Saturday, December 31, 2011

New camera, meet New Look 6071

Somehow I convinced myself that a Canon Rebel EOS T3i is essential to my consulting work in the coming year. Well, it is true that I will be photographing pretty much the entire inventory of The House of Fabrics in preparation for creating a new website for them, so I guess it wasn't an enormous stretch.

These photos are from my husband, who is a good photographer but not a good fashion photographer. The camera still makes them look pretty good. Excited!!!

New Look 6071 is part of the Fall 2011 collection. It's a criss-cross design with a slight empire effect.

Funny facial expression below. The fabric is an ITY polyester knit from FabricMart. This was part of an order from one of their recent 30% off sales. After the discount, I think the fabric must have been about $5.50 per yard. I liked the russet tone of this brown. It's a little brighter than the more common dark brown.

Here's a better view of the neckline. New Look's instructions for constructing this crossover were very clear and un-hard. The only thing that I would do differently (and did in fact pull out and do differently this time) from their instructions is to tack the center fullness after attaching the crossover pieces at the sides. If you do the center first, it's very hard to judge how much fullness to pull through the slot for the pieces to drape nicely.

A problem with New Look for me is that so many of their patterns start at size 10, and that is too big. This one started at 8, which worked out fine, but I would have preferred to have the six for the shoulder and neck area. I tapered to the 10 below the waist. Other adjustments included narrowing the sleeve by 3/4" on either side at the wrist (tapered to the original seam line at the elbow), shortening the sleeve 1", taking a 1" swayback tuck at the back waist and then adding 1" to the center back hemline (tapering to nothing at the sides). I think that's all! On my next version, I plan to remove about 1/2" on either side of the back neck seam to tighten up the neck area.

Oh, and of course this dress is far too low cut to wear sans camisole. I made a little matching one using Kwik Sew 3115. This was the first time I had used the camisole pattern from this envelope, and I was unsure about the size. I knew the circumference of the XS would be tiny, but I was worried about the width of the chest. Went with the XS. There is a shelf bra in this pattern. Ha ha ha. I had to cut that right out--it was way too tiny and tight. But the width of the chest was still actually too wide from arm pit to arm pit. Next time I will reduce that 1/2" on each side...and then add some room through the waist. And a whole lot of length (like, 3") to the bra component, if I use it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Fellowship Cloak

 There wasn't a great deal of right-up-to-the-last-minute Christmas sewing this year (though if there had been the pajama situation would be improved), but the important thing got made. That's five yards of Shetland wool fabric from Fabric Mart.

My first attempt, based on my own interpretation of how such a cloak ought to be made, was a failure. Off to the internet, which I should have consulted first. The wonderful instructions here did the trick and had me slapping my forehead at my ill-conceived original approach. The cloak is cut in a huge half-circle, with the front edges on the selvedge, and a circular hole cut out for the neck. The long pointy hood is constructed from four kite-shaped pieces.

During the sewing, I had to keep trying it on, as swirling about the room was so much fun. The amazing qualities of the bias are very much at work in this simple garment.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

New Feature at

Will they never stop expanding their online fabric juggernaut of good service, free shipping, low pricing and fun features? Hope not.

Just discovered their Fall 2011 trend report; it's a compilation of current color trends, textures and patterns drawn from their vast website. I loved browsing this page, especially the Teal grouping. Of course I could have done a search on "teal" in the search box, but I didn't think of it. Thank you, internet-replacement-of-my-mind.

Though feature-laden and innovative, is often endearingly dorky. Just take a look at their blog for abundant evidence. The project selection and outcomes are all over the map! And I really like that. Sometimes the very high level of taste, technical execution and photography exhibited in the blogosphere can be daunting (for me at least). No fear of that at's very accessible.

Now that I have a sewing-related business, I recommend all the time to customers looking for upholstery and drapery fabric. They have turned me into a raving fan (and significant purchaser in my own right). This adoring testimonial kind of makes me feel uneasy (as in, do I really like them this much?), but there you have it.

