Friday, January 27, 2012

Fitting the Pastille - A New Approach

Yes, it still isn't finished. Surprised?

It's getting closer, right?

The back of the fashion fabric version was still not working, there was too much fabric in the back length-wise. After becoming increasingly frustrated with trying to fit the dress, as cut (I even had my sister try to pin-fit me at the holidays to no avail) I finally made the muslin that I should have made months before!

Major Improvement!!!

What did I learn? After taking and recording my true body measurements, I discovered that the average misses pattern has a neck to waist measurement in the back that measures 16" while mine is almost 1.5 inches shorter*. Therefore, I had to take almost 2" out of the back length (see below).

In the muslin, I was able to see that making the back shorter by cutting from the bottom or even altering the pattern at the shorten/lengthen line was not going to correct the back length the way it needed to be. The extra length was not below the armscye but throughout the back shoulder and cap sleeve area. When I placed the shoulder seams together, the underarm curve of the back piece was far below the front curve and it billowed out. After pinning up 2 inches in the area between the side seams and the cap sleeve I could see that the back neckline was now lower and in a more natural position. See the very 1st photo to see how high it was before the alteration. I also extended the back darts up to the alteration to take up some of the extra width.

I needed to change the bodice waist line to even it out from side to side. Because of the front angling down to the sides it made the dress seem like it was rising up in the front. Therefore, after I sewed the darts I used a ruler to straighten the bodice seam line so that it would match the line of the skirt.

The red marks in this photo show where the paper pattern piece will be altered.

The new bodice

The skirt portion of the dress fit well over the rear, however the curve lower on the hip was too extreme for my body. So, with the skirt portion I kept the waist at size 10 but brought the hips down to the size 8(!) and will shave some more off the hip curve so it no longer sticks out like fabric saddlebags. I might need a wee swayback alteration, bring in the waist some more and lower the bodice darts about half an inch.

Though the back alteration helped immensely, there are still three sets of drag lines on the front of this dress. I thought that altering the waistline of the bodice would eliminate the drag on the skirt, but it seems I need to bring it up even more. Perhaps I should make the side darts larger and use those to pull up the bodice sides? The third set of drag lines are just a given with cap sleeves.

Hopefully, the next time I write about the Pastille on this blog will be to reveal the finished version. By the way, the Vogue duster coat; still in its muslin phase, is being put on the back burner. There are a few separates (like my latest skirt) that I feel are more important to finish sooner than later. More on those later.

*Yeah, I don't get it either. Why 16"? Does anyone else have this problem?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2. Chocolate Corduroy Skirt - Built By Wendy (Sew U)

I was able to salvage the brown corduroy skirt I first worked on in January and February last year. I guess it's only fitting that I finally finish it this January.

Pattern: Basic skirt pattern (from the Built By Wendy Sew U book)

Pattern Description: Fitted straight skirt with contoured waist.

Pattern Sizing: Medium

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, very much.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? It has a great shape and fit (when made as directed.)

Fabric Used: Chocolate brown wide-wale corduroy from my stash (at least 10 yrs old), recycled Ann Taylor Loft brown corduroy jeans, black lining material, 7" brown regular zipper, and Seams Great. No money was spent, everything was from my stash!
Chocolate wide wale (main), tobacco brown narrow wale (insert panel)

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: This is my second version of the skirt in the Sew U book. The first one still fits perfectly. My mistake this time was to taper the pattern to alter the A-line to a straight skirt. Unfortunately, I started the cutting line too far up and could not get the resulting skirt over my hips. While I thought about adding fabric panels to the skirt at the time I didn't actually get around to doing that until last month. (No surprise, right?)

I started this as a quick project to use up fabric from my stash. I even decided to interline it for insulation and finish the back zipper seam with Seams Great to make the inside look nice. So it was very disappointing when it didn't work out. In order to fix the skirt I looked at using Jo Ann's wide wale corduroy but it was not as nice as the stash fabric. My corduroy is a rich chocolate color and has a gorgeous sheen. I did; however, have a pair of old brown corduroys I was keeping for scrap fabric, so I decided to use that. The color doesn't match, it is dull in comparison, and is a narrower wale. However, I'm going to pass it off as a "design element."

