Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Stockings

My daughter thought of a wonderful thing to do with fabric scraps -- she made these cute Christmas stockings. She has promised to provide a step-by-step tutorial.

My seemingly interminable batman top project is finally coming to an end. After all that work, I'm not thrilled with the results, but I learned a considerable amount. The jacket is made of poly moleskin on the outside and poly satin on the inside. It is meant to be reversible, but I don't think that's realistic with the fabrics I used, since the front edge is meant to fold over and expose the lining. Neither of the fabrics fold easily, so I had to steam the edge to get it to fold over.  Both fabrics feel smooth and soft against the skin. The jacket covers up the batman godet in the back of the top, so to that extent, I succeeded at what I set out to do. But the outfit as a whole seems sort of dull and depressing.

Maybe some beads would help ...

I dunno ... I'm sure I'll wear the jacket, and I'll probably wear the top too, but not often. So here's what I learned from this project:

-- when making a new pattern that involves transitioning through several sizes (eg from size 14 bust to size 18 hips, which pretty much describes my pear-shaped torso), it will save time in the long run to make a muslin.

-- if a garment has a finished edge that goes around the corner from front to bottom, hand baste first, to make sure the facing and hem will mesh properly.

-- when sewing two slippery fabrics together (such as the poly moleskin and satin), hand baste critical-fit areas such as the arm openings on the jacket. It saves time in the long run, because you don't have to rip out and re-do seams, and the basting thread is very easy to remove.

-- when a project isn't turning out well, sometimes it may be best to quit sooner rather than later.

Aside from these specific things I can list, I became more skilled at sewing in a way that's difficult to describe. In the past, I've never paid too much attention to the learning process. When I was first learning to fly single engine aircraft as a kid, I noticed that practicing landings in my mind had a positive effect on my actual performance; and when I studied for school exams I found that writing things helped me to remember them better than just reading them; and the only way I could really learn the stuff for engineering, physics, and math classes was to understand it and work it our for myself, rather than just memorizing formulas. That's about the extent of my prior analysis of the learning process. I'd never before paid attention to unconscious processes that go on when one is learning a skill such as sewing or carpentry. I still have no idea how it works, in the sense of the mechanics; but I notice that specific tasks get easier each time I do them. Threading a needle, for example, or holding the fabric exactly the right way as I feed it through the sewing machine or serger. I'm amazed and delighted to observe these new skills developing, without any particular effort on my part, other than to go through the motions of doing the tasks.

Likewise, I'm improving my understanding of the Spanish language without any conscious effort in the sense of saying "Now I'm going to sit down and study this." I had to replace my computer a few months ago, and when I set up the new one, I chose Spanish as the language, rather than English, which is my mother tongue. Since the computer's set up to use Spanish, all the "help" pages are in Spanish. When I go to my home page, the news is in Spanish. I can get most of the news stories in English if I want to, but if I just want to read the headlines, it's easier to just read them in Spanish than to go searching for English versions. I was amazed one day recently to notice, while reading a news article in Spanish (the headline was interesting, so I clicked on  it to learn more), that I was halfway through the article before it occurred to me I was reading Spanish.

Here's something even more interesting: when you stimulate your brain to learn one new thing, it's as though you've given it a shot of growth hormone or something. Shifting the brain into learning mode seems to make it easier to learn anything, not just whatever is it you're concentrating on. I'm not sure if there are certain things that are, as it were, taboo for the elderly brain. Certainly I would have major problems if I tried to learn, say, ballet, because my knees are shot. So there are clearly limits imposed on physical learning by the condition of the body (but if one had a sophisticated enough avatar, could one learn to be a virtual ballet artist?). But are there intellectual limits? I don't feel especially motivated to study math-related topics at the moment, although my undergraduate degree was in math. But I think I could probably get into learning to play a musical instrument. Is this because I'm afraid I can't do math anymore? I almost feel compelled to do it just to see if I can. If only I could live to be 150 or 200! Then I might have time to do everything I want to do.