Oh, to balance things out, some of their rayon knits--which have such cute prints I could die--are horrible and not worth sewing or stashing. But then again there is the return policy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

From the Attic, August 24, 2011

Butterick 5523 gray wool dressOilily cardiganCotton velveteen quilted jacket blackHoundstooth sweater coatRed wool sweater jacketOrange and olive stripy knit cardigan, Ottobre Woman
Anthropologie cardigan, brown with embroideryAnne Klein black ribbed rayon cardiganGold brocade jacket, Kwik SewGold brocade jacket, back, Kwik SewTalbots Rose Velvet JacketDoncaster eggplant jacquard jacket
Vogue 8699 tunic top in brushstrokes knitSimplicity 4171 strawberries on brown corduroy dressHippie dress, from yard saleButterick 5242 knit dress aqua/olive/blackMcCalls 5974 knit dress, black slinkySimplicity dress, Kaffe Fassett Millefiore Rayon
Silk t-shirt, aqua and brown, Ottobre WomanLiz Claiborne cream tank, thriftedNew Look 6901 top, black slinkyNew Look 6901 top, white with black dotsBurberry gray with white stripes shirtPlaid red/black/cream Ann Taylor blouse
More wardrobe musings, and seasonal closet changeover! I pulled some things out of the attic to continue the process of clarifying what I have and what I need to have for the fall and winter.

Note to self: need new charcoal gray tights! And probably brown, too, while you are at it.

Anyone have good recommendations for warm, durable, comfortable brands of tights? Could be wool, could be cotton. I am just 5'2", and getting a good fit has been challenging.

Hmm, I thought my whole Flickr set would show up, but I guess not. Any suggestions for making a photo grid using an online program?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fall/Winter Wardrobe Thoughts

If what I wear can be called a wardrobe...

Sometimes it seems far too much of a mishmash to be worthy of such a term. My closet contains items left over from my professional days in Boston (now six years ago), things I have made and things either handed down to me or thrifted. For some years now there has not been much "shopping for basics".

That's not a bad thing; I'm thrilled to have the luxury of time and space to sew and thrift! Shopping in retail stores is super-boring, and shopping online is a real shot in the dark in terms of liking/sizing.

Speaking of which, check out my new thrifted brown velveteen jumper!

Another lucky, lucky part of my recent wardrobe history is that my sweet mother has taken me shopping for the one thing I can't make--yet--shoes. My feet are trouble, and they demand the best.

But I've been doing some thinking about how I need to do some thinking. I pulled out some fabrics today. Here are two of the many of them:

Green ("iguana") wool jersey from, 3 yards.

Gray wool jersey from, two yards.

I'm excited about these two knits. Too excited, as I am paralyzed with indecision about how best to use them.

So I'm brainstorming here.

What do I wear in summer?
  • Preferentially dresses
  • Skirts with woven or knit tops (usually pull-over wovens rather than button-up blouses)
  • Rarely pants
  • Almost never shorts
What do I wear as soon as there is a tiny hint of chill in the air?
  • Jeans with tops, cardigans, pullover sweaters and sweater jackets
  • Dresses with layers of long underwear and/or tights below and cardigans on top
  • Less frequently skirts, as getting all of the pieces and layers working together is hard
  • Infrequently, tailored jackets (of which I have quite a few left over from Boston)
  • My tan cashmere 3/4 length coat made two years ago
  • Boots!!
Colorwise, as I settle into my forties, I think I need to reduce the overall contrast and brightness of my color palette. Black, red, pink and bright blue were probably never great colors for me, but now I have to go all out with makeup, accessories and frequent hair colorings to keep these strong hues from washing me out. So although I've long intended to move more in the brown direction, I need to get serious about it. Must. stop. relying. on. black.

What is worn out (or missing altogether) and in need of replacing?
  • Jeans
  • Long sweater coats and cozy cardigans
  • Brown bag
  • Brown low heeled boots
  • "Color columns" in durable, washable medium warm brown and toasty caramel knits
  • What is in the color column? Not sure; is it a sleeved knit top and leggings or top and knit pant or top and full skirt?
  • Note to self: you rarely end up wearing knit pants or gathered waist skirts
  • Color columns to be topped with sweaters, cardigans and maybe jumpers
Additional dilemma: the color gray. I love gray. Actually, I love it much more than black. But when I see myself in photographs wearing gray, I generally think it looks sad and dreary and, dare I say it, frumpy.

