finished objects · Sewing

Cynthia Rowley dress (Simplicity 2443)

Pattern: Simplicity 2443

Fabric: Ponte de Roma knit from Hancock’s, 2 yards

There is much to be said for the simple dress.  This deviates quite a bit from my usual style, yet I love it!  This is the second Cynthia Rowley design that I’ve sewn (first here,) and I think I might be a fan.  This dress is actually pretty similar to the first – both have skirts that are just gathered rectangeles, and a waistline that falls between the empire and the natural waistlines.  I made this dress because I wanted a simple project, as well as a dress in a neutral color that will work for multiple seasons.

My InStyle magazine this month says that big hair is back – at last, I’m ahead of a trend! (though it should be noted that big hair never left the south, but oh well!)

I love the back of this dress – the racer back is not my usual choice, but it is very flattering.  I cut a straight size 8.  If I were using a stretchier knit I would size down, but this one was pretty stable.   Construction was, for the most part, really simple.  The ponte knit was a dream to sew – now I know why everyone raves over it!  I used my serger for 3/4 of the construction, and my regular machine with a .5 width zigzag for the rest.

One caution though – the straps were really hard to sew to the body of the dress.  I stay-stitched, but then after having to resew the seam several times due to puckers I still got a little stretching.  Oh well though – it’s not so bad, and I’m proud of myself for finishing the tricky step!

After the dress was completed I took the straps up by an inch in front and back.  I like where the waist falls better now.  If I made it again I would make this adjustment before cutting, and deepen the armholes to compensate – you can see where they are a tad short in the front.

This dress feels very much like wearing a t-shirt, which is a good thing.  Now I’m going to make up the jacket from the pattern, and think about getting some other doubleknits for more fall projects!


Feeling much better

Thank you all for the support shown to my bad week – it really helped to know I’m not the only one who (for instance) is an angry crier.   In spite of my tendency to hibernate when I’m down, like Leon the cat above in his hamper (where he has spent the majority of this week,) I instead went out to lunch today with an old friend, with whom I’ve recently reconnected.  Indian food always cheers me up!

Then I came home, and did this:

Oh, who am I kidding – I fished it out of the trash and stored it carefully away.  You know, in case I want to try when I’m in a better frame of mind.  I don’t like the way the facings go on this dress – there are several layers of fabric and pieces that intersect at the vees, and sewing them together neatly requires more patience than I currently have.

Instead, I cut the pieces for this dress:

I was inspired by Erica, who posted today that she is sewing for “pre-Fall,” or things that will transition between summer and fall.  This dress will do nicely.  I’m going to attempt to leave off the zipper, and I’m not going to interface the bands (this fabric is pretty stable, and I don’t have any knit interfacing, nor can I buy any locally.)  I’m not sure if I will start the jacket yet… that may wait for a bit.

It’s all cut and ready to sew… maybe tonight, but I am going out for pub quiz (we go most every week,) so maybe not.  Hopefully it goes smoothly!

Life · patterns · Sewing

Not the best of weeks

I have had a bad week.  People have been upset with me, I’ve been cried on, and in one memorable conversation, someone tried to convince me that I was morally a bad person (which is so completely the wrong thing to say to me if you don’t want a fight.)  I avoid confrontation at almost any cost, and I’ve had a lot of it.  For years I would find myself crying angry tears any time I was mad, but now at least I can hold them until after the argument… but still, it makes me upset for days.

Last night I couldn’t even sew, because I got so upset when I didn’t understand a piece of the directions that I cried. Seriously, big tears.  Marc cheered me up a bit with a vodka gimlet and the Mad Men premiere, but it was still a bad week.

Ok, enough self-pity – I’m sure things will look up soon!

I am working on the Tracy Reese dress muslin, but the neck facing directions are confusing me.  I hope to figure them out today (thank goodness it’s a light work day!)

I also bought 2 new vintage patterns.

