Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fit For The Holiday - Burdastyle Anda #7969

Pattern: Burdastyle Anda #7969 (2009)*

Pattern Description: Pullover dress with bias neck/sleeve binding and optional encased elastic waist treatment.

Pattern Sizing: (38-50) When I made the dress before I had reduced the pattern down to approximately a size 36. This time, I enlarged the pattern closer to a 40-42.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing it? Yes, though I did not include the elastic waist.

Were the instructions easy to follow? It was extremely easy, even with  binding both the neckline and sleeves. I made it more difficult for myself by then hand sewing the entire skirt hem.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? After gaining some unwanted weight and sizing out of some of my casual outfits, this forgiving shape was very desirable. Years ago, I made a wearable muslin version so I knew I liked the shape.

Fabric Used: Brown and Grey Etch Floral Peached 100% polyester from Hancock Fabrics ($6.99 per yard, orig. $9.99) and Gutermann 100% polyester thread in Smoke, #116.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Because I didn't do my due diligence I started this dress off all wrong. Despite choosing this dress because of my stressful clothing size issue I didn't think to perhaps reprint the pattern that I last used in what...2009? or even read what I wrote about it at the time. So yes, of course the pattern piece (I couldn't find the back so used the front piece twice) looked small and I decided to add some width to the pattern. See my additions above.

I decided to increase the width a tiny bit at the shoulder and tapered out more for a fuller skirt to enhance the swing of the slight a-line skirt. Of course, this also increased the hem length that I had to hand sew!

However, for some reason, the neckline was too small (see below) and I had to increase it in order for it to go over my head. Now this is the same paper pattern I used before so is it possible for your head to get bigger when you gain weight?! 

Note: I could have saved myself the trouble if I had read this 2009 mention of this dress and realized what size I had cut this pattern down to then...a 36! I should have just printed it out again and cut a size 40 or 42. You'd think I didn't know why one keeps a sewing blog!

Well, after that was all revealed and the dress still fit, I moved onto the finishing. Burdastyle suggests binding both the neck and sleeve edges. I personally love how this looks, both on my first Anda and then on all of my Grainline Studio Scout variations. It is such a clean finish and allows me to hand sew and relax in front of the TV. The addition of a little steam and press allows the stitches to blend and lay flat.

Working the neckline.

The result.

I always hand stitch my hems if I have the time. This takes a much longer session but feels like such an accomplishment when done. I first run a basting stitch along the first fold. This allows me to fold up an even hem all around and to cinch in the circular hem when needed. Finally I use steam to shrink and coax the hem flat.

A successful hem.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, I will probably make a lot more of these, including some in knits and maybe even some with the original elasticized waist.

Conclusion: The first time I made this dress, it was a wearable muslin out of mystery fabric. In that review I said I would make it again in rayon challis. I did, but had no idea it would take me six years! No wonder the pattern didn't fit as cut!  Luckily, this dress was a success, it fit and it looked wonderful. Even though it was the simplest of dresses, I received many compliments both on Instagram and in person at the Christmas Eve party. Therefore, a great make with which to end this year!

*At that time, the pattern was free, Burdastyle now charges $2.99 (reduced from $3.50) for the pattern.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Amazing Gifts From Allie J.

What's the best thing you could imagine getting in the mail when you are at home sick? How about a surprise package of patterns, notions, and fabric? Perfect, right?

Well, that's what I received last week!

Last month, I was selected for a mystery giveaway from Allie J. who was celebrating her blog reaching 250 followers. I wasn't expecting it and definitely wasn't expecting how much or how great the contents would be. Thank you, Allie!

Allie's sewing blog highlights her love of vintage influenced clothing which she constructs from her own collection of vintage patterns. If you want a treat, definitely go and check out her lovely handmade wedding dress, especially if you like or love the color pink!

Simplicity 7087 & Butterick 4799

After a morning of doctor appointments and more errands than you would ever want to do on a cold rainy day when you can hardly breathe without a hot mug of tea under your nose, this package was the perfect thing! Opening up the package, I was shocked to pull out five patterns (two vintage and the rest modern) with one so current it's from the spring Lisette release and was the exact same one I was contemplating buying myself. Not because I didn't want it but because I was feeling guilty about my pattern stash and...well, now I can own it guilt-free!

