaping seams.  The horizontal lines of the yoke cut across me at my "tallest" (relatively speaking)  part of my body.  The vertical seams allow for shaping.

The remaining front facing has yet to be attached, but so far, I am loving the fit.  (yay!)  
So ... yes, this is cute and I like it and that's all good.  But come on, how many things will go with this jacket?  NOT MANY!  I have a red knit dress cut out and jeans are always a safe bet.  But something this loud  distinctive won't go with too many separates in my closet.

It makes me stop and go "hmmmmmmmm".

So far, my Jacket-a-Month Aspiration has not yielded much to help my wardrobe!

Jacket #1 is a coat for dear stepdaughter.   Self-explanatory.
Jacket #2 is versatile, and thank goodness- I wear it plenty.
Jacket #3 is a unique stripe.  Not worn a lot.
Jacket #4 is a very unique cropped jacket that should be cute with summer dresses on weekend dates with hubby - but I still need to sew those date dresses!  Not worn at all yet!

And jacket #5 is clearly another fun-to-wear-once-in-a-while thing.

Is it too late for a New Year's Resolution?
It is time to shift my focus to sewing a coordinated set of separates that are versatile.  Mix -n- match stuff.

(Have I mentioned RTW does not fit well?  Everything I buy needs alterations)

I will do it.  I will finish this jacket, because I love it, and of course I will sew the red dress (I cut out McCall's 6282)
But after that, if you see me sewing anything not-versatile, please leave negative, nasty comments.
Thank you,  I would appreciate the moral support.

Signing off for now,
re-focused Robin

ps I am taking a little break from sewing and blogging to attend dear stepson's college graduation.  We are thrilled and so proud of him.  
Back soon!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hollywood Glam Prom Dress 2011 - in the home stretch

I got on a roll after dinner last night and sewed until ... late.  Then I woke up early knowing exactly how to sew the remaining seams.  I love it when I work out solutions in my sleep.  
I present to you the bodice:
photo edited to show detail on the black fabric
 And I snapped this next picture (below) over the weekend as I was beginning the dress.  It amused me that I didn't know yet whether this was a photo of a successful technique or not.  I held off on posting until I knew whether it worked.  It did.  (oh, yay!!)

Each seam was a multi-step process.   I sewed it flat first using a long basting stitch on the sewing machine.  Then I shirred by hand-sewing a running stitch and gathering to the correct length.  Next came the application of narrow twill tape.  After hand-basting the twill tape to the seam, I serged so that the twill tape was caught in the seam allowances.  This has worked well to control the extreme stretchiness of the spandex.

The remaining work will be finished easily after work tonight.  I will shirr the side seams and stabilize, attach the dress to the lining at the neckline edge and serge a rolled hem.
I can hand it to her after her performance tomorrow night.

The prom is not for another week or two, but I have plans this weekend so the dress had to be finished.  I will get photos eventually, I promise.  I am dying to see it, too.  And I am pretty sure she will not style it as a straight-forward Hollywood Glam look.  She is a drama major, after all.

On a side note, she moves to Manhattan in the fall where she will study acting at a very selective conservatory.  It is her dream, and we are very proud of her.  It takes talent, yes, but it is her tremendous effort and sacrifice that impresses me so much.  Go, Maggie!

I think it is funny that I never sew late into the night for my own projects.  Ha!  I do love my sleep.
Happy Sewing!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gown Lining aka Bra-Slip: FINISHED

Here is a look at the finished lining for my niece's prom dress.  I altered the photo considerably so the details would should up.  Black is so difficult to photograph.
The lining fabric was purchased from Metro Textiles in NYC several years ago.  I asked for knit lining - it is not tricot, it is more like a crepe.  It is MUCH easier to handle than tricot. 

From the outside.  The straps are covered with the fashion fabric.  The dress will be attached, by machine,  along the neckline edge  and where the bodice meets the straps will be hand sewn with a fell stitch.

From the inside, you can see the specialty elastic used.  The white stripes are a grippy elastic thread woven into the elastic band.  This type of elastic holds the garment snugly against the body.  At this point I had not yet serged the edge where the bottom of the bra attaches to the skirt.

And here is a sneak peak at the back of the gown:
So, yeah, this is spandex.  Serged spandex.  Keep your fingers crossed for me, OK?
So far, so good!  This project has been a very easy sew because each fabric has been very easy to handle.  And fast!  My goodness, I made the back of the dress in about 45 minutes.

When I was at Couture Boot Camp, a classmate was sewing a spectacular gown for her daughter's prom.  I am all for sewing with fine couture techniques out of love for the craft (or should I say art?)

On the other hand, there is a time and a place for a serged spandex dress that can be thrown in the wash  (this one can - I pre-washed it 3 times to get rid of that smell fabrics have sometimes).
I guess it is obvious that my niece is not obsessed with the prom.   She studies acting at a high school for the arts and she has performances coming up that eclipse prom madness.  And that is why I am sewing a stretch knit gown - she does not have time for a lot of fittings, so a knit is a safer bet.  