Last year I studied Hebrew just to see if I could. I signed up for online classes with It was really cool. The instructors were in Israel, and the students were from the U.S. and Australia and France and the Phillipines -- really all over the world. We used AT&T meeting software. I noticed that after working on Hebrew lessons, Spanish seemed very, very easy. I reluctantly made the decision to work on Spanish rather than Hebrew, since Spanish is a language I need to know every day, living in San Antonio.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A New Top and A Great Fabric Store

I took the day off from work yesterday to spend time with my daughter, who has come back to Texas  from Nevada to be in her friend's wedding. She'll be heading back to NV on Monday. There was rain off and on the whole day, which I was very happy to see. It doesn't mean the end of the drought. We're still far short of our average rainfall amount for the year; but some rain is surely better than none at all. I heard on the radio that now "only" 41% of Texas is in the Extreme Drought category, whereas the figure was 88% at the start of October.

Here's a photo of Austin's CBD from our car cruising up South Congress. Light rain was falling even as my daughter snapped the photo using my phone.

The highlight of the day, and the reason I'm writing about My Day Off in my sewing blog, was visiting a relatively new fabric store called Austin Texstyles, owned and operated by the very talented Benson Roberts and Markhollan Swientek. It truly makes a difference when the owners of a business also operate the business on a daily basis. We got a warm welcome and were encouraged to look as long as we liked. Benson and Markhollan were there to help when we needed advice, or help finding exactly the right fabric. If you live in the Austin area and appreciate nice fabrics, you can see for yourself. The shop is located at 2605 Jones Rd, Austin TX 78745. Be sure to check them out of Facebook too, as they sometimes list surprise sales there.

Here I am at Austin Texstyle, wearing my latest finished garment, Vogue 1071 again, but this time I made view A, which has buttons down the back. This is a wearable muslin (I learned a lesson from the mistake I made with View C). This time, the top fit perfectly (The top is worn under a denim jacket I made from a slightly altered Burda pattern).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hanging Around the House Clothes

I have a tremendous lot to learn about sewing, of course, but it's encouraging to note how easy it's become to make simple, comfortable garments like the brown linen jersey leggings I'm wearing in the photo. It got cold here a few days ago, it it was very nice to be able to make leggings and a long-sleeved knit top in just a couple of hours. 

I'm also working on a turquoise blue crinkly-satiny polyester top that's a practice run for the same top in silk chiffon. The turquoise poly top is turning out to be quite attractive, so I'm sure I'll end up wearing it. Also a dark navy skirt and jacket. The fabric, ordered online from is pretty nasty. It's a rather loosely woven wool that I can tell will not hold up well. It would have to be underlined to hold any shape at all. I believe it will be quite comfortable as a loose-fitting jacket -- the same Lois Hinse kimono pattern I used for the oatmeal colored jacket. It flows so loosely anyhow, I don't think I'll need to underline it.  I'll have to underline the skirt to keep it from being lumpy and shapeless, but that's OK. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Möbius Band As A Continuous Bias Strip

Upon studying the instructions for vintage Vogue Pattern # 1071 (View A) last night, I was perplexed by the instructions for creating a long bias strip to use for binding the neckline. The pattern piece looks like this:

Here are the written instructions:

With right sides together, pin ends of CONTINUOUS BIAS together, matching symbols. Stitch. NOTE: Edges will not be even at ends of seam.  Starting at one extending end, cut along cutting line, forming one continuous bias strip, as shown. 

As shown? As shown??? The illustration provided in the instructions was worse than useless. All I could do was cut out the fabric, play around with it, and see what I could come up with. I was delighted, upon fitting the two ends of the pieces together in the only way that would possibly produce one long continuous strip of fabric, to find that I had constructed a Möbius Strip, which is a strip of paper (or fabric, in this case) with the ends of the strip fastened together after giving the strip a 1/2 twist. The resulting strip has only one boundary, which you can prove be drawing a line along the length of the strip starting at the seam. The line will end up at the seam, but on the "other side" of the strip.  Here's the way the fabric looks:

Instead of trying to mark the cutting lines on the fabric, I pressed them into the fabric. This made it a bit difficult to produce a completely even edge, but that shouldn't matter, since the raw edges will be hidden within the seam. When I cut along the 3 cutting lines (all in one long cut), I ended up with a long, continuous strip. Is that cool or what!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Music to Sew By

I'm in the country this evening. We had rain last night and today. The winter grass is coming up, emerald green. There is no sewing machine here, so I bring hand sewing to work on when I'm here. Maybe some day I'll set up a sewing machine here.