Simplicity 1168, Butterick 6182, Butterick 5249

Included with those were also a pack of Microtex machine needles, a needle threader, and a pack of general use sewing needles (I love hand sewing!).

However, the pièce de résistance is the large remnant of black scuba fabric that she packed in the box. I have been hearing about the stuff but without a planned project I probably would not have bought myself. It is hopefully enough to make a cool pieced black pencil skirt (Simplicity 1283, a pattern I had just bought for another fabric already in my stash) which will be so warm and cozy with my over-the-knee leather boots from last winter.

Thank you again, Allie J.!

Monday, November 30, 2015

SEWING FAIL - New Look 6145

This post was written months ago. I was waiting for a pic of the offending dress, but decided against that and am posting without said picture. See related post here.

Pattern: New Look 6145 (2012)

Pattern Description: View B. Loose dress with sleeve and neckline options, and back-zippered closure.

Pattern Sizing: A (8-10-12-14-16-18) I cut a 12 from the shoulders down to a 14 at the hips and 16 at the hem.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing it? No! Human error resulted in a dress that did not fit.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, extremely easy.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I have been seeking a shift dress pattern for a long time and the finished garments I've seen from this pattern seemed to fit my vision. However, I was in denial about my measurements and this dress did not have a chance.

Fabric Used: 2 yards multi-color 100% polyester print free from the VA/DC/MD blogger meet-up.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Having made an earlier muslin of this pattern I knew I needed to make some alterations. I combined elements from this pattern and one of my tried-n-true patterns, the Grainline Scout tee to alter the problems I felt I was having in the neckline and upper back area. You can see the details here.

As the fabric was extremely slippery, I thought about  using starch to tame it but ended up just adjusting the machine tension. I tried different needles (I started with the recommended 9 but ended up using a size 11), doubled the amount of pins I used, and held my fabric steady in front and back of the needle while stitching seams. A good press afterwards curbed any of the rippling seams that were originally there.

Worst fabric to sew!!
After stitching the seams, I had to pink them as this fabric would not stop raveling.

Well, the dress did not fit at all. I completely got my measurements wrong. I was aware that I gained weight but did not think to take my measurements again. Therefore, the one-inch increase in my actual bust resulted in tightness under the arms and the two-inch increase in both my waist and hips created a tight and strained hip area.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?  I may attempt this pattern again using my correct measurements. I still want to achieve versions of my inspiration dress (below) in the future.

J. Crew shift dress
Conclusion: What more can I say, it didn't fit (AT ALL) and it was an extreme disappointment.

Part 1: Seeking the Sublime Shift
Part 2: In Progress: To Frankenpattern a Shift Dress

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Spending My Time Wisely When Sick

Over the last few weeks I've been fuzzy-headed, coughing, and congested with a long bout of sinusitis. Not being able to concentrate most of that time, I spent my non-working hours watching a lot of TV and reading a few books. Here are the ones I enjoyed, you should check them out.


Difficult People a Hulu Original Series

Lark Rise to Candleford

Playing House (USA)

Odd Mom Out (BravoTV)

Agatha Christie's Marple - loving this one, 23 episodes!


The Civil Wars = which I listen to in large doses before the dark imagery and atmosphere gets to me and I must seek out something fun and happy.

To experience the dark side of southern love, you can also check out their Civil Wars, Barton Hollow, and The Civil Wars: Unplugged on VH1. It's amazing to believe this duo met, gained fame, and crashed in less than four years, 2009-2012.


Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (also a motion picture with Charlize Theron)

In The Woods by Tana French (part of the Dublin Murder Squad series)

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (also a BBC series)

* Streamed through Hulu

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Gamine Style Of Christine And The Queens

Album From Because Music

Watching the Daily Show with Trevor Noah I was awed by the performance of his musical guest, French singer Héloïse Letissier, aka Christine and The Queens.

Image: Édouard Bride
She is a mesmerizing performer, gorgeous with a face that is a cross between Kyra Sedgwick and Elizabeth Reaser. Her clothing style is enviable, full of sleek skinny suits, slim trousers, and lots of sock-less black oxfords, and her dancing style is surprisingly reminiscent of Michael Jackson's moves.

Image: DR

Check it out below. Her moves are amaz-ing, even when both feet are flat on the floor.

