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 Sorry to use an out-of-date pattern, but E. has been giving me a hard time about doing too much and not resting enough since the surgery (sound familiar anyone?), so I didn’t want to ask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.
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, www.ericabunker.com/2008/04/ive-got-yellow-fever.html ) 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.
I stitched-down the pleats to withing 6″ of the hem. This way the blouse will look good un-tucked or tucked-in.
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.
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.
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:
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!
Yes, I did finish the outfit I told you about in my very first post titled Welcome to The Feed Dog. I wore it with the TSE black silk skirt that I re-designed in Project MyWay #1 and my beautiful cashmere knit coat from Project MyWay #3 and my cute booties that I got on sale at Macy’s (marked way down in February). We went to the city for dinner and then to a jazz club and I looked very ou current!
This beatiful silk satin burnout fabric was in my stash, next time I’ll try it in a solid color so the details won’t get lost in the print.
I started with Simplicity 4277 and made some simple changes:
Here is a picture of the Nanette Lepore blouse I wanted to copy:
And here is another Nanette Lepore blouse that shows the details better:
I wanted the cross over bodice with pleating and the sash under the bust, but the sleeves are too “girly” for me, so I wanted a simple cap sleeve.
Simplicity 4277 was a good place to start, it has the basic design of the Nanette blouse and the changes were easy to make.
For the pleats on the bodice, I slashed and spread the front pattern piece to add more ease to the front and I extended the front past center to create the cross over:
I figured out the pleating by folding the new front pattern piece and matching it up to the top of the waistband until it fit. After cutting out the fabric, I pleated each front piece, then lined them and basted the 2 fronts together at the center front.
For the sash, I used a pattern piece from a dress I made a couple of years ago:
I used the hip sash from View C and cut it to fit when I was constructing the waistband. I made the sash for the front only–from side seam to side seam. I didn’t want to deal with it in the back as it would have ended at the center back and made the zipper application very difficult.
Speaking of zippers, I used a looooong invisible zipper and as I had mentioned, I tried the application I learned in the tutorial on Sew? I knit!–
It still had a bubble at the bottom, but it was better than the zipper on my black silk skirt. I’ll keep trying…
The cap sleeve offered in this pattern is gathered at the cap. I didn’t want the gathering, so I used the set-in sleeve of view A and re-drew it into a cap sleeve.
I then tried something new I saw on a Banana Republic dress, I put a piece of elastic at the center of the hem of the sleeve, about 2″ on either side of the center, for a total of 4″, to pull it in a little.
I love cap sleeves because they are great for summer dresses and blouses, but give a little more coverage than sleeveless tops. But cap sleeves look awful when they point straight out like wings. I find the best looking cap sleeves have plenty of ease in the cap (without being gathered) and this Banana Republic method of inserting elastic at the sleeve hem makes the sleeve nice and fitted. I always self line cap sleeves, it looks so much nicer than narrow hemming the sleeve.
Ta-ta for now!
I saw a blouse like this at Nordstrom, it was around $200-$250 and I didn’t like the colors it came in, royal blue or kelly green. I couldn’t find a pattern to use to copy it, so I made my own.
I started with Butterick 4658, I’ve used this pattern as the beginning of many blouses.
First, on the front pattern piece, I drew on a v-neckline. I measured how low I wanted the new neckline to be and drew a a straight line from the shoulder to the center front. Then I gave the v-neck a nice curve.
I had to shorten the back shoulder seam to match the new front shoulder seam and scoop out the back neckline too.
Then I cut 2″ front and back facings off of the front and back pattern pieces. I added seam allowances to the facings and the front and back neckline.
I slashed the front and added about 4″ of ease (1″ between each cut). See photo above of front pattern piece. I drew 2 parallel lines 1″ apart and 1″ from center front and slashed and spread the pattern here. I wanted to keep the shirring close to the center front.
