Project MyWay #10–Silver Linen Blouse

On Friday night I met some old High School friends for “tennis” (I haven’t played in 10 years or more, plus, I’m still on crutches, so I was the audience) and drinks at the country club. I grew up doing things like this and don’t have much interest in it any more, but I wanted to see my friends and look nice.

I pulled this picture of Ellen Pompeo in a J. Mendel blouse out of In Style magazine’s June issue. I thought it was really classy looking. I’m so tired of poofy clothes! I think women over 40 look ridiculous in empire waisted billowy tops and dresses.

Unfortunately, the pattern I used for this blouse is a discontinued Style pattern. You can re-create the look with any sleeveless blouse pattern.

I cut my own collar from the collar stand pattern piece included with the pattern. As long as you have the correct neckline shape from any collar pattern piece, you can redraw to your heart’s content! This is how my change looked (I tapered it at the upper edge):

I bought a gorgeous piece of white silk organza with the idea of making a sheer blouse, but I keep whacking off hunks of it and using it as interfacing! It’s great to use inside light weight fabric when you want some stiffness, it makes my collar look nice and crisp.

I wanted a really clean look, like the Ellen Pompeo blouse, so I finished the fronts with a 1″ topstitched facing and then sewed the fronts together (topstitched) instead of using buttons or snaps:

It really turned out great and looks chic and casual with a pair of white pants.

Ta-ta for now!

Design Inspiration

Here’s were I sort through the abundant amount of sewing inspiration available from the web, the runway, the stores, magazines, celebs and the street.

Spring Wardrobe ’08 part 1:  designs for transitioning between winter and spring.

Spring Wardrobe ’08 part 2:  Chaiken Spring RTW ’08, a line I love from beginning to end.

Spring Wardrobe ’08 part 3:  Grabbing a great detail from designer clothing.

Spring Wardrobe ’08 part 4:  Finding wearable looks amid a sea of poofy umpire waisted designs.

Spring Wardrobe ’08 part 5:  A cropped, full jacket even a tailored gal can love.

What to Wear:  Some ideas for my daugher’s graduation ceremony.

Spring Wardrobe ’08 part 6:  Some dressed down looks for weekends and vacations.

Spring’s Sheer Fabrics from Cheryl Shops:  Nice ways to incorporate sheer fabrics into spring fashions.

Special Clothes:  Gathering ideas for fabric and details that can be used for unique clothing.

Magic Wrap Dresses and Tops from stylelist:  Great ideas to get this flattering look into your wardrobe.

Alternatives to Sweats

Fall Shoes and Boots

Fall Wardrobe ‘08–Part 5

Fall Wardrobe ‘08–Part 4

Project Runway–What would you do?

Ruffles, Lace and Florals for Fall?

Fall Wardrobe ‘08–Part 3

Project MyWay

I call my sewing projects Project MyWay because I’m a self-taught seamstress and sometimes I do things in an unorthodox way. I don’t really care if it’s the “right” way, as long as I get professional results.

Project MyWay #1–Black Silk Skirt Alteration Part 1:  I found a TSE skirt at Saks Fifth Off for over $600 off the regular price; here is the original garment which had a very strange fit.

Project MyWay #1–Black Silk Skirt Alteration Part 2:  I cut the TSE skirt off at the waist and created a new waist and a shorter skirt–turned out great!

Project MyWay #2–Black Silk Anorak:  An anorak made from black silk shantung and lined with satin backed flannel, it’s good looking and extremely practical.

Project MyWay #3–Black Cashmere Knit Coat:  A between season coat made with a beautiful cashmere sweater knit that I lusted after for a year.

Project MyWay #4–Garnet Silk Crepe de Chine Blouse:  I re-designed a Butterick pattern to copy an expensive blouse I saw at Nordstrom.

Project MyWay #5–Nanette Lepore knock-off blouse:  I copied a silk blouse in a popular style at a fraction of the retail cost.

Project MyWay #6–Yellow Crepe de Chine Blouse:  A blouse with pleating detail in this season’s must have yellow.

Project MyWay #7–Michael Kors Knock-off Dress:  This was the perfect dress for my daughter’s graduation and so quick to put together, I made it the morning of the ceremony!

Project MyWay #8–Tank Dress:  I got the idea for this outfit from Dolce & Gabbana’s Spring ’08 RTW Runway show.