I saw Mccall 6849 come up once before and I missed out on it, so when this turned up on Etsy I bought it right away.  I love this dress, and I hope I can make it work!  The lines are simple, and I can wear junior sizes.

Simplicity 5789 was one I had been searching for in my size (this isn’t the one I bought… I have a 32.)  I like the shaped midriff piece, and I’m pretty sure I want to make it out of a tweedy wool with the long sleeves.  It is perhaps a bit like a Star Trek uniform, but for me, let’s face it, that’s sort of a plus.

Oh yes, she would approve.

(and yes, I am a Trekkie, conventions and all.)

crafts · Sewing

Wishful thinking

First of all, thank you all so much for the delightful comments on my last two posts!  I was glad to see all the INFJs come out of the woodwork, and that I’m not the only one with a secret regency romance obsession.  I’m eternally a bit behind in responding, but I will get there!

As to the title of this post?  Well, now that we’ve hit the worst part of summer, I can’t stop thinking about fall.   Walking out my front door right now is literally like walking into a boiling river, that’s how hot and humid it is – the air is so thick with moisture that even breathing is harder than it should be.  I’ve spent the day cutting out patterns – I’ve discovered that if I’ve already cut the pieces I’m more likely to start something, and I can watch tv while I do it.  I’m ready to start the muslin of Vogue 1086 (I’m only muslining the bodice, and I’m raising the neckline and armholes before I even start, based on feedback from other sewers who have made this dress.)

I did have to run out for a zipper, and I came home with a fabric for some transitional weather sewing.

I’m going to make both parts of this pattern, but I don’t necessarily intend to wear them together.  The dress will be made of gray ponte doubleknit.  I have several dresses I want to use doubleknits for, so I’m looking to get a feel for how sewing the stuff goes!    The jacket will be made of this lightweight denim.  The color is off in this photo – it’s actually very nearly black, but the blues come out under the camera.  I have one denim jacket, which I bought in 1997 from JC Penney.  The sleeves are quite long, and it is also too long for my torso, so I almost never wear it.  I want some updated denim – I’m going to make this pattern, and then I’m also thinking of a boyfriend-style blazer.  It will be a good way to work denim into my wardrobe, since I pretty much never wear jeans out of the house.

I plan to make this pattern in August.  Before that I still want to make the Tracy Reese dress, and the backless Cynthia Steffe below.

I took another photo to try and capture the true color of this fabric.  I think this is close – it’s a glorious cool hot raspberry pink.  I always thought I couldn’t wear pink, but as it turns out I just kept choosing terrible warm shades of salmon and coral – I think I am a clear winter, and I need shades that are pure – muted colors just look muddy on me, and they wash me out.   Of course, these are the colors I always gravitated towards anyway, but it’s nice to know that I was onto something!   It also tells me why taupes look decent, but most other browns are terrible on me.

I’m going to use the other color of this challis to make the Ceylon dress from Colette patterns.

This color is not teal, but my camera just can’t do green.   Take my word for it, this color is bright!  Since this dress has sleeves, I’m counting it as a transitional dress.  I’m a little worried about sewing it – I know I always have to do a SBA adjustment with colette patterns, and perhaps a few others – but the pattern is lovely, and I’m very much into 40s inspired looks.  I have this one slated for August also.

I’m working on a post about my fashion inspirations for this Autumn, so look for that soon.

Is anyone else thinking about fall?  I hope you’re keeping well out of the heat!

crafts · finished objects · Sewing

Finished: Butterick 5490

Note the fabulous (autographed!) Liberace album, complete with tribute candlesticks, on the mantle in my studio.