I folded out the dart because I had plenty of ease with the new width I was adding. Then I arranged the slashed front pattern piece, with the spacing between the slashes and placed a piece of pattern material over it and traced the new front.
I shortened the sleeve 5 1/2″ to just below the elbow. I added a 2″ wide cuff, measuring my arm for the finished length.
The construction went smoothly. As always (see my post on sewing with silks in “Tutorials”) I covered my cutting table with a sheet and pinned the pattern pieces to the fabric and the sheet. This keeps slippery fabric under control. I finished the seams with pinking shears. I have a serger, but the thread showed through to the right side when I pressed the seams. The best way to finish the seams would’ve been with french seams. I marvel at and appreciate all of you who finish you garments so beautifully on the inside. But I’d never get anything finished if I were that perfect. If I’m the only one who is going to see the inside, I finish in the fastest way possible. When I’m sewing for others I make it look good inside.
I constructed the facings, understitched the neck edge and top stitched it. Then I sewed the fully constructed facing unit to the front and back, sewing with all of the raw edges together then pressing toward the garment. Turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself. In this picture you can see my pinked seam allowance at the back neckline.
I love this hem–I first saw it at Donna Karan and the Derek Lam skirt in my Spring ‘08 Wardrobe Part 1 post (in Design Inspiration) uses it too. It’s basically a cuff added to the bottom of the blouse. It eliminated the problem of narrow hemming the slippery silk fabric and it adds a little weight to the blouse and makes it hang nicely.
I cut 2 front and back band pieces,with a finished width of 4″. I sewed the side seams and sewed them together at the bottom edge. I underdstitched and pressed the band. I sewed the band on to the bottom of the garment, sewing all the raw edges together. Then I finished the seam and pressed it toward the top. (This time I finished the seam with a zig-zag stitch–don’t ask me why!)
The blouse looks great over skinny jeans or black slacks. And it’s great for those “fat” days!
Ta-ta for now!
I’m outside, rain or shine for my job and I’ve been wanting a jacket with a hood so that I don’t have to carry an umbrella unless it’s pouring. There are soooo many great anoraks out there (see one of my favorites in Spring Wardrobe ‘08 part 1) and once I found this Neue Mode Pattern it was easy to come up with a great design. (You can find this pattern at My Notions.com)
I used a black silk shantung I had in my stash. It was super easy to work with and has my favorite fabric quality, it presses beautifully with nice sharp creases. Neue Mode patterns don’t have seam allowances included and I’m just too lazy to draw all those seamlines, so I added seam allowances only where I had to–around the hood opening, the center front, the armseye and sleeve head. Then I used one size larger than normal. This worked out fine, in fact the pattern is so over-sized that I still had to take in the side seam allowances about 1 1/2″ on each side side (for a total of 6″!).
The pattern does not include lining, but I used the pattern pieces to cut a lining from a heavy satin. This gives the anorak a nice, hefty weight and it will be quite warm. Because I lined the jacket, I formed the casing by stitching the lining to the silk. I used elastic and sewed a 2″ wide belt to the ends of the elastic.
I used View A for length and added a 2″ band to the bottom to give the jacket a nice finishing at the hem.
I used the pocket from View C, but instead of regular zippers, I used invisible zippers for a sleeker look.
I wanted to use 3/4″ silver snaps, a la Prada, but I tried a sample and they just don’t work! I’ve never had luck with the snap kits available at the fabric store. Next time I’ll try to find a source online for commercial snaps. So I used covered buttons instead and I like the look, they go well with the dressy fabric.
Here’s a picture of the hood pattern piece. If you can see, I added a 1/4″ seam allowance around the front opening. I didn’t even draw it on, I just added it as I cut-out the pattern. I also added an overlap for the buttons and button holes. I added plenty (around 3″) and trimmed it to fit as I was sewing.