Magic Wrap Dresses and Tops from stylelist

Wrap dresses and tops are sophisticated, sexy and flattering–what more could you want? I’m going fabric shopping Tuesday to look for fabrics for a couple of wrap tops and dresses. Knits are perfect for wrap designs and of course, fast and easy to put together and comfortable to wear.

This article from stylelist has some great pictures of  wrap dresses and tops that are copy-worthy:




Project MyWay #8–Tank Dress

I got the idea for this outfit from Dolce & Gabbana’s Spring RTW Runway show, I featured it in Design Inspiration, Spring Wardrobe ’08 Part 3:

When I saw Simplicity 2998 I knew it would be perfect for this design. This was a quick project to put together, about 2 hours total.

I used a synthetic knit from Hancock Fabrics. I’m not a big fan of Hancock’s or JoAnn Fabrics, but occasionally I purchase fabric from them. I’m already regretting not purchasing a 100% cotton knit, this fabric is going to end up pilling. I was attracted to this color, for some reason I think fatigue green is modern looking. I think neutral colors in the summer are more sophisticated than brights.

I always pre-wash knits (somtimes I cheat on other fabrics). I constructed the dress according to the instructions. Even though I have a serger, I didn’t finish the seam allowances, they won’t fray at all. The neck and armhole bands were a little too short and I had to topstich them in place to keep them from rolling out. This fabric was very stretchy, so if I use this pattern again, I’ll cut longer pieces for the neck and armhole bands.

To hem knits, I like to use this method:

1.  Trim hem allowance to 1 1/2″ (the weight of a deeper hem makes knits hang better)

2.  Turn up hem and pin close to the fold

3.  Topstich raw edge of hem in place, from the inside of the garment, using a long (almost a basting) stitch. The fabric naturally stretches as it’s sewn, so if you use a short stitch lenghth, it ends up looking like tiny stitches. Hold the fabric firmly in back and in front of the presser foot to guide it as you sew

4.  Topstitch again, about 1/4″ from first stitching, using the side of the presser foot as a guide

I like to have a few garments like this one, that are comfortable and dressed down,  for running errands or just hanging out around the house. I’ll always be a faded blue jean babe, but I try to wear them only occasionally.

Ta-ta for now!

Sleevless Scoopneck Facing Instructions

I used this finish on the hundreds of jumpers I constructed when I owned and operated a maternity wear design and manufacturing company in the early 80’s.

This is a copy of page 73 and 74 of Sew Smart, by Judy Lawrence and Clotilde Yurick: (more…)

Project MyWay #7–Michael Kors Knock-off Dress


Well, I’m back to my old ways–my daughter’s graduation ceremony was yesterday and I made this dress yesterday morning. Good thing I’m an early riser (a little too early–4 a.m. since my trip to India).  So, I made the dress, cooked the food for the graduation party, picked-up the graduation cake and was at the ceremony at 2:00 p.m.!

The dress was perfect, we’ve been having a heat wave in Chicago and it was steamy and humid yesterday so this bright, cool dress was just the ticket. The only thing I didn’t have time to do is to shop for sandals. I was craving a pair of silver sandals to go with this dress. Luckily, I bought these cute Cole Haan black patented leather thongs on sale in January (at the Saks Fifth Ave. Outlet, must’ve been from last season). They worked out fine and I was pleased to be able to walk easily with the heels and crutches.


File this under “I’m so glad I can sew”, I made this dress with a stretch cotton that was on sale for $3.99/yard. It was 60″ wide and so the dress only took one length of fabric, about 1 1/4 yard. I used an invisible zipper and a  stretch cotton from my stash for the lining. The total cost was about $10.00. I featured the Michael Kors version of this dress in my entry titled “What to Wear”.  I tried to find it again on the web, but they must all be sold out, as I recall it was about $1,200.

I used Butterick 4778, a Nicole Miller design, which has been discontinued. Sorry to use an out-of-date pattern, but E. has been giving me a hard time about doing too much and not resting enough since the surgery (sound familiar anyone?), so I didn’t want to ask him to take me to the fabric store for a new pattern. This pattern has just the right design elements–princess seams in the front, scoop neckline in the front and square neckline in the back, very fitted and tapered at the hem. I’m sure there is something similar available in a current pattern.


The only pattern alteration I made was to cut the dress off to street length and omit the placket, buttons and front slit. With the shorter length, I didn’t need the slit for walking room. I was really happy to do an easy project without many changes, seems like everything I’ve been making lately has been so complicated.