Pattern: Butterick 5490, view A

Fabric: Silk/cotton/lycra twill print, available from Gorgeous Fabrics here

Notes: I have a complicated relationship with stretch wovens.  They are comfortable to wear, but at best they seem unpredictable to sew.  Sometimes I wind up with crinkley seams, or zippers that refuse to go in nicely.  As stretch wovens go, this was actually quite nice.  It sewed nicely, without stretching, and the zipper went in fine after stabilizing the fabric.  But – I had to take the dress in by 2 inches all the way down after I was finished.  Did the fabric stretch while sewing, in spite of obsessive amounts of stay stitching?  Perhaps.  I did make a muslin, which fit, but the stretch factor is so hard to predict.  I will say though – the fabric is beautiful.  It has lovely drape, and it’s wonderfully cool and light to wear without being at all sheer.

It’s also possible that this pattern was drafted for a C cup.  I’m wearing my most padded bra, but I still don’t quite fill out those pleats.  I think, in general, the straps/cups are a bit large for my frame, but I should have thought of that – I know that I have to watch the strap size on sleeveless dresses because my ribcage is so small that the proportions get off easily.

I’m very proud of my pattern matching!  You can see the waistband is still a bit big.  I would add stronger interfacing to this section next time.  The dress called for a half lining, but after a pinking shear disaster I had to turn it into a facing – I used an ivory cotton batiste, and lined to the waistband, but not the band itself.  It probably needed that extra reinforcement.

Matching nailpolish again… I love this color!

The pattern was easy, but it does have quite a lot of pleats.  It is not, therefore, the most slimming thing ever, particularly in the back.  I’m ok with that, but I think it’s something to be aware of and plan for.    I didn’t follow the instructions, to be honest, because I didn’t like their lining instructions, so I’m not sure how they were.  If you’ve made a dress before this one is really straightforward.

I’m wearing this out this weekend – Hitchcock festival at the Palace theater!  They do a summer movie series every year… there is nothing like watching old movies in an Art Deco theater!


Etsy faves and 10 things about me

Above: A sneak peak of this week’s project!  It’s actually all finished, and awaiting photos this weekend.  I went with dark brown piping, as it was the overwhelming winner!   Does anyone else feel like they can never get piping the way they want?  I have the special piping foot, but my zipper foot works better… even so, it’s not as close as I would like!

I’ve been tagged by Karin at Ancien-Nouveau for the Beautiful Blogger award, and I’m supposed to list 10 things you might not know about me… here goes!

1. I’m pretty much nocturnal.  I work in the afternoons and evenings, and play gigs late at night.  I sleep the hours when most people are beginning their work days.  I don’t go out in the bright sunlight if I can help it – I’m extremely fair, and I swathe myself in spf 75 and hats if I have to venture out.  And my sewing?  Happens almost entirely late at night, or on weekends.  You do not want to see me on the Sundays when I have to get up early to play mass (fortunately not that often anymore!)

2.  I have an absolutely shameful addiction to historical romance novels, especially the regency novels of Georgette Heyer etc.  Admittedly, I will read just about anything to feed my appetite for fiction, but there really is no excuse for loving these books.  Are they formulaic?  Heck yeah.  Should they offend my feminist sensibilties?  Probably.  I don’t care though… for me they are the comfort food of books!

3.  Speaking of, I’m also a feminist.  I wouldn’t mention it, except that when people find out my hobbies, or that I teach music lessons, they tend to assume that I’m not.  I also wear a lot of dresses, and unfortunately many people buy into the old stereotypes of a feminist.   As I say, the freedom be what you want includes the freedom to follow a more traditional path (and to dress however you like!)

4.  I have a weird diet.  I pretty much don’t eat meat, though I’m not a vegetarian, and I will eat the same thing for lunch for a month running (yet rarely do I repeat recipes for dinner!)  I also like the world’s most bland snack foods – plain saltine crackers and pretzel sticks are my favorites, and I will choose them over any other snack (especially sugar… I do not really like sugar.)

5.  I like what my husband terms “old man drinks.”  Vodka gimlets, gin and tonics, rusty nails, the Manhattan, the sidecar… you name it, if your grandpa drinks it then I probably like it.  My husband, meanwhile, has never met a drink with an umbrella in it that he didn’t like… and he has a deep and abiding love for sweet madeira wine, which I think is disgustingly sweet.

