Thursday, July 31, 2014

Uniformity Blows

I have never worn a uniform before*.

The kids across the street went to private school but I never envied them their uniforms even though school uniforms are supposed to not only be a pop culture fetish but also a fashion look that comes back every once in a while.

In any retail job I've ever had, the only clothing rules I followed had more to do with how messy you would get at the job - when I was a coffee barista, I had to worry about oil stains from the coffee beans - or how cold you would get in typical office air conditioning. Otherwise, what I wore was my own choice. Even my non-retail, corporate jobs have been office casual and I pretty much wore what I wanted.

The clothes I'm wearing for this job I would normally only wear at home. The shirt is one I actually stopped wearing in public years ago when I realized the knit is so off grain that the button placket eventually pulls diagonally across the body and needs constant adjustment. However, it happens to be navy blue, so it's the right color, and the only piece of clothing in this color that I own. I've been trying to make myself buy some fabric to make a better substitute but all the navy fabric I've seen in Joann's and Hancock's were dull and uninteresting. Also, the thought of making something that I don't really want to be wearing in the first place is sewing my own hospital gown...why do that?

Note: I just went out and bought two navy t-shirts from Old Navy on sale, $8 for both! You can't beat that.

I now see how important clothes have been and are in my life. No one can see ME now. I have become my uniform, my graying hair (can't decide if I grow it out or not), and my sensible shoes (worn b/c standing on my feet all day).

Anyone else out there wearing a uniform, or am I the only one, in this sewing community, that is?

Has it done anything to your self-esteem?

*Except for a few months in the Brownies/Girl Scouts.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Way To Go, Vogue!

Recently, McCall Pattern Company released their latest crop of Vogue patterns for fall/winter, 45 of them! In that huge group, I think the majority of them were winners. Like a lot of sewing bloggers, I'm going to list a few of my favorites from the bunch (ones I would actually sew and wear) and state the reasons why I like them.

Here goes:

Vogue 9020

A Very Easy Vogue offering that plucked a vintage dart last seen on patterns in the sixties and most recently seen on runways in this 2011 Louis Vuitton dress on Rooney Mara that I have had posted on Pinterest. I'm not wowed by this particular design, but the pattern pieces and construction could be used to make a far more exciting garment. Cool.

 Vogue 1408
Love this DKNY dress by Donna Karen. This would be my alternative to the ubiquitous "skater dress" in blogland. Same silhouette but far more unique with visual interest and texture.
Vogue 1410

This Mizono dress is really up my alley and it's convertibility reminds me of two inspiration pics I have, one of a Junya Wantanabe skirt seen years ago on Totokaelo and the other, a Burdastyle pattern (2010-07-138) I hoped to make a copy of the designer skirt. Funny, I love the Mizono in these two versions but the knee-length option left me cold.

Burdastyle 2010-07-138 puff skirt
Keep it up Vogue and now I hope Simplicity/New Look picks it up and gets some better designs next time too.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

More Of My Mad Mod Ponte Dress

I went back on April 9 and removed almost all of that added width to the dress above the hip, deepened each back dart by almost 1/4", and took in a bit of the center back seam for a sway back adjustment. I then cut an inch off the sleeves and 2 more inches from that skirt!

I then decided to take in the dress even more above the waist resulting in a dramatic pattern alteration. While it doesn't really show in the photos, there was a lot of excess fabric under the arms and my waist is a lot smaller than it appeared in the dress. During a holiday trip, I basted the entire dress together. The back now fits a little bit better and the excess under the arms and down the sides in the front is gone. I do still have some excess fabric in the back which seems to be my usual problem now.

Once I started messing with the major pattern adjustments, I had to alter the neckline, which not only was high at the front but also was creeping too high up my neck in the back. My goal was a jewel neckline similar to ones worn in the late 50-60s or like in this similar pattern from the 1970s.

Vogue 7614

Here is where I left the dress two months ago. It is now folded up waiting for the end of summer.

Any suggestions on how to improve the fit in the back?
I chose to end the photos with the still good shoulder fit . Don't worry, the darts are not that noticeable after I did some careful trimming and pressing.

However, you can click on the photo to see the visible basting on the sleeves. You may see it again in a more refined manner, it was my first attempt at copying the decorative details from my Mad Men inspiration dress.

To be continued...

Images: McCall Pattern Company, my own photos, AMC Television

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Mad Mod Ponte Knit Dress In Progress

Did everyone enjoy the first part of the last season of Mad Men? I did.

What does that have to do with my sewing projects? Not much at first, but as the season (and this project) continued, they seemed more and more related. The pattern is a vintage dress pattern from 1972, but if you shortened it a few inches, it could have been perfect for 1969.

In fact, Peggy wore a dress very much like it in Episode 3.

That dress in particular, plus this similarly-shaped Stella McCartney “Ridley” dress worn by the Duchess of Cambridge during her tour in Australia, revved up my mojo, and hopefully this dress won’t end up in the UFO pile.