You are hereby warned: You may see a post in another day entitled "Maybe you shouldn't serge spandex for a prom gown".  I am still uncertain from time to time, because it has 4-way stretch and it's a little heavy and I hope I can  come up with the right amount of negative ease to make it work.

If it doesn't work, I could go to a plan B will be a poly charmeuse with some lycra.  In other words, a 2-way stretch woven as opposed to a 4-way stretch knit.  The dress sews up so fast, there is still time.  But, I remain hopeful that this will work just fine. 

Interesting, eh?  We shall see!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Prom dress -inner foundation

This prom dress has a lining.  It consists of a simplified bra with a long slip attached to the bottom edge of the bra.  My stash is a place of miracles!  I have a bra pattern, the right materials and even the exact same type of lining fabric in the purchased dress.  You may recall that the recipient purchased a prom dress and brought it to me for alterations.  I suggested a whole new dress would be easier and look way better.  I was able to use the purchased dress to create the pattern and to note construction techniques.
The pattern comes from Bra-Makers Supply in Canada - and I highly recommend this pattern.

The cups are sewn and there are 2 layers.  One layer is sewn from the lining fabric and the other is sewn from a firm power-net.  The bra band also uses a firm power-net.  There will be no closure in the back.  I also have the correct size underwires (stash of miracles- YAY!) so I'll install them.  She will have to step into this dress and pull it up.  That goodness for elastic!  The underwires can always be yanked back out if she doesn't like them.

I blurred out the actual measurements, out of consideration for her privacy.  I bet she would not care, though, because she seems very accepting of what she calls her endowments.  And I know it has not been easy to get to this point.  As they say, if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger.  I am a big proponent of neutralizing feelings.  

The opposite of hate is not love - it is indifference.  

Sewing has given me the gift of accepting my body.  Take the energy spent on hating the body part, and channel it towards finding a solution.  The more I work to solve the clothing challenge, the less concerned I am with the measurement variation that brought me here to the sewing room.  In so doing, my negative feelings seem to have dissolved.  That's when, where and how I come to accept my body.  That's just my particular journey - your mileage may vary.

[And yes, I know it is ridiculous to hate being tall - believe me, I have learned not to complain about that one because I get a lot of eye-rolling.  Ha!]

At any rate, 
every girl deserves a prom dress made to her measurements!

Back to the sewing room, more to come ...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

dress design

Last year, I thought I was sewing an Audrey-Hepburn-Breakfast-at-Tiffany's dress, but it turned out to be a Rockabilly wiggle dress

This year I think I am sewing a Hollywood Glam dress.  I wonder how she will style it?! Anyway, this is my interpretation of what she asked for:
More to come!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May Day! May Day! Prom Dress Needed!

Emergency!  A sartorial crisis has arisen.  I sewed a Junior Prom dress for my niece last year and this year, she bought a dress.  She brought it to me for alteration and I told her it would be easier to start over from scratch.  She is a dream to work with!  We quickly negotiated the design and I will use the purchased dress as guidance with sizing.  It would fit her if it had a 1.5 inch FBA. There will be no muslin (there is no time) so it will be basted together, fitted once, and then finished.  You can see the dress on the cutting table here and I will post a summary of the project with more pictures later.

The red shirt on the ironing board is a wadder - or maybe I will call it a wearable muslin for winter layering.

For now, I thought I'd show you my sewing room in Baltimore.  It took me FOREVER to learn how to use the space there.  OK, that is an exaggeration, but it took a full year to learn where the best light was, how the road noises affected my sleep and all that sort of thing.  It turns out I use the little bedroom as a sewing room and it is very comfortable now.

In the background is red knit fabric for a dress to go with my colorful Jacket #5.
 After some trial and error, I learned that my minimum requirements are:
  •  a large cutting table - this dresser is the perfect height with a hollow core door on top and legs from IKEA
  • a TV for my beloved Netflix
  • I can't stand to sew facing a wall. 

Back when hubby and I decided to maintain a crashpad close to my job, I had the illusion that I'd be at the sewing machine by 6pm every night and producing at super-human levels.   I did not mind buying an extra sewing machine, and I have all the basic notions.  But - I have been very reluctant to duplicate everything I really need.  For example, I don't have a serger at the apartment.  The hardest part is the stash.  This prom dress is a perfect example - I have the perfect powernet (mesh material used in foundation garments) for the cups in the bodice.  I have plenty of black nylon tricot for the lining.  It is all in Rockville!  If I had my supplies, I could have this dress finished by Friday.  It really is just a long, lined knit dress with a swimsuit type of bodice.  I am using spandex that looks a lot like satin, just like the purchased dress.  Fitting is not such an issue as long as there is sufficient coverage in the FBA department.  It is not that hard, you know?  Heck, the hem is a rolled-edge serged hem.

Anyhow, I will figure it out!! I do love a challenge.  And my niece is one of my favorite people in the world, so I am enjoying this little emergency.

