Wednesday, 25 November 2009

New York City here I come ...........

I’m packed and ready to go – Mr Fabulous and I are off to NYC for a ten day break. I can hardly wait to step foot on the glittering streets of Manhattan! I love the city at this time of the year, as the holiday season approaches.

Of course, one of the first things I shall be doing is getting myself a large slice of pumpkin pie! We’re going to take in some shows, see some exhibitions, do some shopping and eat a lot of excellent dinners – sounds good to me. Mr Fabulous will be taking a few business meetings here and there and I will be spending many happy hours in the garment district – Mood, New York Elegant Fabrics, Metro Textile, Paron, and M & J Trimmings are all on my list. I’m also keen to visit Lace Star – I may not be able to afford anything there but I want to take a look and get some inspiration. Last time I went shopping in the garment district I had put myself on a strict fabric diet because my stash was getting so large and intimidating. However, this time I think I’m going to allow myself a little more leeway. My stash is still well stocked but I have been working hard over the last few months to bring it down to a more manageable size and I have finally got around to sorting it properly and putting it all in one place so now I actually know what’s in it! I think that gives me a licence to have a little fabric splurge doesn’t it?

What I should, of course, do is first decide what I what to make, then arrive at the stores with a pattern in hand and a clear idea of exactly what fabric I want. However, I just can’t seem to get that organised – I find it so much more fun to walk around a shop and let the fabrics call out to me. I tend to buy what my heart wants then hope that my head is going to organize what’s to be done with it later. That’s probably not the best way to shop is it?

While I’m away I shall try to get to a computer to read your blogs and see what you’re all doing so that I don’t miss you too much. However, I won’t be posting until I get back home. In the meantime, A Very Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Friday, 20 November 2009

My Liberty print fabric is now a shirt!

My rather expensive Liberty print fabric, that I bought last month, has now been turned into a shirt -

Perhaps, at this point, I should reveal a little bit of my personal shirt history. I haven’t owned a long sleeve shirt since, probably, the late 1980’s – in those days shirts were much looser and, indeed, I was much smaller and, whilst the fit was never perfect, I could buy one RTW that was at least passable. Throughout the 90’s fashion got more fitted and my figure got curvier and I discovered that narrow shoulders and a full bust meant that if a shirt fitted my shoulders I couldn’t do it up and if I could do it up my arm movement was restricted by overhanging shoulders. I shudder to recall the many depressing changing room scenes where desperate sales assistants have attempted to button me into some hideously unflattering garment. Since taking up sewing last year I have been determined to make myself a well fitting classic shirt – the sort of thing that all the style gurus say is a must for any wardrobe.

I chose this pattern

which is pattern number 105 from the September 2009 issue of Burda Magazine. As I mentioned in my previous post, I liked that it was “slightly-fitted” and had a double-layered shoulder yoke, a narrow collar and curved hem. It took me two muslins to get something that I was happy with. I started by tracing the size 38 and making a 1” FBA but eventually decided that this was too fitted from the armholes down (I wanted a ‘relaxed’ fit) and was too big around the shoulders. So I started again with a size 36 for the neck and shoulders, grading out to a size 40 for the body and made a small FBA. I also made a petite adjustment across the front, back and sleeves just above the armhole notches, shortened the sleeves and cut the cuffs at a size 36. See what I mean? That’s a lot of fitting adjustments isn’t it? Next time I might be able to fine tune the fit a bit more but, on the whole, I’m pretty ecstatic that I’ve got a shirt that doesn’t gape at the bust and allows me to actually move my arms.

When it came to making it up I have to confess that the stitch ripper was constantly at my side with this one. I can’t blame Burda because their instructions were fine as far as Burda magazine goes. No, it was me not paying attention to what I was doing – Burda give you a nice way of sewing the outer and inner yokes on to the back and front pieces so that everything is neatly enclosed but I managed to sew the outer yoke on inside out! Or, it was me changing my mind – at first I chose to do the topstitching using a dark, navy blue topstitching thread but after doing the first line of topstitching on the back yoke I decided that it would be too overpowering so I ripped that out and switched to a regular thread in a mid-blue that disappears and lets the pattern do the talking.

Here’s a close-up picture of the neat little collar and, if you look closely you can, hopefully, just make out the lines of the yoke and the topstitching.

The funny thing is that, once I was done, although I really liked it as a garment on the hanger, when I put it on me I wasn’t so sure that this style suited me – I felt that it just wasn’t me! However, Mr Fabulous told me I was wrong, so I wore it out shopping for the day and, you know what, by the end of the day I decided that I really did like it on me after all. So, here’s another, full length, picture of me in my new smart-casual wardrobe basic.

Looks like I’ve found my TNT shirt pattern – thanks Burda!

Friday, 13 November 2009

The sheath dress with a little bling!

With not too much trouble at all my McCalls 5927 ‘fashion sheath’, that I promised in my last post, is complete and, with as much modesty as I can muster, I have to say that I like it and think my sewing and fitting skills are improving of late.

and here's the back view

Yes, I can hardly believe it, I made it myself!