Image: Jeff Hahn

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Possible Problem When Wardrobe Culling

My current situation gives me a different perspective on movements like Wardrobe Architect and an older version I once used, Wardrobe Therapy. Some of these are only about eliminating unworn, ill-fitted items from your wardrobe while others are about curating your wardrobe to reflect your life. After reading a few updates on bloggers choosing to attempt this I thought...thank god, I'm not doing that one!

In my case, a wardrobe that reflected my actual day-to-day life would have me stuck at home with only fleece lounge wear and padded slippers and my work wardrobe as black or khaki trousers, navy blue button-down shirts, and Dansko clogs.

I feel the most important part of a wardrobe life reflection-type project is that the process start before you look at your wardrobe. Begin with looking at your life. Before making your wardrobe reflect that life, make sure that life is the one you want to be living.
  • If you create a wardrobe of clothes that are uncomplicated, casual, and exist within a self-imposed  color palette, will you find yourself envying others that dress with creativity and mystery?
  • If you want to be more dressed up in your regular day, why not start wearing the clothes you want despite the random people asking you "why are you so dressed up?"
  • If you want to wear pretty frocks when everyone else goes casual, always wear the pretty frock. 
I remember attending college parties in thrift store vintage dresses similar to the type that Mod Cloth sells. So what if other girls were wearing band t-shirts, cut-off jean shorts, and Doc Martens? I felt comfortable, like myself, and I wasn't comparing myself to anyone or following anybody's lead.

So, this was all to say that even if I cannot wear what I want to wear right now I am keeping all my stuff (well, the stuff that is still well made and in good shape) because I will be living that better life again!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Battle of the Bulge

WOW, I really didn't mean to disappear for so long! It was a combination of illness and procrastination. I also had a few mending projects to do for a friend, and then made a spectacularly failed UFO.  In fact, that UFO revealed a problem that I apparently had been ignoring for quite a while.

A few months ago, I had to buy a new pair of work pants because I had outgrown the first ones. The thighs were straining and the stitches were about to give up! I also, for the first time experienced my thighs rubbing together when wearing my summer skirts. I was SO not happy.

Since I moved here two years ago, apparently I have gained a large amount of weight and didn't really notice. To put it the only way I can at the moment, I found out that I am now 11 and a half stone. A stone, a unit of weight measure in Britain, Ireland, and Australia; is equivalent to 14 American pounds. It's just easier for me to say it in stones. This is 15 lbs more than when I was weighed 2 years ago.

I was a very thin child in my teens and always susceptible to anemia. In high school, I hated being skinny and in particular did not like my arms. Around that time, I became aware of female bodybuilders like Rachel McLish, Carla Dunlap, Cory Everson, and Gladys Portugues through the 1985 documentary Pumping Iron II: The Women and that resulted in a subscription to Strength Training for Beauty (1984-86) magazine. I ended up purchasing an 110 pound weight set and remember arriving at college with what could be called a decent "six pack."

More than 20 years later, I am now battling a tummy and love handles, along with the aforementioned rubbed thighs and some unattractive underarm flab. There was a warning sign last May when I tried on this muslin and saw this:

I noticed I was bustier than I had ever been and had a visible roll of blubber right below my belly button. That was a year ago and obviously I have gained more weight since then. As a result, my body image is completely different than it has been for the past 95% of my life. This is hard to reconcile. 

My measurements have obviously changed but in cutting out my last sewing project, Simplicity 6145, I hadn't grasped that fact yet. While I altered the bodice of Simplicity 6145, combining it with the fit of the Grainline Scout, I still thought I would need to engage some darts in the back to accommodate my swayback. Trying on the basted muslin was such a shock! I could barely shimmy it on. I had not once thought of enlarging the waist area and below. 

So for the last few weeks, I have put off sewing and more importantly taking new measurements for the future. I have succeeded in losing 5 pounds somehow and would love to know that I could remove the other ten just as stealthily but alas diet and exercise must rear their heads for that to happen. I seriously could handle getting used to this "new me" however, I have a wardrobe of delicious clothing that I can't afford to replicate or that have adequate seam allowances for me to alter to fit.

So my dilemma is: sew new clothes in the new size or wait and see? What would you do?

Monday, September 07, 2015

Where Joan Holloway-Harris Laid Her Head

Originally written 08/13/2010 on my other blog, Shelterhome.

With season 6 updates!