Hand sewing is actually a very calm, soothing activity. I brought the thrift-shop silk suit that I still have not finished taking apart; a pair of  RTW trousers that are still wearable for working in the garden, but for the relaxed elastic at the waist; and the Batman top, which still has some buttons to sew on (no, I have not given up on the Batman top -- I was merely delayed, because it turned out that the jacket pattern is for a reversable jacket -- I ordered some black satin for the reverse side).

Pour Quoy is one of my favorite compositions of Tielman Susato. Here is another version I'm fond of: and another very fine one on the virginal (this time only one musician rather than a duet) .

I know this is terribly off-topic for a sewing blog, but I want to remember where to find this video of a woman playing the harp and singing. If I don't embed it here, I fear I'll lose track of it.

I cannot resist one more. I love Sefardic music, especially the love songs. This one was inspired by the Song of Songs of King Solomon.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Lois Hinse Kimono Jacket

I'm using Lois Hinse's kimono jacket pattern. The main part of this jacket is made from a very loosely woven wool that I imagine might be somewhat like woolen garments worn by medieval European peasants. Here's an example of homespun wool offered for sale this very day by Faserhaus:

My fabric, however, is machine-woven. It's an excellent insulator and so will be perfect to wear on a cold day. Unfortunately, it's also very scratchy, so I have no choice but to line it. I'm making a Bemberg rayon lining. 

For the collar I used upholstery fabric. I'm quite pleased with the jacket so far. I still need to hem it and insert the lining, and probably shoulder pads, which are optional. I've really enjoyed making this -- the instructions that came with it made it all very easy. The pattern was for an unlined jacket. I cut a lining from the same pattern pieces as the jacket, with an added pleat in the back for wearing ease.

I avoid shops on Black Fridays, but I did stop by Saks earlier this week and had them set aside a jacket, which I called in and paid for today, at a deeply discounted price. I feel somewhat guilty for buying a jacket, as though I should be making stuff, not buying RTW. I assuaged my guilt by telling myself I can learn something useful from the construction details of the jacket. Not that I plan to take it apart any time soon! Here's a photo of the jacket from online. Of course it doesn't look quite as good on my aging body as on this model, but still ... 

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Weekend freedom from work gives me a chance to catch up on interesting blogs.

I got this from a comment by Joanne (Stitch and Witter blog) posted on Tilly's blog (Tilly and the Buttons). Joanne got it from Amanda, who was quoting Ira Glass, host of This American Life, which is one of my favorite radio shows. Mr. Glass is talking about making videos, but what he says applies to any creative work.

To summarize:

1. Be aware that when you're a beginner, you'll go through a period of time (years) when your stuff isn't all that good;

2. To get better, you have to keep working hard;

3. Give yourself deadlines -- for example, one project per week.

This is such good advice, and comes at such a perfect time for me, when I need inspiration, that I'm going to take the liberty of repeating it once again here, so I can be sure to find it next time I get discouraged.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Giving the Student Encouragement

Both gamblers and students need to acheive small successes from time to time, to keep them going. With this in mind, I took a break from the dreaded Batman top and gave myself an easy project today, a project that provided almost instant gratification.

This is a Christine Johnson tee shirt pattern.

This tee could be called a wearable muslin, because my ultimate goal is to make this tee in silk jersey. But it's much more than a muslin. I used very light-weight rayon jersey, and in this loose fitting tee, it's like wearing a gentle spring breeze. The intended purpose of this tee is night wear. It's easily the most comfortable nightwear garment I own, perhaps the most comfortable I've ever owned. From laying out the pattern to the final stitch, it took only about an hour to make it. I sewed and finished all the seams in one pass of the serger and didn't bother with hems. It's so comfortable that after I tried it on (great fit) I couldn't bear to take it off. 

I wish I knew exactly what sort of fabric this is, so I could get more. It would be wonderful to use for camisoles. I keep saying I'm going to start a notebook with detailed descriptions of all fabrics I buy, a swatch attached to each description. So far I have not taken the time to do this, but I really must start.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I'm Not Gonna Let This Top Get Me Down!