Happy problem-solving!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

happy colors and blooming flowers

Have you noticed my preference for neutral colors?  It's hard to define my style.  I like to be comfortable. Being appropriately dressed for the occasion may be my top priority.  The project on my table today is a glorious floral in bright pinks and reds.  It celebrates the arrival of beautiful warm, sunny weather and the bloom of spring.
This will be a hip length, long sleeved, casual jacket.
Meanwhile, it is Mother's Day in the US.  Actually, it has been more like Mother's Week for me, because the implementation of my gift to my mother required some planning and then a day spent with the Verizon man at her house.  (What a sweetie he was, too!!)  Short story: I have already enjoyed the gift of a long, lovely day with my mother on Friday.  This afternoon's family gathering is just icing on the cake.

And me, well, I am a mother, too!  I get loads of love from my daughter, so often, that I won't miss it if I don't hear from her today.  Am I bragging?  I hope not!  I am just so happy at this stage of my life.  I often feel that middle age is /has been the most rewarding time in my case.  For example, I was not a professional athlete who now lives with the injuries.  I am glad to be a late bloomer!
My daughter has completed her contract with the English school in Korea.  She will board a flight to Bangkok soon, where she begins months of low-budget travel throughout Southeast Asia with friends.  Plans are for her to return permanently to the US in August 2011.  {Yes, I am looking forward to having her back in my time zone!}   I sure did love visiting Korea, though, so ...

...on that note...

I think of you, readers.  I don't even know most of you but I read my blog stats and I know you live in many different places and some of you have lives very different from mine.  I am so pleased to share my sewing with you and wish you all the best today, wherever you are and whatever the day holds in store.
Thank you so much for being there! I love blogging.


update: heard from my daughter :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fashion Design Studio Makeover

Here is an interesting project.  Daniel Kanter, who writes Manhatten Nest blog, is hard at work designing workspace for Daniel Vosovic, the fashion designer.  Here is one of the "before" pics from the blog post.
photo by Daniel Kanter via Manhatten Nest
You may recall Daniel Vosovic was the first runner-up in the second season of Project Runway.  He was the young, talented and poised fellow.  I admire the aesthetic of each Daniel, so this is a tasty little treat.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Sewing Workshop e-Shrug

For a fast project, The Sewing Workshop e-shrug makes a cute little jacket.  I sewed one in a weekend not long ago, and I really like the pattern. Here is what it looked like after I printed it out & taped the pieces together.  After I was finished, I came back and marked the stitching lines with a felt tip pen so I can remember for next time.

Here is the order of steps:
1. Print & tape the pattern to the cutting table.
2. Trace the pattern on the smallest size for girths, largest size for height.
3. Tissue fit.
4. No surprise, I needed more on the back in the shoulder area (just like the adjustment I needed on Silhouette #175 - see below).  This is combines a forward shoulder adjustment with adjustments for narrow neck and additional height.
Silhouette knit top pattern #175
It is very satisfying to cut and sew something with only a couple of seams!  Once it was sewn, I was able to see how much volume should be in the front and I just chopped off several inches until it looked OK.

The final result - a fun little jacket:

This will be cute in a drapey knit, too.  I must make another version! (or 2)

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Jacket #5 - a new beginning

Here it is, May 1st and I am actually starting my fifth jacket.  I am pleasantly surprised!

I sewed a muslin of Jalie City Coat #2680 over a year ago and made a sweater coat from the pattern.  A sweatery knit is pretty forgiving so the fit was not crucial.  Now I wanted to sew  a woven fabric, so the pattern needed fine-tuning.  I pulled out the muslin and put it on the dress form and pinned away, attempting to improve the fit in the hips, armscye and bust.

After reading Claire's post about Camilla's shoulder princess seam, I moved the princess seam on my pattern accordingly.  Then I made new paper pattern pieces and tissue-fit them to the dress form.
I also extended the shoulder seam, but later reverted back to the original length.
I measured the stitching line on my tried 'n' true 2-piece sleeve pattern to make sure it would fit in the new bodice pattern.  Bummer - there was a 2.5 inch difference, which is 1.5 inches too much, in my experience.  Since I know the sleeve pattern is good, the bodice must be wrong.

Next, I pulled out my tried 'n' true jacket bodice and used that as a template to fix up my pattern.  
Some day I will trace my basic patterns onto the oak tag and hang them like a real pattern-maker.
That will please me.

More decisions.  How big will the buttons be?  That affects the width of the center front closure.  And the collar?  What kind of collar did I want?  

How about the collar I sewed on Kelly's coat in January?  That was easy to sew and it looked good.   I found instructions easily enough in Adele P. Margolis' book Make Your Own Patterns.  I highly recommend this book for the clear drawings and logical explanations.  

All of my sewing time went to pattern work this weekend!  From

"Those who would climb to a lofty height must go by steps, not leaps."
St. Gregory the Great

Clearly, having a lightweight jacket pattern is a lofty height.   The sewing gods aren't handing it to me on a silver platter, that's for sure.  You can expect to see many versions of that pattern once it has been perfected!

I hope you are having some bit of fun in your weekend - see you next time!
Happy Sewing