Instead of waiting until I can write a completed Pattern Review, here is a progress post so you know exactly what I have had to deal with in altering this pattern to fit my modern style and current body shape.

The pattern is Simplicity 5289, published in 1972. This is an A-line dress with French darts, a high jewel neck, and short raglan sleeves. The largest size in the pattern is a 14, though my waist and hip measurements match what would have been a size 16.

Luckily, I had some yardage of a gorgeous sea-green double knit I received from that wonderful VA/DC/MD swap a few years ago. That’s also where I got the pattern! This is a medium-weight fabric with minimum stretch.

Looking as the pattern sketch and knowing vintage dresses, I knew that the round necklines of that late 60-70s period would be too tight for modern comfort and that I might have to lower the neckline. Months ago, before I left Richmond, I created a quick muslin of the dress (from the waist-up only) to check the neckline, the fit of the shoulders, and the armscye. However, my muslin was made from a twill duvet cover (yeah, I know) so the actual final result would still be a mystery.

I was extremely surprised by the fit, the raglan sleeve hung a bit too low, however; the darts were in the correct place and the shoulder shape was near perfect.
Because of the low armholes and the resulting excess fabric around the bust and waist I decided to make a few changes to the pattern before cutting out my final fabric:

The size 14 was for a waist and hip 2 inches smaller than my measurements so I added 1/2" to the pattern at the side seam and tapered from a 14 at the bust to a 16 below. The altering of the French darts took some time and thought as I added tissue paper to the pattern, refolded the darts, and cut the new shape.

In a move to raise the arms, I also took out 1/2" horizontally at the front and back bodice above the first notch so that the area would match the same space on the sleeve pattern.

According to the pattern envelope, the finished dress length was meant be 42", including a 2-1/2" hem. I prefer something around 35-36" long so this was far too long for me. Without hesitation, I removed 4 inches from the bottom. I know the correct way to shorten a dress is to use the supplied horizontal cutting lines but with the published finished dress width at 50", I felt I could afford to lose some of that old school A-line width.

Once the pieces were cut, I marked the dart lines using tracing paper and then thread traced over the lines for clear visibility.

I hand basted the dress, beginning with sewing the darts together, the sleeves, and then the long side seams. First thing I noticed was that a zipper might not be needed, even with this close neckline. A small 2" opening and a button closure could work, eliminating the potential wonkeness of a zipper in this substantial knit.

Here is the dress with the above pattern changes:

Ultimate "frump prison matron action shot"!

No waist/bum definition!
However, the shoulders are looking good!
The best thing to come out of this very unattractive fashion shoot was seeing the fit of those shoulders!!! Once the sleeves are shortened/hemmed by two inches they should be near perfect.

The only helpful information that I could find on adjustments for raglan sleeves was found on the Madalynne blog here.
I stopped working on this dress towards the end of May because temperatures (and no AC) made this fabric excruciating to touch.

Whoa, this post is getting long
so I'll publish in another post the additional work I did on this dress and how I achieved a better fit.

*At this point, a total of six inches has been removed and the skirt has not been hemmed yet!

Images: AMC,, my own photos

Saturday, July 12, 2014

More TV...And A Confession

Here's a (not-so) secret about me...

I like pretty things and pretty people.

Shocking right!?

Well, I also love PBS and almost any British production the network airs. However, one show I didn't watch, let alone even give a chance, was Inspector Morse. The story of a lonely police inspector solving murder cases in England did not appeal to me and I am a die hard Hercule Poirot fan from age 12. Curious.

A few years ago, I did start watching Inspector Lewis (it's successor) and loved it. I now suspect that was because of dishy Laurence Fox (whose father, Edward, I had a crush on in his younger days) I guess I am shallow like that. Despite that, when Endeavour, the back-story and early life of  the same Inspector Morse aired last year I still wasn't interested, no offense to actor Shaun Evans' good looks.

Last Sunday, I sat down and watched my first Endeavour episode (the new series is airing on PBS channels nationally now, check at to see airing times in your area) when it followed Last Tango in Halifax (check it out too if you can!) and found myself intrigued. I became truly hooked; however, in the second half when stunning Black nurse Monica (Shvorne Marks) from across the hall arrived on the scene. The possibility of an interacial relationship between the two of them in 1966 Oxford England ramped my interest up sky high. I'm now officially along for the ride. Strangely, actor Shaun Evans also became twice as attractive instantly! Hmmm, interesting...

Another show worth checking out:

Tyrant on FX - it is only on it's third episode but I like the story and the pacing. It is the story of the Americanized son of a dictatorial ruler of a small country who finds himself (and his very American family) pulled back into the family business and must get his hands dirty.

Update: I know I mention a lot of the British TV productions I watch, but I keep forgetting to mention the helpful website The British TV Place, which keeps me up-to-date on what British (and Australian, Swedish, etc.) productions can be viewed online or on TV by American viewers. Please check them out, they do an awesome job tracking down all the possible viewing sources.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Cut 'n Paste PDF Pattern Inventory

When it comes to the printed and packaged patterns (like the Big 4) I have a good idea of what I own because of my pattern inventory on Flickr. However, my PDF patterns are all over the place; saved digitally on one desktop computer, some are on a portable disk drive (I think they have the same ones?) and others have already been printed out and been placed in plastic sleeves for storage and easy access.