6.  I am really, extremely shy with new people (and always with large groups!)  My whole life people have assumed I’m being snobby when, in fact, I am desperately trying to remember how to make small talk.  I do completely fail at small talk – I just can’t do it!

7.  My Meyers-Briggs type is INFJ, one of the rarest types.   My best friends have the same type, which must be why we get along!  The description on the Wikipedia pages sounds exactly like me!

8.  When I was a child I wanted to grow up to be a novelist.  I still love to write, thus the blog (and various unpublished stories that I write for fun!)

9.  I met my husband when we were both dating siblings (ie, he was dating the sister, I was dating her brother.)  It’s less sordid than it all sounds, really… one day we found ourselves both single, and hey – we already had something in common!  His ex (we are still friends) recently introduced her new boyfriend  to her brother’s  girlfriend as “your future husband.”

10.  I had to buy a cabinet to store my nail polish in, because I have a nail polish problem.  I can’t grown my nails long, so I like to at least make them look pretty!  Right now I am sporting taupe nails (Orly Country Club Khaki) to match the dress I just finished sewing.  My students stare at my hands all the time, and I like to think they appreciate my extensive glitter nail polish collection!

Whew… that was hard, and I bet they weren’t all new – but after 4 years of blogging I can’t even remember what I’ve mentioned before!

crafts · patterns · Sewing

The rest of summer sewing

I divide the year up into three seasons:

1. So cold I have to wear a sweater (ie Winter, but really only January and maybe February)

2. Actually warm enough that I can go without sleeves (except in the case of air conditioning) (Summer, but really only July and August.)

3. Most of the year

I am certainly more cold natured than warm, so it’s lucky that I live in a (relatively) mild climate.  I don’t mind the hot, humid summers at all, though people around me are complaining right now (average high this week: 93, with a ton of humidity.)

What this means for my sewing is that I need to make a whole lot of transitional items, and not so many things that can only be worn in extreme temperatures.  It’s mid july, which means I should probably think about the rest of my summer sewing.  So here are the ideas I have for the next few weeks:

Butterick 5490 in cotton/silk twill.

I’m almost definitely making this next.  I like the pleating on the skirt, and I’ve been searching all summer for a pattern to go with this fabric.  I’m thinking of doing the waistband in a contrasting fabric, what do you think?  I like the mismatched print on the envelope, but my print is smaller, so it wouldn’t look as good.  I think a contrasting colored band could look neat, or perhaps just black.  I’m taking a swatch with me to the fabric store this afternoon to figure things out.

Vogue 1086, a Tracy Reese design, in rayon challis.  I was thinking of using this for the ruffle dress I finished yesterday, but since I liked my muslin I’m repurposing this fabric.  I love this design, and I think the print would work well – all the gathers around the waistband save me from too much matching!

I also want to make at least one of these open backed designs.  I have some nice quality solid colored rayon challis that might be nice – both designs require a lot of drape, and I’m not currently buying 4-ply silk!

The magenta is pretty accurate, but the green is lighter and brighter in real life – more of a seafoam green.  I really love rayon challis, if you can’t tell… it breathes, and it sews so beautifully!  I also have this nice silk/cotton blend.

It’s more of a burgundy in real life.   I fear the shininess of this fabric, though I suppose I could use the wrong side, which is not shiny.  I might save this fabric for fall, since it is a more subdued color.