I'm probably revealing a deep character flaw here, but I can't stand to be beaten by an inanimate object. After spending a few hours brooding about my major failure with the Batman top, I decided to make a loose fitting unlined (i.e. easy-to-make) jacket to wear over it and cover up the hideous godet in the back.

So after work on my way to the grocery store, I stopped by Joanne Fabrics and picked up some rather pleasant polyester moleskin that's exactly the color I wanted.

I plan to use Vouge 1243 as a pattern for the jacket.

I've never sewn mole skin before, but I've long been intrigued by the name. From time to time I've found dead moles in the garden, and their coats are very soft and velvety, as is this fabric. I generally don't like using polyester, because it doesn't breathe, but at this point I don't care! Anything to salvage the Batman top!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Fifth Alternative

The top looked pretty bad as a jacket, and I could tell it would look at least as bad if I cut it off at the waist. I doubt that anyone would want it if I tried to give it away. That left the scarf alternative. But as I gazed sadly in the mirror, I thought of another possibility -- a godet. Yeah, I know godets are generally inserted in skirts, but why not a top?

I found a video on How To Insert a Godet, and it looked easy. The video also has some nice guitar music at the beginning (it is from a website called Actually, I became quite distracted by the various flamenco videos that showed up. If you like flamenco music, listen to this by Paco De Luci:  and here's a TV documentary on the life of the magical flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya:

Anyhow, back to the godet. Sadly, I didn't have enough fabric left over to make the godet in the same fabric as the top. I had some black silk broadcloth that was of approximately the same weight and a not entirely dissimilar texture.

So I inserted the godet, using the instrcutions in the flamenco skirt video. The process was successful, and the top is now more than roomy enough at the hips to button in the front. The problem is that from the back, it looks very silly. My husband commented that it looks like a Batman costume.
Here it is viewed from in front:

And now the back:

What a terrible failure! I can't even pretend it's a fashion statement. It's just plain ugly! I should have made 3 or 4 small godets instead of one large one. I'm not going to try to rip this one out and do it again. The fabric is too delicate. But I think I'll make another top like this, the same too-small size, and insert 4 small godets in the back. It would look something like this, except I think this dress/top has godets all the way around.:

Hmm ... maybe all the way around would be good. Instead of all one fabric, I think I'll use two different colors ... maybe solid red, and white with red dots, like a flamenco dress. This time, I'll remember the lesson I should have learned a long time ago -- make a muslin first.

Even though the top I'm working on now is a failure, all is not lost. It will look OK with a jacket. The bright point of all this is that I learned a couple of new things, for the cost of my time and about $17 worth of fabric. Plus, I found the website of a very interesting woman, Anke Hermann. It was her video I watched to learn how to make a godet. From her website:   In 2004, after years of working in Information Technology as a programmer I decided to leave the corporate world behind and turn a dream into reality: to combine two passions of mine - sewing and flamenco - as a dressmaker for flamenco artists. Now, my clients include flamenco schools, flamenco dance companies as well as numerous flamenco dancers and students 

After so many benefits, being able to actually wear the top is gravy.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rayon Top

I'm making the long-sleeved version of Vogue 1071, copyright 1993.

I still need to put on the cuffs, top stitch around the edges of the top, make button holes, and sew on the buttons. From the project, I'm learning how to make sleeves with pleats and cuffs at the bottoms. I'm also learning to handle a rather delicate rayon challis (I bought it from Vogue Fabrics). I was quite pleased with the top until I tried it on (belatedly, alas, after I'd already cut and sewn it). I sort of forgot that when garment extends over the hip area, even if it's a top, the size in the hip area must be larger than my hips. I forgot the lesson I was supposed to already have learned -- measure for size & try on the pattern before cutting the fabric. So I don't get a passing grade on this one.

At this point, I can think of four alternatives: (1) give the top to someone with smaller hips than mine, or donate it to Goodwill; (2) cut the top off just below the waist; (3) wear the top as a light-weight jacket, with the front open; (4) cut up the top and make the pieces into a scarf. I think I'll probably choose (3) and wear a silk tee under it. One of the things that appeals to me about the style is the length.

Although I had planned to make a woolen jacket next, I'm going to make this top again instead. This time, I'll make sure it fits properly.