I added a cuff and pleated in the fullness of the sleeve to fit the cuff. I used a method for constructing the cuff that gives a nice square finish:
1. Interface cuff
2. Sew cuff to sleeve bottom, right sides together
3. Fold seam allowances to inside, fold long edge first and then the short ends
4. Fold cuff on fold line and topstitch into place
This works especially well on fabrics the press nicely.
I just ordered a dressform so I can take better pictures of my creations. It’s about time I had one, I’ve been sewing for over 30 years!
Ta-ta for now!
Okay, so now the weather seems to be changing and before long I’m going to freak-out because I have nothing to wear! So much for my plan of sewing ahead and having everything hanging in my closet ready to go.
Today’s fashions don’t suit me. I’m too short and too old to wear clothes that are loose fitting (I did that during 3 pregnancies and that’s enough!). In some ways, it’s easier because I see so little that I like, I’m not tempted to over-do. I’ve been scouring the web and the fashion magazines and have come up with a couple of really wearable looks:
I love this outfit from Erin Fetherston…the peach and “greige” palette looks spring-y and the drapey silhouette is flattering. (I just purchased some gorgeous peach silk crepe de chine–it will be perfect for this. Crepe de chine seems to be making a comeback which I’m delighted to see. It’s got a beautiful drape and one of my high priority fabric qualities, it presses like a dream.)
This Phillip Lim outfit is great looking–classic but with an updated look. I’m usually not into colored pants, but I’m going to make some and see if they’re comfortable to wear. Rolling the cuffs makes them look unfussy. I can see wearing these pieces over and over again.
Ta-ta for now!
Use ballpoint needles, this will fix a multitude of problems. Use size 11 for lightweight fabrics, size 14 for medium weightfabrics and size 16 for heavy fabrics
Lighten pressure on the presser foot so the top and bottom fabric feed together
Use a longer stitch length, 8 to 10 stitches per inch, longer for topstitchinu
If you are using a regular sewing machine, stretch the fabric in front and back of the presser foot as you sew5.
Sergers are great for knits, but not necessary. Knits do not ravel, so the seams do not even need to be finished. You can pink the edges or zigzag if you wish
Use twill tape or seam binding to stabilize shoulder seams. (Sew tape into the shoulder seam.)
I usually prewash knits, but sometimes I construct the garment first and make sure I have plenty of length, then I wash and dry it and finally, hem. Knits usually don’t shrink much in width but they can shrink quite a lot in length
To hem knits use a deep hem–1 1/2″ – 2″ to help the garment hang better. Lengthen the stitch legnth to a short baste. Topstitch, holding fabric taught in front and back of presser foot. Stitch again 3/8″ from first stitching
To achieve the best results in tailored jackets and coats, know your limitations! Don’t try to make a fully tailored jacket in a light weight, light colored fabric; the inside structure is sure to show through. Fabrics with texture and subtle pattern are most forgiving. Natural fibers are easiest to press and that is half the battle of a beautifully made garment. If you have trouble with welt pockets, make a “fake” flap and skip the pocket. If you can’t topstitch straight, skip it. Some details are worth the extra time they take: Understitch seams wherever you can. Add mitered corners to reduce bulk. Hand tape roll lines so lapels fall correctly. Grade each fabric layer in seam allowances. Use a damp press cloth for crisp seams (use a seam roll to prevent seam allowance show through).
- My favorite tailoring book: Easy, Easier, Easiest Tailoring by Pati Palmer and Susan Pletsch
- I know fabric in ready to wear garments is not preshrunk, so I never preshrink. So far, I’ve never had a problem. If this makes you nervous, have fabric steam pressed or dry cleaned before you start
- Steam fusible interfacing before fusing– place interfacing, resin side down on fabric, hold steaming iron 1-2″ above interfacing for 5-10 seconds. Watch it shrink!