The last ever season of Mad Men has aired. While looking at all the retrospective articles, episode recaps, and fashion commentary, I also saw more pictures of the show's sets. With Joan Holloway-Harris' departure from McCann Erickson, a lot more of her scenes were staged in her little pink apartment. Even though most of the articles mentioned above spoke about how the characters had or had not changed in the last 10 years, one thing that did not change was her home. When I first put together this post, Joan was still a newlywed. Now, despite all her life changes in the past ten years and the fact that now her little boy and mother share the space, it miraculously looks the same. Check out some new pics and updated commentary (in blue) below.

Well, come on in! Welcome to the apartment home of Greg and Joan Harris (nee Holloway), wonderfully sourced and styled by the talented set decorator Amy Wells, production designer Dan Bishop* and their design teams at Mad Men.

It is definitely girly, all done up in coral pink and seafoam green. Or in other words, shades of red and green. You do remember that the former Joan Holloway got married during the Christmas season, right?

Add in some cream, turquoise, gold accents, robin's egg blue in the kitchen, lavender or lilac in the bedroom, and you have Joan's complete interior color scheme for her amazing pink apartment.

So, let's start with that sumptuous floor pillow Joanie is lounging on above. This would be easy to replicate with some damask fabric and the same kind of trim which can still be found at any fabric store, some 30 decades later. How about a mix and match of the two below from Wrights trims?


In this view, we can see the green graphic patterned drapes alongside shorter cream or eggshell colored sheers; a gilded oval mirror, candle sconces, and her cream painted dining set with cane back chairs. Notice that her walls are in a deep coral (or salmon) and that the trim is that color that landlords still stick you with today, Antique White/Apartment Beige (or as it's called in the U.K, Magnolia). At least she has the wall-to-wall seafoam green carpet to augment her color scheme.

  • The painted piece near the dining table stands in for a bar and seems to have a faux shagreen finish on the sides and gold detailing. Anyone know what this piece is called or what the furniture style is?
  • Gilded gold round coffee table with inset glass resting on three chunky legs.

General Electric refrigerator for S. 3 and newer one for S.4

  • Season 3 had the most adorable refrigerator ever! It took quite a while to source this one! Luckily, it was distinctive because of the vertical handle, separate freezer compartment on the bottom, slightly raised middle section on top and the deep channeled detailing down the center. It looks like it could be either a General Electric Deluxe PB6-40 or just a B6-40. Now whether or not they kept the same designs for years, may mean that this model is as old as the 1940-50s. Perhaps MM noticed that too because Season 4 shows a different, less-cute refrigerator.

    Season 6
  • Season 6 shows an even newer refrigerator, in bright blue! What was Joan doing to those things? That seems to be a lot of wear and tear in just ten years.

  • Remember those nubby sofas? What was that fabric and why was it so hard to clean?
  • Here we see a coral armchair in a different style than the cream damask club chair seen in the earlier picture.
  • I love that pale wood TV cabinet on hairpin wire legs and the lovely turquoise bowl/ashtray on top.
  • Also do you notice the painted street scene? A very similar one is seen in her new office this season, I wonder if she brought it from home or bought herself a new one?

Season 6

  • In season 6, Joan still has the same sofa. It is over ten years old and still covered in the same fabric. I find it hard to believe that with the huge increase in her salary this was never replaced. Every other character on the show has changed homes, some numerous times. However, Joan not only did not move but she had never changed anything in her apartment except a kitchen appliance or two? Puh-lease.
  • Those turquoise drapes do not seem to have faded and the carpet has changed from a pale seafoam blue to cream, despite there being a child under ten living there.

    Season 6

    • Gilded faux bamboo bar cart with turquoise and gold tipped glasses. Of course, this made it to season 6!
    • An unique folding buffet tray for appetizers. I used to have a wooden sewing basket that was constructed just like this. Here's one by Karoff that I found online at A La Modern. I'm tempted to believe it's the same one that Mad Men bought. Others can still be found on eBay and Etsy.
    Karoff buffet tray

    • A better look at the abstract patterned barkcloth curtains at the back of the room next to the plant.
    • A closer view of those nubby, uncomfortable sofas? We had two otherwise lovely Danish armchairs recovered in that fabric (almost the same color too) when I was a teen. They originally were in tufted black leather...le sigh.
    • Notice Joan's gold-tipped tea service and canape server. You can tell that she studied entertaining from her copy of Emily Post.
    • I wish we could see those hanging light fixtures better though.
    Red pearl Crucianelli accordion.
    • I found many similar looking Italian-made Scandalli models before I could find a picture of a Crucianelli model like Joan's. Isn't it truly gorgeous?