So there you go: my updated sewing plan for the rest of summer.  I do, of course, have more things planned that could technically be called summer, but these are the ones I feel like need hot weather!

finished objects · Sewing

The First dress of Autumn (Simplicity 2360)

Pattern: Simplicity 2360

Fabric: Peachskin print from Joann

Notes: I don’t usually make wearable muslins.  The reason for that are twofold: first of all, I want to be able to write all over my muslins, and second of all, if it turns out well I end up never making the item with the original fabric.  I had planned to make this pattern out of a rayon challis, but I was really uncertain about this style on me – would I like the ruffles, or the relatively unfitted (and belted) style?  I found this print at Joann’s, and decided that I would do something unusual and make a wearable muslin – this print will be nice for autumn, and since fall here tends to be somewhat warm, I like having clothes in autumn colors that aren’t too warm.

This is my attempt at a “serious model” slumping pose.  I obviously shouldn’t quit my day job.

I have to tell you, I love the style.  The pattern itself was super easy to sew, without any kind of closure.  I used the rolled hem on my serger to finish the ruffle edges, and I think they look very professional!  I made a straight size 6, though I could have gone to an 8 in the skirt I think.  It fits fine, but the pockets would be more useful with a little extra room.

My husband insisted on taking a photo of my matching nailpolish.

The fabric is a polyester peachskin.  I’ve never sewn peachskin before, and I was expecting a nightmare.  But – it didn’t really fray, and once I figured out the best combo for sewing it (using a ballpoint needle with Coats and Clark thread on the Singer Rocketeer) it went really well.  The Rocketeer, by the way, for some reason sews much better with Coats and Clark thread.  I prefer Mettler or Guttermann, but at least it’s economical!

It isn’t a cool fabric, but it will be fine for autumn.  The colors of this fabric are not something I would usually choose, but I’m trying to branch out – I’ve gotten my copy of “Color me Beautiful” and I am trying to puzzle out what I might be.  I think being extremely fair makes it hard.  I think I’m cool toned, or at least I know that except in rare occasions (in a print combined with black) I cannot wear brown.  I do wear black very well.  I can’t wear peach, or most orange and yellow colors.  I wear taupe brown eyeshadow because bronze makes me look like I’ve been punched in the face.  But who knows… I’m going to need some help to figure it out!

I had my hair colored a few weeks back, because all the old color was turning brassy.  My natural color is rather ashy, or at least I think it is, so rarely have I seen it in the past 15 years!  I started coloring it because I didn’t like how it looked gray in some lights.  I went with a dark auburn with more of a cool cast than I usually get, and I like it far better that the bright warm red I used to have.    It many lights it just looks like a dark cool brown, but in the sun the (burgundy?) highlights come out.

I seem to be rambling, but anyway… I highly recommend this pattern, but I don’t need two of them, so I have once again fallen prey to the wearable muslin trap.  It’s quite trendy – in fact, I went on Modcloth today and found they had just added this dress – look familiar?  Other than the rolled hem on the ruffles, my only other alterations were to use 1/8″ elastic rather than 1/4″ – it was too bulk otherwise, and to sew down the neck facing by hand.  I love the way the ruffles form little sleeves!

Now onto the rest of my summer sewing – my mind is on fall already, but I haven’t finished the things I’d planned yet!

crafts · patterns · Sewing

Fall Vogue patterns 2010

After my disappointment with McCalls, I was really hoping that the Fall Vogue patterns wouldn’t turn out to be nothing but a repeat of all the bad fashion choices I made in the 80s.  They’re out today, and I am so relieved – they’re actually way less crazy pants than they have been lately (no insane jumpsuits or caftans that require 10 yards of fabric!)

Here are my picks (warning: there are a lot.  I really like this collection.)

Designer patterns

1194 (DKNY Design)

I have been longing for a pattern like this – knit with an empire waist but not oversized!  The other DKNY knit dress I made is probably my most worn self-made dress, so I’m hoping to meet similar success with this one!

1191 (Michael Kors design)

I love Michael Kors.  I know a lot of people say that he just does basic sportswear, but I think it’s hard to get that aesthetic right.  This is chic, but it isn’t covered with ruffles or lots of baubles.  This is an advanced pattern, but I’m going to buy it and hope my skills get up to that level soon – love that twisted front (I also have the pattern for his starlet dress waiting for me to be less afraid… someday!)