The fabric is a silk twill designed by Rebecca Taylor – purchased from Mood Designer Fabrics, during my trip to NYC in July, for $14 per yard. I made the sleeveless version of the pattern, View B, but I added the neckline tabs from View C, onto which I have sewn some jewels bought in M & J Trimmings. Here’s a close-up so you can, hopefully, see the ‘bling’ a little better -

I followed the pattern instructions fairly slavishly but added a couple of ‘little improvements’. After cutting out I stabilized the armholes, neckline and centre back edges with a lightweight fusible interfacing to stop them stretching and help the zipper go in smoothly. Like this -

The bodice lining is an ‘edge to edge’ one (no facings) so I used the technique I learnt from Connie Long’s book where you trim the armhole edges of the lining to stop it rolling out – as explained in a previous post.

I really like the cut-in pockets of this style and the neat vent at the back. The vent is the kind where you machine stitch the seam allowances of the dress and the lining together – I had never done this before and was pleasantly surprised by how quick and easy it was.

This is the first sheath dress I have made – I’d been feeling rather cautious about making such a close-fitting dress style but this one has some little pleats at the top of the skirt at the front which means that the dress skims rather nicely over an area where I (and maybe you too?) like to have some leeway. Mr Fabulous and I are going out to celebrate his birthday tomorrow night so this dress is going to get its first outing at a very fancy restaurant where I want to look good - I hope it's up to the job!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

I'm working on "The Fashion Sheath"

As I believe I have mentioned once or twice before, I love dresses. I spend many happy hours looking at dress patterns and fantasizing about the perfect dress I am going to make from them ..... until reality bites and I remember that in order to realise this dream I am going to have to actually decide on a pattern and get on and get it made!

So, decision made, in the pipeline is this lovely little number McCalls 5927 – “The Fashion Sheath”

A big selling point for this one is that it comes with separate pattern pieces for A/B, C and D cup sizes – such a boon (isn’t that a lovely vintage word?) for ladies of my shape, or, indeed, any shape that is not ‘standard’. I’m starting with a sleeveless version but I like that it has options for different sleeves if I decide that I want to make it again later. But I’m getting ahead of myself, goodness me, let’s get this one done first!

After a small amount of fiddling around, my muslin left me feeling rather hopeful – in fact it’s looking pretty promising. However, I would like to say a little something about the fitting. This dress has one of those bodices that doesn’t have horizontal, underarm darts, but has vertical darts that come from the waist up to the bust line. I’ve never made one of these before but the pattern, as it is made by McCalls, has one of those round things that indicate where the apex of the bust should be and the darts finish (just like horizontal darts do) one inch away from the apex. Here’s a picture of my traced-off pattern piece -

I measured the pattern and got it all worked out so that the apex mark on my muslin matched the bust point on my body but it looked all wrong. The darts didn’t sit right and it didn’t fit round my body at all. BUT, when I put a horizontal tuck across the bodice between the armholes and the shoulders to lift the whole thing up, so that the darts ended just a tiny fraction of an inch below my bust apex, it all fitted smoothly. Now I'd be interested to know if any of you have any thoughts on this but I found it a little puzzling because everything I’ve read about this kind of thing tells me that darts are supposed to end an inch or more before the apex. However, I’m going to ignore these rules and I’m making this dress the way I think it fits me best. Reckless – maybe! But it’s my dress and I’m going to do what I want and I did take some encouragement from Pati Palmer and Marta Alto in Fit for Real People because, although they seem to be pretty firm about ‘Bust Dart Rules’, they do also say “Just remember, if it works, it’s right!!”

So, anyway, I shall be posting pictures of this new dress soon – I do hope you're going to like it ......

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


I like to think of myself as the kind of person who, with a little effort, can get my head around most things but these little devils drive me crazy. I HATE HOOKS AND EYES.

In the past I have given them plenty of chances but every time I’ve tried to sew them on they will not behave. Just getting them to stay still is difficult – either the hook or the eye tends to leap out of my hand when I’m positioning it on the garment, never to be found again, leaving me with an orphan half. When I do manage to stitch them down they don’t really lie flat properly and I find it quite difficult to judge exactly where they need to be placed so that the two sides of the garment come together exactly right when done up. This isn’t helped, of course, by the fact that a hook and eye usually has to be sewn onto the neck or waistband area where a whole load of fabric and interfacing and a zip tape all meet up and, even with a lot of clipping, you are bound to land up with a lot of stiff fabric layers for the little hook and eye to have to balance on and stretch itself across.

The last time I used a hook and eye was on this sundress – here’s a close-up of the centre back.

This style meant that the top of the zip was going to be right in the middle of the back rather than up at the neck so I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to use a hook and eye so that the dress was completely ‘done up’ in such a showy place. It looks OK but it took me three attempts to get this sewn on to my satisfaction and you can still, if you look very closely, see it glinting through a small gap!

My solution since then has been to not bother with a hook and eye. Yes, really, I just put in a zip, placed as closely as I can to the top of the garment and leave it at that. If the zip is put in correctly it doesn’t come undone and I can live with a little bit of a ‘V’ effect at the top of the neck or waistband. But that isn’t really good enough is it? If I want to make a ‘couture’ garment I’m going to have to learn to do better.

Do you use hooks and eyes or do you hate them too? Do you have a much healthier relationship with these pesky little things, can you tame them? If so, have you got any tips for me on how to get them sewn down nicely? I’d love to know ……

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