Project MyWay #7–Michael Kors Knock-off Dress

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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.

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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 Sorry to use an out-of-date pattern, but E. has been giving me a hard time about doing too much and not resting enough since the surgery (sound familiar anyone?), so I didn’t want to ask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.

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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):

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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.

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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.

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Project MyWay #3–Black Cashmere Knit Coat

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I live in the Chicago area and E jokes and says that in June we turn our furnace off and airconditioning on. Unfortunately, most springs are quite chilly and wearing a coat, especially at night is not uncommon. But I’m so sick and tired of my winter coats–I want to have them cleaned and put them away until next winter!

We have 2 good fabric stores in Chicago and Vogue Fabrics has a cashmere knit I’ve been lusting over. It’s a substantial weight (2 ply?) fine gauge knit, like you see on better sweaters. At about $55/yard I let Vogue “keep it” until I came up with a design idea.

I love, love, love this coat! The pictures don’t do it justice. When I get my dressform, I’ll try to take a better picture.

I used Burda 8009 and gave it a asymmetrical front and a stand-up collar and eliminated the front darts by simply folding them together before cutting.  (You can purchase this pattern at The Sewing Place.com) 

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I unerlined the coat with  mid-weight silk twill to stabilize the knit and give it some warmth. I attached the lining to each pattern piece, right sides together and sewed a 1/4″ seam around all sides, leaving an opening to turn. I left the armseye, sleeve and neckline edges raw. When I sewed the seams, I used a scant 1/2″ seam. I was a little worried about how it would look at the hem–lined to the edge and finished before the seams were sewn. But it worked great and was a better hem finish than anything else I could have done. And, wouldn’t you know it, I saw a similar finish on a very expensive designer skirt the other day. It was light weight silk and the hem was narrow hemmed first, then the side seams were sewn. picture-051.jpg

I lined the sleeve in the traditional way,  hand stitching the sleeve cap of the lining to the armseye.

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I added 6″ to the front edge of the left front pattern piece to create the asymmetric style. I did not add to the right front, so it does not underlap, it ends at the center front.

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I found these great passementerie buttons at M.J. Trim.com . They have lots of unique buttons and trims. The internet has made it so much easier to design clothes exactly the way you envision them instead of having to settle for what can be found in the few good fabric stores.

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This coat was so much fun to sew beacuse I took some chances and everything worked out very well as I went along. I had to put it aside for a few days to wait for the buttons to arrive and I hung it where I could see it and marveled at it often. Then it came time to make the buttonholes and for some idiotic reason, I made the top bottonhole too close to the edge (about 1/2″ from the edge, should’ve been more like 3/4″ -1″) I literally almost cried, because it was such a stupid thing to do and the rest of the project turned out so perfectly. But I followed my own advice in the Tutorial, “How to fix all small and medium sewing mistakes” and I got over it. It’s not exactly perfect, but close enough.

I’ll try to get a better pictue soon!

 Ta-ta for now!

Spring Wardrobe ’08 Part 1

I’ve decided to do something a little different. Instead of planning my wardrobe a day or two before I’m in need of something and then sewing it with a pattern and fabric I have on hand (no time to shop) and finishing it an hour before I’m leaving (when I could be taking a leisurely shower and carefully doing my hair and make-up), this spring I’m going to sew a little in advance.

This has some advantages:

1)  I’ll feel organized because I’ll have what I need hanging in my closet, ready to go

2)  I’ll have time to find the perfect fabric (usually online), pattern, buttons, etc. to create exactly what I see in my mind’s eye

3)  I can poke around the stores for the perfect accessories and coordinites for my outfits (shopping at the beginning of the season when the selection is best)

4) Hopefully I can inspire you with plenty of time to create similar fashions for yourselves

and some disadvantages:

1)  I work best under pressure and when I have an event in mind it’s easy to plan exactly what I want to wear

2)  What if I finally lose that last 10 lbs.? My clothes will be too big! (ha, ha–I’ve been using that excuse for years)

3)  My stash will probably grow instead of shrink, after all, you have to grab it when you see it because great fabric is hard to find!

So, to start my experiment I will first look for inspiration. I’ll start by perusing the photos from the spring fashion shows on Style.com. In addition, I have files of pictures I’ve torn from magazines and although some are from previous seasons, sometimes the styles have caught on and feel more wearable than when they were brand new. And I have the current fashion magazines which will help me find the most wearable trends. When I’m out, I’ll stop by my favorite stores to see what’s new and pick up a piece or two to get me started.

So far, this is what I’ve found:

This is from the Brian Reyes’ 2006 collection. It would be good for early spring when the temperature is still cold, but you’re ready for lighter colors and fabrics.

 This jacket is from my archive of pictures, I don’t know whose designed it. A jacket like this is one of the first things I’ll make–it will be warm with a sweater in early spring and then a good rain jacket.

Another good season spanner, this jacket and pants can be made in light weight wool that will feel less wintery when it’s snowing in April. It’s from my picture archive from Spring ’07. It’s hard to see the details in the jacket, but what I like is the silhouette, pulled in at the waist which creates a peplum look. I can see it in wool crepe or something with some stretch, like heavy wool jersey or double knit.

This outfit looks so modern–it’s from the Badgley Mischka Spring ’08 RTW collection. I always feel like some bright color and pattern in the early spring when it’s usually bleak and cloudy.

I adore this skirt from Derek Lam’s Spring ’08 RTW collection–he shows it with this ikat top–I like that too for a casual outfit. But I can really see it in a shiny fabric (silk taffeta?) with a dressy blouse.

Finally, I have to put this green trench coat on my “to do” list as I’ve been craving it since last year. I don’t know the designer, but something about the color makes it wearable with anything from jeans to dresses in any season.

I’ll start looking for fabrics for these designs and in the meantime, I’m going to make the Nanette Lepore knock-off top to go with the black silk skirt I’m altering.

Ta-ta for now.