A perfect fit was the most important priority for this dress. As stated previously, I’m lazy and seldom make a fit sample before I cut into my fashion fabric. This time, I cut the lining first and added a generous amount to all the fitting seams; side seams and front princess seams. Then I basted the lining together and tried it on, with the seam allowances outside. I then pin fitted very carefully to my body, re-basted on the new fit lines, tried on again, just to be sure, added seam allowances to the new seam lines and trimmed off the excess fabric. I removed the basting and used the lining as a pattern for the fashion fabric. This worked great!

I followed the pattern instructions except for 3 things:

1.  I “bagged the lining”–I cut the lining 1″ shorter than the fashion fabric, after constructing the dress and the lining, I sewed the bottom hems of the dress and the lining, right sides together then pressed the finished hem in place. Because the fabric was easy to press, I didn’t need to hand hem the bottom edge.

2.  I finished the shoulder seams with a method I used when I manufactured maternity wear in the early 80’s. I made lots and lots and lots of jumpers and always lined the bodices so I could use this nice shoulder finish I learned from Sew Smart by Judy Lawrence and Clotilde Yurick (click on the picture for instructions):


Because the shoulder strap area was quite narrow, it was a little tricky sewing the final seam. I was saved by my Bernina Open Toe Foot, it’s good at getting into small places. I took 3-4 stitches at a time, adjusted the fabric, took 3-4 more stitches, etc.



3.  The pattern called for seam tape to stay the neckline edge. My fabric is stable and a little heavy, so I skipped the seam tape and just stitiched the neckline edges to stay them.

I’m also happy to say I finally inserted an almost perfect invisible zipper. I used this method:

1.  Basted one side of zipper, sewed that side, starting at the bottom and sewing to the top (I don’t use an invisible zipper foot, I find it easier to spread the zipper and stitch close to the teeth.)

2.  Basted other side of zipper, sewed that side, bottom to top

3. Using my regular zipper foot, I started the center back seam, beginning the stitching about 1/2″ above the end of the zipper, stitching as close as possible to the zipper stitching, for about 2″

4.  Changed back to my zig-zag presser foot to finish the CB seam

I didn’t end-up with my customary bubble at the end of the zipper–yea! At the neckline, the zipper stops were perfectly placed on both sides. From the bottom of the zipper to the hem, I did have to ease in a little extra fabric on one side. Seems like it’s almost impossible to avoid this, because of fabric creep, I expect.

I placed the zipper stops right at the 5/8″ neck seam, hoping the zipper would close perfectly without a hook and eye. I’ve seen this on RTW, but it didn’t work. It spreads a little at the top. I hate that. When a detail is at the center back, it seems to glare at you if it’s not perfect. Next time, I’ll put the zipper stops about 3/8″ below the neckline seam and use a hook and eye. (I should take my own advice in the post “How to Fix all Small to Medium Sewing Mistakes”.

This dress will come in handy all summer, for dinner out on a hot night, a casual summer wedding or cocktails at someone’s home. If I can manage to lose the last 10 lbs. I gained between being marathoner and semi-cripple (I can start swimming next week, so that will be a great help) it will be easy to take in the seams on this dress and keep that fitted shillouette.


Project MyWay #6–Yellow Crepe de Chine Blouse


I knew I had to have something yellow this spring, it seemed like the freshest color in all the magazines and on the runways. And, several of the sewists on the sewing blogs have been making cute yellow tops (check out, ) When I saw this beautiful silk Crepe de Chine in a sunflower yellow, I grabbed it!

For this design, I was inspired by the pleated blouses I’ve been seeing lately, like this one from Phillip Lim:


I didn’t have any particular pleating arrangement in mind, so I chose a pattern with the shape I wanted and cut a piece of fabric long enough for the front piece and just started fooling around. I thought it would be easiest to pleat the fabric first and then cut the front pattern piece. I ended up with a 1″ pleat at the center front and 3, 1/2″ pleats on either side.

I used Simplicity 3874, view B, because I liked the neckline and the raglan sleeve. I cut if off to blouse length, folded out the front dart and omitted the empire elastic.


Step 1, pleating the front piece:picture-090.jpg

I stitched-down the pleats to withing 6″ of the hem. This way the blouse will look good un-tucked or tucked-in.