But I love it and want to wear it and don't dislike it in the mirror on me. So I don't know. Maybe if I pair it with a warm color like toasty brown? With a bright color there is too much contrast.

I also created a Pinterest board to collect some fabrics and (it is to be hoped) other ideas from around the web.

This is all being very helpful. I think. Tomorrow I am going to pull the fall and winter clothes down from the attic and do more thinking/list making/photographing/planning/playing with Pinterest.

But I have the feeling it's all going to come down to new jeans and some fresh tops and sweaters.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

New Look 6901

New Look 6901, a cowl neck top and flounce skirt for knits, has been a successful pattern for me and quite a few customers of the fabric shop where I work. A testament to the pattern: I wore it today and we sold two more patterns and fabric for two tops!

High atop the fitting stand in the "bridal room" of the shop. These shoes are from Gentlesouls and no, I did not wear them all day. The fabric is a slinky knit originally manufactured by Chicos. Even though we had three bolts, it has since all sold out.

A closer view of the top. I made the smallest size at the neck and shoulders (I think it was the 8) and still did an additional 3/4" narrow shoulder adjustment. I added a weight to the center of the cowl on the inside. I used a metal ring left over from bag making, tucked into a little self-fabric pouch. I often put the weight inside the front of my bra, which holds the top against my chest and prevents any exposure. Also, I extended the short sleeve pattern to just below the elbow. The sleeve and lower hems are left raw, which works wonderfully in this fabric. No bulk and very comfortable to wear.

The 6901 top with a rayon skirt from a very similar pattern (Kwik Sew 3032).

Friday, August 19, 2011

More Little Shoes

Because they are really fun, and I might just keep on making them!

For our new little friend Eleanor.

For a friend-yet-to-be. I struggled to draw a template for oak leaves, then realized there was an oak tree just a few steps away. Traced directly from nature!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Simple Yet Effective: Kwik Sew 3032 Skirt

Kwik Sew 3032 was used for these two skirts, but lots of other patterns share the same basic shape. New Look 6901 is another (and the one I've used in my sewing classes). The New Look flounce is a little bit fuller and flouncier. The Kwik Sew is more understated.

The basic features of this skirt are a straight upper section with a very slight flare, a circular flounce and an elastic waist with a casing. The wonderful Van Gogh Rayon Challis has just popped up on sold out from the fabric store where I work, Asheville's House of Fabrics. I wasn't sure how this print would work until a teen customer made a skirt just like this--only much, much shorter--in a skirt-making class. Obviously, she inspired me. This version went to one of my son's teachers, Katherine, who has amazing blue eyes and wears blue beautifully.

On the same day of making, I cranked out two of this white on black rayon swirl skirt: one for me and one for my son's other terrific teacher, Kelly. Not shown from the same day's production is a fourth skirt in two cotton prints.

You see what I'm getting at here: fast and easy. And not only that, but also comfortable, flattering and easy to fit. I had no fitting information on my son's teachers other than seeing them every day, and they are not the same size and shape. Even so, they immediately put their new skirts on and, according to my son, wore them the rest of the day. Folks I've had make this in sewing classes have all looked good in their finished skirts. It's a winner.

Other thoughts: for the two skirts shown, I used 1/2" double fold pre-made bias tape for the elastic casing, just to give a different look to the waistband. That was fine, but maybe not a huge difference over turning down a casing at the top edge. Also, rayon challis is a lovely fabric for these skirts. Then again, so are many different knits. I've made two in black slinky knit (one a store sample, one for my mom) and one in a cotton/lycra knit (also for my mom).

The hems on these are a rolled-edge serger hem. Fast, flowy and attractive.

Works for me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Silk Pillows: Interlining Required!