In April when I first decided to learn how to sew, I had no idea I would also need to learn about fashion. I knew the importance of color and style, but my original plan was to make whatever garemnts I felt like, regardless of current fashion trends. Lately I've been spending more and more time looking at fashion websites. I've even subscribed to Harper's Bazaar. I still don't feel compelled to conform to currently popular styles, but it's fascinating to see what the designers are coming up with.

Monday, November 7, 2011

More Fashion

I love the spring 2012 fashions that are being shown, for example, in Paris. I long to improve my sewing skills so I can see an outfit and figure out how to make it. In a way, seeing these beautiful clothes is discouraging, because I have such a long way to go. But it's also inspiring. Some, like the one below, would be difficult to do, because the fabric is unique.

But some, such as below, would be possible for a talented person:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Knit Pants

These pants were made using Butterick 4348, a "vintage" pattern from the 1990's. I made the leggings in the large size, which means they hang a bit loose on me. The result is a very comfortable pair of pants.

More thoughts about wearing high heeled shoes ... in the top photo, I'm standing on the balls of my feet, as I would be if I were wearing high heels. In the second photo, I'm standing with my weight distributed across the full surface of both feet.

Putting the weight on the balls of the feet decreases the apparent size of the hips by a couple of sizes, pulls in the stomach, and increases the girth of the calf muscles. No doubt about it -- the high heel posture is highly flattering.

So I wonder if one could somehow adopt a high-heel posture without standing on the balls of one's feet ... perhaps if one's muslces were strong enough ...

For inspiration, here's a photo of Joseph Pilates at age 82. He didn't need no stinkin high heeled shoes.

Rib Knit Top

This is one of the quick projects I've been working on while also doing a more time-consuming lined jacket.

There's plenty wrong with this top. The bottom hemline stretched when I topped stitched it. The sleeve opening needs to be a bit deeper. The bust darts need to be smaller. Instead of ripping out, which I've found is very unpleasant with stretch knit fabric, I'm going to wear the top as-is. If I go public with it, I'll wear a jacket over it to hide the wrinkles under the arms. Despite its shortcomings, it's comfortable, and the color is good.

This was made from Vogue 8151. I used fabric left over from another project. There was not quite enough fabric, so I had to shorten the sleeves and the top itself.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fashion - Shoes

I've had an interest in fashion, as art, for as long as I can remember. When I was in my late 30's and early 40's I took time off from working as a lawyer so I could spend more time with my daughter. One of the things I did to earn a living during this time was to make and sell dolls, and one of my favorite parts of doll-making was designing the costumes. The dolls were from various periods in history. I gave each one a name and wrote a short biography to go with him or her. Most of the dolls had accessories -- for example, a Celtic woman from Gallia Narbonensis, before the Roman Gallic wars, had a basket made of reeds, and a wooden walking stick.

Anyhow, I loved studying the history of fashion and doing my best to capture the old styles for the dolls, and I love looking at fashion magazines such as Vogue and W, but my desire to be comfortable has always limited my ability to dress myself stylishly. 

One major fashion-fail has been my refusal to wear high heeled shoes. When I was young, I considered my feet to be one of my most beautiful features. They were strong, sturdy feet with excellent arches and lovely smooth skin. I went barefoot or wore sandals whenever I could. I remember seeing my mother's feet when I was a kid -- they were wrecked from wearing high heeled shoes -- she had horrible sores on her heels, and corns on her toes, and her toes were all squished together. They were quite disturbing to me, my mother's feet -- she was a young woman at the time, too. Although I don't recall consciously thinking of my mother's feet when I bought shoes as a young woman, I surely must have been at least somewhat influenced by my negative reaction to them. 

The current shoe fashions are disheartening. Despite the generally available knowledge that high heeled shoes can cause permanent damage to the feet, knees, hips, and spine -- not to mention the danger of falling; despite the horrible pain of trying to walk with one's feet in such unnatural positions, women seem to love to wear them. Some people say it can be explained by each woman's need to compete with other women for the attention of men. High heels make women's legs look longer, make their busts and butts protrude -- in general emphasize their female sexuality. But I don't think that's the whole of it. Women also judge each other according to clothing choices. I was amazed at some of the vicious comments I saw on the
Corporette website -- women making disparaging comments about other women who wear ... shudder ... panty hose that are darker than their skin tone, or who make other equally unfashionable choices. 