Step 2, creating a new front pattern piece:picture-093.jpg

I took the original pattern piece and folded out the dart (that’s why the paper pattern looks so wrinkly. Don’t worry about that, just lay the pattern on the fabric and pin it as flat as possible). I put the center front of the pattern piece in the middle of my center pleat. I drew a new side seam line, following the original pattern, easing into the armhole. I drew the new bottom hem.

Step 3, completing the front pattern piece: picture-096.jpg

After drawing the left side, I folded the fabric on the center front and cut the right side, following the lines of the left side.

The back pattern piece only needed shortening, no other alterations.

Step 4, construction: I constructed the top according to the pattern directions, except for the sleeves and neckline.

The sleeve: I cut 4 sleeves and lined them, understitiching at the hem. This avoided narrow hemming the bottom of the sleeves which would have given them a fluttery look. The raglan sleeve has a curved seam in the middle. Next time, I’m going to fool around with the shape of that seam because I’ll bet that it can altered to pull the sleeve in more at the hem. It’s a nice sleeve the way it is, but I would prefer it to be a little more fitted at the hem.

The neckline: after the sleeves were finished, I tried it on and I re-cut the neckline into a broader, deeper boat shape.

The original neckline: picture-097.jpg

The outline of the new neckline: picture-098.jpg

Step 5, finishing: I struggled with this. I knew I didn’t want a neckline facing that would pop out and wouldn’t give the pleating any support, I decided on a foldover bias trim. My plan was to make a bias strip, fold it in half, lengthwise, press and then sew it to the wrong side of the neckline. This gives plenty of allowance for error and still make a nice even topstitched fold-over on the right side.

Problem was, I didn’t have enough fabric to cut the bias strip in one piece. So, I cut 2 pieces and proceeded to try to make the seams fall on each shoulder seam. Well, I don’t know if there is a computation for this, I tackled it by sewing one seam in the bias strip and pinning this seam, matching at the shoulder, then pinning the remainder of the neckband until I reached the other shoulder seam.

At this point, because the seam on the bias strip would be a diagonal seam, I didn’t know how to make the band exactly the right length. I did my best to guesstimate, then sewed the diagonal seam, but–oops! I sewed a chevron seam instead of a straight one. Of course, I’d cut off the excess, so now I had a band that was too short. I had to re-cut one side of the bias strip to create a straight seam and create a continuous band.

I knew the band would stretch a little as it was sewen to the neckline and I knew that pulling the neckline in a bit wouldn’t be a bad thing, because it would help keep the neckline from gapping at the collar bone. So I eased the neckline onto the band by going round and round with the pinning, until I had it very evenly eased and was hoping it wouldn’t pleat under the band. I sewed with the band side up to take advantage of the “creep” from the presser foot. At this point, I didn’t really care where the seams of the band hit the neckline, as long as they didn’t fall near the center front: picture-099.jpg

Voila! It worked! After sewing on the band, I trimmed the seam allowance very carefully to a consistent 1/8″, which gave me a stable, even edge on which to turn the band to the outside and topstitch carefully. Somehow, the band seams ended up symmetrically located–thank you god!


Now, for the hem. I’ve had a wonderful top-of-the line Bernina for 15 years and I had never purchased a narrow hemming foot! The problem with narrow hemming the other way (turning and stitching, trimming and turning and stitching again) is that by the time you stitch around the hem twice on delicate fabric, it almost always starts to flutter.

I’ve been anxious to have a garment to on which to try out my new hemming foot. I also used a technique I saw on a very expensive designer silk skirt (Project MyWay #1). The skirt front was narrow hemmed, the skirt back was narrow hemmed, then the side seams were sewn. If you’re careful to have the side seams of the fronts and backs end at exactly the same place, this gets around the fact that the first half inch in of a hem using a narrow hemming foot looks horrible, as it’s hidden in the side seam.

The new foot was challenging! I went to the web to get some advice, the best I found was this article:

from Jan Andrea, at Home on the Web.It has good pictures and clear instructions. Even with this great tutorial, I was still having trouble catching my stitching on the folded hem. Finally, I changed my single hole sole plate (which I always use on fine fabrics–keeps the fabric from getting shoved down into the throat plate) to the zig-zag throat plate and set my needle position to the right. This worked pretty well, though I still need some practice!:


Conclusion, I love this top! I’m working on the jacket I featured in Spring Wardrobe ’08 Part 1…


…it’s turning out very nicely. Of course I couldn’t find a bright print like the one here for a top, but the yellow blouse with black slacks will look great with this jacket!

Ta-ta for now!