However, what exactly are they? Where did I get them, how much did they cost, and how many are dresses, tops, lingerie, etc? I spent some time looking through my computers and compiled a list of all the downloaded patterns that I've accumulated. I am thoroughly shocked at how many there were especially since I already have more than one hundred "old-school" packaged patterns from the Big Four and a few independents. I really shouldn't NEED any more patterns, right? Hmmm...

Well, here they are below. I included links to the companies/designers just in case you want a bit of this good stuff too. I also have a Pinterest group devoted to free patterns and tutorials here. Yes, I am enabling your hoarding habits...and you are welcome.


Grainline Studio
Scout Woven Tee 31002 *
Moss Mini Skirt 32001 *
Tiny Pocket Tee 31001 *
Maritime Shorts 35001
Hemlock Tee *

Paprika Patterns (free to me as a tester)
Jade Skirt *
Jasper dress/sweater

Long Sleeve Top 02/2010 #112A *

Seamster Patterns
Yellowtail Camisole

Waffle Patterns
Marmalade Gathered Jacket

Baste + Gather
Birkin Flares (jeans)


Anda Dress #7969 (free when I got it years ago) *
Marie Skirt #9177
The Draped Square by Irmchen
Let's Twist Again... by Irmchen *
Flared Skirt 10/2012 #121A
Folded Yoke Blouse 10/2012 #122
Hip Wrap 10/2012 #120
Trousers #129A/#129B
with code from US Burdastyle mag

Fine Motor Skills
Jimmy Shorts

Thread Theory
Arrowsmith Undershirt

By Hand London
Polly Top

Dixie DIY
Hot Cocoa Sweater

Maria Denmark
Kirsten Kimono Tee

Me & Sew
Loose Top

Peppermint Magazine
Winter Wool Cape by Sewanista Fashion Workshops

Hot Patterns
Crepe Suzette Circular Clutch *
Fringe Festival Scarf Knit Top
Cool, Calm, & Cowl -necked Top
All Wrapped-Up Tank

Shelby Kaava
#302 Vuokatti Tights

Vera Venus

Little Bias Dress (LBD) in UK size 10/12
Sundress Bodice - low and high neck versions

Clothhabit by Amy Chapman
Rosy Ladyshorts

Hipster pattern

T-shirt Underwear #705 (pattern no longer available but the making-of posts are highly valuable) *

Itch To Stitch
Lindy Petal Skirt

Schnittquelle (Average Source)
Vichy Dress, Mod 06-59 Sewing Instructions (no longer free)

Sew Different Patterns
Spring Tulip Skirt (no directions included)

Dita Pencil Dress
Athena V-necked Tee
Columbo Belted Long Jacket
Ice Pop Seam Spiral Jeans (drafted for children)

Our Fave Top
Mandy Boat Tee*

Republic du Chiffon
Ludivine Dress (no longer available)

Sew Loft Patterns fka Spit Up & Stilettos
Company is no longer in business but their entire pattern archive is being hosted by Hoopes Park Studios on Dropbox for FREE!
Gabrielle Blazer
Emma Pant
Matilda Legging
Karina Skirt

*Already sewn or made

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Working Slow But Steady...

Hey, sorry I don't have any real sewing content for you. My work schedule is no longer as conducive to all-day cutting and sewing as unemployment was. Ha!

Here is what I've been up to lately:

Cut into my turquoise denim for my first "proper" Grainline Moss. Hopefully, will do some stitching later today.

Binge watched episodes of the In-BetweenersRev., and more ManStrokeWoman on Hulu for free.

I rediscovered a favorite 'knock-around' dress from the Gap in storage and will be making it into a pattern so I can copy it. It's a simple sleeveless, almost racer-back, A-line polka dot dress that I wore all the time. Because of the triangle shape it still generally fits but is a bit tight in the bust.

I treated myself to the Grainline Maritime shorts pattern with my first paycheck! I wanted to get it before the price goes up when the new Grainline shop is launched. Thanks Jen for giving us a heads up on the upcoming price change!

Sadly, I had to buy two navy blue t-shirts for work. Yup, I bought fast-fashion. These two shirts from Old Navy for a total of $8 were a lot cheaper (and less time-consuming) than making my own when interlock from JoAnn or Hancock was $8 a yard without a coupon.

Tomorrow, I will be driving to Kitty Hawk, NC to spend a day at the beach. I'm not really a beach girl but getting away, seeing friends, and maybe I'll find a cool fabric store along the way. Anyone have a suggestion?

Have a great holiday weekend and when I return I'll give you a post on an ongoing project for fall (related to that last Mad Men post) and an inventory of all my PDF patterns. Most of them were free so it will be an opportunity for all of you to enlarge your pattern stashes too. We all need that, right?