- Use Easy Knit to underline all pattern pieces; this keeps edges of interfacing and hand stitches from showing through. It adds body and some bulk to fashion fabric. Mark darts on the Easy Knit, cut out the dart, and fuse. This marks the dart perfectly on the fabric and reduces bulk in the dart
- For a softly tailored garment, a la Armani, use the Easy Knit method above and very lightweight interfacing
- For a perfect sleeve cap: Cut a bias strip 1 1/2″ wide and 12″ long from lambswool (the lining in neckties) or from a soft, loosely woven fabric. Stitch the lambswol to the wrong side of the sleeve head, from notch to notch, just inside the seam line, pulling slighltly taut as you sew. This adds a little ease so sleeve fits into armhole and gives the sleeve head a nice, rounded shape. Always stitch the sleeve into the armseye with sleeve against feed dogs and the jacket side up. A sleeve head is still needed!
- I like to use rayon twill lining to add some body
- Topstitch from 1/4” to 1/2″ from edge. The bulkier the fabric, the further away. Use a long stitch–6″ to 8″ per inch
- I found an awesome method for welt pockets at The Fashion Incubator, http://www.fashion-incubator.com/mt/archives/welt_and_paper_jig.html
- Use a felt, suede or ultrasuede undercollar. My favorite method comes from an old Butterick Pattern magazine. (See instuctions in Tutorials) Miter the corners of the uppercollar when turning under the edge
- Pressing is important, but too much makes a garment look old and worn out. I take my jackets and coats to the dry cleaners for a final press. Or, hang a jacket in the closet, sandwiched snugly between other clothes to “press” the lapel
- NEVER press on the right side without a press cloth
- Creases can be set by spraying with a solution of 25% vinegar, 75% water, covering with a press cloth and steam pressing on cotton setting
Sometimes, dressing in a current, up-to-date way is a matter of making small changes to classic styles. In this way one can be in style, but not of the style, if you know what I mean. You wear the clothes, not the other way around.
Following are some Spring ‘08 styles that have interesting details. I don’t want them exactly as shown, but they inspire me with interesting little twists and turns that I can incorporate into my designs. (This is where sewing your own clothes is such a bonus–you can grab a detail here or there from designer looks.)
This outfit has an interesting, slouchy silhoulette–a way to be comfortable without looking messy. I couldn’t wear the “in your face” print–not my style. But I like the tunic style, the feminine boat neckline, the detail at the neck, cuff and hem paired with roomy slacks that would look great with dressy, flat sandals. I can see wearing this to a barbecue on a cool evening and looking dressed, but not dressed-up. (From Bluemarine Spring ‘08 RTW)
This outfit is a great day look for running errands. I’m always looking for casual clothes that will keep me out of predictable jeans or khakis on weekends when I have a million things to do. It would be easy to find a tank dress and layer it over a long sleeve T. What makes this a great look is the rugged belt which I’d pair with rugged flat sandals (no gladiator sandals for me! Aren’t those soooo ‘07 anyway?). I’d stick with sophisticated neutral colors for this outfit. (From D&G Spring ‘08 RTW)
This would be great for work, but without the fussy blouse. What makes this an “outfit” is the full, trouser cut of the pants and the beautiful sheen of the fabric–I’d pair these pants with a simpler snow white silk blouse. When making an “outfit” from two pieces, accessories make it or break it. Pair these pieces with great shoes (red patented leather?) and statement silver jewelry. (From Adam Spring ‘08 RTW)
Ta-ta for now!
1. After your garment is finished give it a good final pressing
2. Hang your garment in the back of your closet for 2-5 days
3. Remove garment and voila! You won’t even notice the slightly puckered seam, slightly crooked topstitching or the flare you had to remove from the bottom of your skirt to fit it onto your fabric (or any other little mistake that glared at you while you were sewing)
(Of course, this method won’t work if you sew the sleeves on backwards or put the collar on inside-out. For these mistakes, put your project away for a day or two to avoid flogging yourself, and get out your seam ripper! If you’re gonna sew, you’re gonna rip.)