The thing that really depresses me, though, is that wearing high heels seems to be almost as mandatory as foot binding was in China during the period when women without severely deformed "lotus" feet were considered unworthy as wives, and thus pretty much unworthy as humans. Women in most "developed" countries these days have choices other than marriage. But it appears that one's career choices may be limited if one decides to forego wearing high heeled shoes in favor of having a healthy musculo-skeletal system. Being able to wear high heeled shoes is so important to women that they are willing to undergo surgery to adapt their feet to the shoes. See Plastic Surgery - Are Feet the New Nose? 

There are a few notes of encouragement out there, though.
Gisele Bundchen refused to wear ultra-high heels on the runway. Referring to women injuring themselve with high heels, Maria Cornejo said, "That’s just sad, you know? It’s boys dressing women. I’m sorry — they don’t have to wear the **** shoes. It’s quite abusive. Because, you know what? We have to run around and walk, and nobody has a chauffeur waiting for them outside. And it really pisses me off and makes me really angry because it’s that boys thing about making women into victims. You know, it’s not nice."  See Maria Cornejo Rebels Against High Heels at the New York Fashion Week

A Detroit lawfirm was sued by a secretary who was required to wear high heels to work and injured her back as a result. The firm settled with the plaintiff (Denise Fitzhenry v Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn).

I read somewhere online that not wearing high heels in the courtroom can be detrimental to the careers of female lawyers, I've done fine in my own practice wearing low heeled shoes. In fact, not only do I wear low heels, I wear comfortable low heels, such as Danskos and Clarks and Merrells. But who knows? Maybe I would have done even better if I'd been willing to bear the pain and damage my feet.

I think it was George Bernard Shaw who made the comment, "If a woman rebels against high heels, she should do so in a very smart hat." That's probably a valid observation. To get away with wearing low heels, I must take care to stay slim and muscular as long as I can, and try to wear very smart clothing. Unfortunately, I have no sense of fashion or style when it comes to dressing myself. But perhaps these things can be learned ...
P.S. My feet are still in pretty good shape, considering they're 62 years old. They can walk for miles without faltering. My legs are OK too, except for the scars where I was mauled by two pit bulls one day while I was out walking. 

Speaking of dogs, as I did to my husband a few minutes ago, here is a limerick he composed on the spot, about a blogging dog:
There was a young girl with a dog
Who wrote on cuisine for his blog.
He enjoyed steak tartare
Or a plate of jugged hare
And then buried his snout in her grog.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Not-So-Ugly Denim Jakcet

Using the same pattern that yielded the Ugly Green Suit I made a second jacket that's much, much better. The fabric made all the difference in the world. This time, I used a print denim from Emma One Sock with a yellow Bemberg rayon lining. The fabric is smooth, almost silky, with a bit of horizontal stretch.

I left off the bottom strip of the jacket, because it didn't look good with the large-scale print. If I had it to do over, I'd probably lengthen the jacket a bit, to make up for the lost bottom strip.

I wore it yesterday with yellow pants, but I think it will look better with a straight skirt.

I found some glass buttons at an ebay shop. I wish I could have found something similar in a periwinkle color. I do actually have 3 buttons that are exactly the right size and color, and I suppose I could have used them an put a snap at the top.

What I learned from this project:

1. When using fabrics with large or asymmetrical prints (or stripes or plaid, for that matter), carefully consider the layout before cutting. If I were going to do this project again from the beginning, I would cut out tissue patterns, omitting the seamlines and overlaps, and lay them out so I could see exactly how the pattern would match up at the seam lines and where the left and right fronts overlap.

2. I already knew this, but the project made it even more clear: choice of fabric is SO important. If one is on a limited budget, it's far better to save up and buy one length of nice fabric than to buy several lengths of low-quality fabric. However, if the high-quality fabric is expensive (which usually seems to be the case) it's also good to make the best use of the expensive fabric by making test garments first with inexpensive fabrics.