For the side inserts, I created narrow, elongated triangular shapes the length of the skirt. Therefore, there are two seams at each side. The four seams were graded and at the top where it was most narrow the two innermost seam allowances were clipped close and catch stitched one on top of the other to reduce bulk at the waistband. The remainder of the seams were zigzagged stitched.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes! However, I will double check if I make any other alterations to the base pattern.

Conclusion: For free, I now have a slim skirt with side contrast tuxedo stripes in a gorgeous rich brown that looks like velveteen because of the fabric's luster.

Images: my own photos

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What's In A Word?

Where did the term "pencil skirt" go? Now, I’m not talking about the current usage or the original period in the late 1940's that the phrase was used. I’m talking about those decades in between.

I started reading fashion magazines in the 1980s and have read them consistently since then. However, a year or two ago when I started reading the term "pencil skirt" on the sewing blogs, it struck a chord. Why did this seem so faddish when we were describing a timeless item of clothing? How did the phrase get to be so out of use? Now the words sound like buzz words used to differentiate the in-the-know from the out-of-touch. The pencil skirt is not that unusual, it is only:

A skirt that is a slim and straight in silhouette. The length is just above, at, or below the knee and is tailored for a close fit. The name comes from this fit; it is long and slim like a pencil.

Its predecessor was the hobble skirt which was just as narrow but worn down to the ankles! In fashion, Christian Dior has been said to be the first to show this silhouette in the late 1940s as a contrast to his New Look.

So, what DID we call a knee-length tapered skirt in the 1970s or 80s? It’s not like the garments themselves disappeared, they have been with us consistently for decades. In high school, I wore so-called "pencil" skirts with tights, thick socks, and chunky ankle boots and that was the 1980s. However, I can’t remember what they were called then.

So, does anyone remember what consumers and the fashion press called pencil skirts before their resurgence?

Image: In Vogue One Day blog

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2011 in Review

I noticed many sewing bloggers did a year-end review of their projects. For some reason, I didn't feel up to doing that (it's not like I have SO MANY items to show) If you want to see them all in one place just hit the imadethis2011 tag in the column to your right.

Last week I saw the year end post that Caitlin did at The Story Girl, where she listed things in her life she experienced instead. I like that idea, so here is my 2011.


In this past year, I have seen over 25 movies through Netflix or in the theaters. I have a Netflix account where I receive 2 DVDs a month, but that's not where all these come from. No, a good friend of mine has been treating me to a movie a week, knowing that I have no money for entertainment. The highlights of this year:

Despicable Me - I actually want to own this one!
Bridesmaids - I laughed...I cried. Seriously. I did.
The Hurt Locker - Brilliant.
Drive - the staging and atmosphere was fabulous. The gore, just a bit too visual.
The Muppets - Perfect movie. No doubt.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Can't wait to see the next two installments. Rooney Mara is truly mesmerizing.


Because of my lovely local library (half a block away!) I have read even more Agatha Christie novels (total is now 35+) and have read vintage sewing books that I otherwise would not have discovered.

My enrollment at VCU has allowed me to read glossy expensive books on designers and fashion history books.

I reviewed Little Green Dresses and then received a free copy from the publisher!


I finished three classes (topics: global ethics in world religions, eastern world religions and local Richmond architecture) during 2011 by attending all three semesters, gaining an A in two classes and a B in one. Just one more to go!!!


I participated in the Colette Patterns Fall Palette Challenge which morphed into a wardrobe plan that I am using for fall 2011 through to spring 2012.

I completed 10 clothing items, more than I thought I had. I happily can say that I wear most of those items all the time. I also repurposed two prior makes into things I would wear. I also made 6 infinity scarves and three necktie eyeglass cases as X-mas presents.

I researched and then took comprehensive body measurements to assist in fitting all my future garments. That knowledge has already helped me out with my dress and my coat.