    Update: Picture of Joanie's bedroom, just ignore the exhausted diva in her jammies.

    Lookee! Here's Joanie's color scheme from a 1952 print ad for DUCO paints from DuPont.

    Images: Courtesy of Tom and Lorenzo (Thank you SO much guys!), A La Modern, AMC, Retro Renovation

    *Links to two online versions of Etiquette: in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home, 1922.

    ** He's a VCU alum too!

    Thursday, August 27, 2015

    Worth Checking Out: Dates

    I don't know why the CW decided to air "Dates," a series that originally aired in Britain two years ago, but I'm glad they did. This is a brilliant and entertaining show that I think could only survive in the US on cable. It just has that feel.

    The show was created by Bryan Elsley and aired earlier this summer but is still available to watch HERE on CW's website in full. The nine episodes depict men and women meeting for the first time as arranged by an online dating service. The show utilizes great British, Scottish, and Irish actors such as Gemma Chan (Humans), Andrew Scott (Sherlock's Moriarty, Spectre), Oona Chaplin (Game of Thrones, Crimson Field), Greg McHugh (Fresh Meat), and Neil Maskell (Humans) among others.

    You should really check this out:

    Behind the scenes of Episode 1: David & Mia

    Monday, July 20, 2015

    Dandy Candy Stripe Tee - Vogue 8952

    Pattern: Vogue 8952 (2013)

    Pattern Description: View B. Loose pullover tunic that is close-fitting through bust with cowl collar and shaped hemline.

    Pattern Sizing: Size Y (xsm-sml-med) I chose the largest size because it matched my bust measurement. 

    Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing it? Yes and no. The pattern illustration is deceptive, cutting the top out according to the pattern layout did not result in vertical stripes on the body and horizontal ones on the arms. If I had actually thought about it beforehand, I could have compensated and switched the pattern layout, but I did not.

    Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, extremely easy.

    What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I was surprised that this particular pattern had NO finished garment measurements, not on the envelope or on the pattern pieces themselves. This was very disappointing. The pattern description explains that the top will fit close in the bust and it's obvious that it flows wider from that point but I would have liked to have known the amount of ease expected in the bust. I think that should be listed on every pattern, regardless.

    Middle illustration is incorrect regarding the stripe placement.

    Fabric Used: 2 yards red and white (50% cotton, 25% rayon, 25% poly) striped tissue knit from Girl Charlee.

    Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Not being sure what the length would be (no finished measurements!) I chose not to make any changes before cutting the fabric. I attempted and succeeded in matching my stripes at the side seams and for a bonus (totally not planned!) when my arms are down they match all the way across!
    Digging the stripe synchronicity!

    I sewed the top together like I do all my knits, with two rows of stitching; one straight while stretching the fabric slightly, and then one narrow zigzag. I then finished the seams by pinking close to the zigzag stitching.

    For some reason, the directions have the cowl attached only at the center back seam, meaning there is a raw edge and the wrong side of the fabric may be seen. This wasn't a problem with this knit but could be with other fabrics.

    As it turns out, the Medium size did not have sufficient wearing ease and was too small. The sleeves are tight and were I to reach up suddenly I would surely rip a seam. Therefore, this top will serve as a muslin. I don't have a problem with that because I feel the horizontal stripes make me seem a bit more "boob-tacular" than I feel comfortable.

    Last but not least: At the very end of sewing, while trimming the seam allowances, I snipped into the fabric below the cowl neckline! Ughhhh ... Some suspicious darning has taken place and is barely noticeable but still...this isn't one of my favorite makes.

    Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?  I will use this pattern again but not this view. I would say the pattern fits small and you should first measure the flat pattern pieces to see if the amount of ease will work for you, especially the circumference of your bicep and wrists.

    Conclusion: As sewn, this pattern did not flatter my figure; however, I may like this pattern once I try it in a larger size and keep the hem from ending at my widest point. My initial interest in the pattern was to make it out of heavier fabrics such as sweater knits and I will still try out that idea in the future.