1190 (Tracy Reese)

I should probably mention that cold weather dresses without sleeve options annoy me, but I make them anyway and wear cardigans.  This would be cute for a special occasion – I really like the way the straps meet in the back.

1203 (Tracy Reese)

I like both pieces of this ensemble, though I think the styling is off somehow.    Hate the ribbon belt with the beads.  Look at the line drawings – the skirt is really nice, and I do love a cowl neck.

1195 (Badgley Mischka)

You can’t tell, but this is a slip dress with an overblouse.  Really, there is no excuse for why I like this silhouette, but I always have – I have several blouses with this dramatic sleeve style, and I love them!  It’s a bit 80s, but this is the kind of 80s I don’t mind… the kind that involves beautiful draping, and does not involve acid washed anything.

Regular Vogue patterns


I like the side ruching and the petal style waistband.  The view with the ruching on both sides is rather like another Vouge pattern, but I would get this for the first view.


This is so very Mad Men inspired.  I love that sort of neckline.  I would make both the full and straight skirt versions – I really like this one!


The pleating at the neckline is cute, and I like that it’s a knit dress with a more tailored silhouette – and it has sleeves!  Great basic, and one of the “Very Easy, very Vogue” patterns.

I found lots to love here – I am starting to plan my cold weather wardrobe, and some of these patterns will be featured (especially the DKNY and the cute Mad Men dress… I’m already searching for a light doubleknit to use for the latter.   I will say that I was disappointed by both the Rebecca Taylor patterns (not my style, too loose) and that there are some crazy carrot pants by Donna Karan (Nope, still hate these!)

Overall a good collection – I can’t wait to get them in my hands!

crafts · finished objects · Sewing

Ruffles! (Simplicity 2599)

Pattern: Simplicity 2599, view D

Fabric: Poly charmeuse

Notes: I told you that I had a great sewing weekend!  My last week has contained plenty of turmoil, and culminated in me having to make a decision to sit out next season in one of my choirs.  There is a conflict with my trip to Italy, and hello – I’m singing in St. Peter’s Basilica, and I’m not missing that!  Still though, while I recognize that I can’t do everything I do hate to disappoint anyone.  So anyway, I had several late nights, and got a lot of sewing done.

I have to tell you, I absolutely love this blouse!  I made it out of cheap poly charmeuse from Joann, both because I wasn’t making a muslin, and because I wanted to see if I liked sewing with charmeuse.  The fabric was a little finicky, but overall not so bad.  I used my walking foot for all construction that didn’t involve the gathers, and that helped keep everything from sliding around.  The seams are all finished with my serger, because this material does ravel pretty badly.  The serger didn’t like this fabric much, but it managed.

I went down 2 sizes from the recommended size and made a size 4.  It fits very well, though it’s not as much like a tunic as the pattern envelope shows.  I wanted to tuck it in, so I made it smaller (about 3.5 inches of bust ease.)  I had a few quibbles with the directions.  First of all, if you are using a fabric that ravels at all I would serge the open edge of each ruffle before attaching them(they are made of doubled fabric.)  I did, and I’m glad – I can imagine it continuing to fray on the outside of the blouse!  I thought the technique for making the button loop was fiddly, and I might just use a ribbon next time.

The patter was really a pleasure to sew, and came together easily in a day.  I love it with my Beignet skirt!  While I had some tops that I wore with this skirt, I really wanted to make a special blouse.  I think this will look fantastic under a cardigan too, as the ruffles will make it stand out.  I’m hoping to make one or two other views from this pattern while ruffles are still in fashion (well, they always are for me, but you know…)

I also love the shoes I’m wearing – Keds sneakers with a platform!  I’ve always loved Keds, and I’m never without a pair of the classic white shoes.  I got these for $2 at Goodwill this summer, brand new, and I love them so much!