3. When setting in sleeves, I find it very helpful to hand-baste the sleeve into place before sewing it on the machine. I end up actually saving time, because if the sleeve is basted in, I don't have problems with puckered seams that have to be ripped out and re-done. Maybe as I get more experience I won't need to do this step, but for now, I'm going to hand-baste my sleeves.

4. When sewing very light-weight, slippery fabrics, such as rayon lining, always put tissue paper along the seam line when sewing on the machine. Don't try to save time by omitting this step.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blue Denim Skirt

This was made from stretch denim from JoAnn's. The fabric must have been sitting around the shop for a long, long time, because there was a pale line where the fabric had been folded in half. I didn't notice this until I'd already cut out the pattern, but it's OK. This is another of my wearable practice garments.

I actually love this skirt, despite the pale line down the front. It's completely comfortable, and looks tidy enough to wear in public. I used Vogue 8606 as a pattern. What I especially like about this skirt is that it has a yoke rather than a waistband, which makes it fit very nicely, with no bulk at the waist.

I'm planning to make another one in wool. Since the wool I'll use is somewhat scratchy (I have very sensitive skin; the only sort of wooly fabric I can stand to have touching my skin is cashmere or angora), I'm going to make the yoke from cotton jersey in a matching color. I'd have used satin for the yoke, but I don't have any in a compatible color. Anyhow, the yoke won't show. I'm making the skirt specially to wear with a top I bought online last year. The color of the top turned out not to be what I had expected, so the top has sat in a drawer for months. The top will look best worn outside the skirt rather than tucked in, so it doesn't really matter what the yoke looks like.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

An Ugly Green Suit

Well, I guess it's OK for a first attempt, but I'm not greatly pleased by it. In part, I believe the problem is the nasty fabric that doesn't drape well. there is also the problem of the style itself. The jacket hemline is just below the fullest part of the hip, which accentuates my pear-shaped torso. For the learning process, I will try making the same jacket in a more pleasant fabric and see how it looks.

I asked my husband to take 2 photos -- one with the jacket open and one with it closed. He says he likes it better open. I don't like it either open or closed. So I think I will not bother installing buttons.

For purposes of comparison, here are a couple of garments from my closet that are far more flattering. This one is a cotton knit skirt with a silk top and jacket:

This one is a silk dress with a wool crepe jacket:

The styles are different, but I suspect the main difference is in the fabric. In other words, you can't make a silk purse ...

Things I learned from making this suit:

1. Silk crepe makes a very comfortable lining;
2. It seems to work OK to interface just the front of a jacket, and not the back;
3. Jackets look better on me if I install small shoulder pads & make the right pad a bit larger than the left;
4. Henceforth, if a pattern calls for tiny little pockets, I'm not going to bother with them, because they are useless (I may re-think this one -- after all, one could carry a few dollars and a set of keys in the pockets of the ugly green jacket);
5. I don't like straight skirts with pleats in the front. Next time, I think I'll try darts instead;
6. Making a lined jacket takes a long time.
7. Making a straight skirt takes very little time.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A New Skirt and a Jacket Lining

I made a cotton interlock skirt using New Look pattern No. 6730. I wore it to work today with a formal cotton blouse then wore at home with the salvaged cotton top.

More exciting, I'm making a lined jacket. I wanted to try sewing silk chiffon, and the jacket lining seemed like a low-risk choice of project. I found some silk chiffon on sale at Vogue Fabrics for $5.99 per yard and made the lining first, because I was eager to see what it was like to sew such delicate, floaty fabric. I used tissue paper on the bottom of each seam as I sewed it, and a walking foot on top so I could try to feed the fabric evenly. This system worked very well for me. I'm pleased with the way it came out, and it fits well.

Far as I know, silk chiffon is not commonly used as a lining, but when I tried it out with the somewhat nasty fabric I'm using for the jacket, the chiffon improved the drape of the nasty fabric. This is the same fabric I used to make a straight skirt that I have not yet worn, because I have not yet hemmed it or attached the hook at the waist.