My workroom client Kim loves silk dupioni, and she seems to want some of it in every room of her house. Her latest addition is three large, bright dupioni pillows with a small, 3/4" flange. My pictures (taken in overly bright sun, as the pillows were headed from my home studio to her home) don't do the silk justice, but I know you know how appealing these silks are. One of Kim's pillows is pink, one is glowing orange and the third is reversible from pink to orange. She brought me some excellent quality down-and-feather forms that really fill out the pillow covers beautifully.

Though the tensile strength of each individual silk fiber is enormous, dupioni, with its slubs and variations, is anything but rugged. Recently, as I browsed in Waechter's Silk Shop, another customer showed a staff person in the store a dupioni duvet cover that had shredded along its entire width. The fabricator of this cover had used velcro as a closure without stabilizing the silk at all. After a few uses, the silk fibers pulled apart and the cover was in a sad state.

So dupioni requires stabilization. Yet fusible interfacing changes the character and texture of this cloth, and not in a good way. I like to use an interlining of firmly-woven cotton, such as drapery lining (though it could really be anything that is stable and does not show through to the face of the fabric).

Basting interlining to your face fabric is simple, but it can so easily go awry! Pinning both at the edges and at the center and center area is always necessary for good results, in my experience.

Once things are well-pinned, I use the serger to baste the two layers together. A three-thread stitch works fine, since this seam will eventually be totally enclosed by the flange. Actually, even if it were not enclosed, a three-thread finish would still be just as good as four. I leave the center area pins in place until the pillow is complete, to be completely sure that the layers remain flat and behave as one piece of cloth. Sometimes I have used a temporary quilt basting spray (like 505), but mostly I tend to think that pins are just as easy and certainly less toxic.

Interlined sections, right sides together, with zipper inserted, and ready to be joined.

After pressing the seams open and turning the cover right side out, the flange is sewn. Without a walking foot things could shift around. If I didn't have one, I would pin the layers together (can you believe the overkill?) even though the first seam has already been sewn.

Lapped zipper at the bottom edge of the pillow.

Luckily my client does not have rowdy kids, and her dogs are well-behaved. These pillows should give good service in her peaceful home, but they will still be vulnerable to fading from strong sun and also to surface wear as time goes on. I'm glad to know the silk is well-supported and that the seams will not give way under the minor stresses of opening and closing the zipper and folks leaning against them on the furniture.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Two Dollar Jacket Becomes...

 Shoes for Lila Elizabeth, my new second cousin.

Shoes for Nash Alexander, my other new second cousin.

Shoes for me, less cute.

A flute case for my mom's new native American instrument.

Naturally, I neglected to get a before photo--someday I will learn, but it doesn't look like it will be anytime soon. But the jacket in question came from a smashing yard sale. Somehow I passed it up the first day of the sale, then kept thinking about it, then thought how crazy I was being over $2. Really it wasn't the two dollars, it was more the fear of buying piles of great stuff for making great stuff and then not doing it and feeling overwhelmed by all the great stuff sitting around and yet to be made.

But I decided to risk it, and then promptly dived in. The erstwhile jacket: suede, a really nice color of green, about a size 12, princess seams, antique brass snaps up the front, lined. Even though it was too big for me, I worried that I might find it hard to chop it up when the time came. Another fear conquered.

The baby shoes are from this free pattern at Tacky Living. I liked the nice drafting and clear instructions. My only quibble was that the lining did not enclose the raw edges on the inside of the shoe. Now, I don't know how it would, but I wish that it would. Perhaps I will try some other patterns to see if they address this issue. I actually made the girl pair with the ribbon trim second, and those I didn't line. I'm just as happy with the unlined pair if not more so.

Having become swept up in the barefoot walking/minimal shoe/generally primal movement, I also wanted to make a pair of soft shoes for myself using this same concept. I made an earlier prototype, using mostly just my foot as a guide, last week. For this pair, I hoped to scale up the Tacky Living pattern and refine the results. Well, I still have a way to go. They are okay but definitely can be better. I took them for a walk around the neighborhood this afternoon, and found that I had skewed the vamp of the right shoe, making it roll under the inner edge of my foot as I walked. Not so good.

Here we see them on my feet. Does it get any sexier?

Quite a few small scraps, plus most of the front snap placket still remain from the two dollar jacket. Pretty good value so far!