I acquired two vintage sewing manuals, Better Homes and Gardens Sewing Book and Designing Dress Patterns through

I was reunited with my mother's old Kenmore machine, which my sisters and I thought had been sold or given away. Guys, this was the machine I learned to sew on.


This year I have discovered Florence and the Machine, Claire Maguire, and Mumford and Sons.


I was in my very first car accident right outside of my office on the way to work. I was hit by someone running a red light. My car suffered quite a bit of damage, Luckily I suffered none, though I still flinch at some intersections. Strangely, while waiting for the cops I could not stop thinking about how much the guy who hit me looked like Joel David Moore, Colin the "squintern" on Bones.

I experienced the largest earthquake ever on the American east coast. I was outdoors sitting on a wooden picnic bench and felt the sustained vibrations go up through my body. It felt like a train was passing just a few yards in front of me with the bench and trees vibrating along with me. What a unique sensation!

I relaunched my Etsy shop, Metamorphpursuit with a new banner design I created in Powerpoint. I also designed labels and business cards to brand the store.

I completed my stint writing profiles of fashion's important designers for Colette Patterns and their Coletterie blog.

So on to 2012, a year which will reveal its own mysteries and adventures. Happy New Year!

Monday, January 09, 2012

1. A Repurpose Project - Elastic Waists are EVIL

To the left is an example of why I no longer wear my gray gathered skirt. It did that to my waist.

No offense to Very Purple Person but I need it known that my waistline is smaller than my other two measurements! So I decided to take that skirt apart and make a proper flat waistband for it.

That was half a year ago. I removed the elastic and moved the still mostly intact skirt to the mending pile. While surfing the web last week, I came across Pattern Runway 's FREE Very Gathered Skirt pattern. Yes, so there are gathers still but they are all in the back, all you see from the front is the flat waistband.

I am not doing a true review of this pattern only because I ended up changing quite a bit from their instruction. I ended up using it only for the width of the front and back sections, the slight hip curve, and the pocket pieces; which was something the original skirt lacked.

I instead made the skirt that is a blend between the Pattern Runway skirt and View B from Butterick 5285.

I was able to keep the back waistband from the original skirt. The back pattern piece was much longer than my hemmed skirt so I just used the pattern piece to cut the skirt down to size width-wise, keeping the hem intact. On the front, I removed the old waistband casing, used the front waistband piece and interfaced it for stability. I had just enough fabric left to cut the four pocket pieces. At the time, I didn't have the inspiration picture available so I just eyeballed the pleats, stitched up the skirt, and was done.

Sorry, took picture but had forgotten to press pockets. After these pictures were taken I opened up the back casing and took 1.5 inches of elastic out. The skirt fits more snug now and at my correct waistline.

Before and AfterImages: verypurpleperson, my own pictures

Friday, January 06, 2012

An Update On My Car

1214110927Car 1214110926a
Before - 12/14/2011

They had to replace the hood, front bumper, right headlight, right fender, license frame, attach a new "H" hood ornament, and give all new parts a matching paint job.

12.2011 After
After - 12/30/2011

Look at that shine! Now from the front, my 1995 Honda looks new and not sixteen years old. All I have to do now is get a replacement license plate because mine was run over repeatedly before being recovered from the scene.

Note: I love my Nationwide coverage!! Their approved repair shop, Richmond Collision Center, sent me daily pictures of my car and kept me updated to all changes. I even got a Krispy Kreme donut when I came to pick up my car!

Images: my own photos

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Shabby Apple SALE and Me

Dresses from Shabby Apple

You may have noticed the Shabby Apple Ad that has been in the corner of blog for a while. I am now an affiliate* with the company. I feel their vintage-inspired and feminine clothes fit well with my blog and it's readers.

The company has many lovely dresses, separated into themed mini-collections with fun names such as Roamin Holiday, Up and Away, Green Leaf, South Pacific or the Silk Road.

Well, in honor of the New Year, Shabby Apple is offering a 20% site-wide sale! How great is that?

The sale lasts through January. Use code NEWYEAR at checkout for 20% off!

*Any purchase made by linking to the company through my site will earn me a commission.