The fabric, which I believe is meant to be used as upholstery, is sort of stiff and doesn't drape at all well by itself, but with a cotton lawn lining, the skirt's not too bad. I think the jacket will look OK too, with the silk chiffon. If not, it's no great loss. I got the fabric on sale for something like $2 per yard, with the intent of using it as a tool for learning. If it turns out ugly, I can wear it to work in the garden on coolish days. I'm using Burda pattern # 8761.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Two New Tops

I have been unexpectedly busy at work, because one of our employees quit, and the rest of us have had to work harder to take up the slack. So I have not had time to take photos of the gardments I've worn each day. They've been repeats anyhow, since I don't have that many self-made garments. Here are two new tops I recently finished. The first is like the one I showed in my most recent post, except that I used thing braided trim on the shoulder and armholes to keep them from stretching. I'm sad to report that the spray-on fabric stabilizer did not work.

The braided trim worked very nicely. No stretching at all, and I'm very pleased with the way the top looks when I wear it. In fact, I wore it to the office today with a blue/gray silk suit.

The second top was made using McCall's 7978.

I used fusible interfacing on the neck edge, which helped somewhat to prevent stretching.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

SSS 21 - Salvaged Knit Top

I wore the stretched and subsequently gathered-neck cotton knit top today, under a light-weight jacket.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Tragic Knit Top

I used a pattern for woven fabric to make a top out of cotton interlock fabric. To compensate for the stretch, I used one size smaller than I would normally wear. When I tried on the top after sewing the pieces together, it fit perfectly. I loved it and looked forward to wearing it for SSS Day # 18.

But when I top stitched the neck and armhole edges, they stretched all out of shape, and the top was unwearable. To salvage it, I gathered the edges. I was afraid the stitches would pull out, so I stabilized the neck edge by sewing in some flat braided trim. I kind of like the way the neck looks, but the armholes look weird. Still, the top will be fine to wear under a jacket.

So I decided I absolutely must figure out how to keep the knit fabric from stretching when I top stitch the edges. I could have used interfacing on this particular top, since the neck opening was large enough to slip on over my head. But what about when I want the neck edge to stretch -- when I wear it, not when I'm sewing it?

A Web search turned up the following:

(1) decrease the tension on the presser foot;
(2) use spray-on or paint-on water soluble stabilizer
(3) use elastic

I tried decreasing the presser foot tension and still had stretching. I didn't want to use elastic, because part of what I like about this fabric is its softness and light weight. The elastic would make it feel heavy; besides the elastic would look weird on the edges of the armholes. So I went to the fabric store after work and bought some spray-on stabilizer and some more of the black cotton interlock, to try once more.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

SSS 13 - 17 and Pattern Weights

I've been horribly busy at work, so no time to take photos or blog until today. In fact, no time to sew either until last night.

Here are the garments I wore during the week. I was working at home most of the time, remotely connected to the office, so I could wear whatever wanted. I didn't have to look "professional."

Tuesday: brown linen dress with yet another version of the Butterick 5567 jacket
Wednesday: peach colored version of huge pants
Thursday: white top
Friday: turqoise sundress with matching jacket (it's still quite warm here)
Saturday: tonight I will wear the yellow nightgown

I recently watched Peggy Sagers' video Factory Tips & Techniques - 1 & 2. One of the things she recommends is using weights to hold patterns and fabric down when cutting, rather than pinning the pattern to the fabric. I tried this out last night when I cut a couple of tops out of black cotton interlock. It works very well. As Ms. Sager pointed out, you don't have to buy specially made weights. You can use anything heavy enough to hold down the pattern. I have lots of rocks in my garden, so they were an obvious choice for me.

Stretchy knit fabrics are amazingly easy to sew with a serger! It only took me about 10 minutes to sew each top together. I still have to top stitch the neck opening and armhole edges. I'm waiting to do this after I finish sewing a green linen skirt. The skirt is a test garment. The fabric was on sale for a very low price -- can't remember how much, but it was cheap enough for me to buy several yards. It's fairly nasty fabric -- doesn't drape very well, and scratcy against the skin. But underfacing with cotton lawn changed it much for the better. So I think I'll have a wearable skirt. The bright green color isn't really my style, but it's not hideously ugly either. It'll certainly be good enough to wear around the house, to the grocery store, that sort of thing.

The kittens have at least doubled in size since they were born. Here they are as they looked a couple of days ago. Their eyes are open now, and they're beginning to move around more than their mother likes. She often jumps up and lies on the table, to get away from these pesky children.