Sunday, February 5, 2012

From Pondering Pants, to Tackling Trousers

It's been almost a year since I decided I wanted to try a pair of pants.  I'm not going to lie to any pants-sewing virgins out there: fitting is frustrating.  After - no lie - 3 weeks of fiddling with muslins, I believe I have a respectable fit.  I present you with the final muslin (made from a random almost-one-yard scrap of black stretchy-wool):

The pattern is Burda 4-2011-116A, size 40:

The original straight size 40 had a lot of pulling at the crotch which I couldn't solve even after playing around with the crotch and inseam.  Finally, I tried the pin-fitting method in Pants for Real People; when the crotch was loose and un-pinned, the pulling disappeared.  The pants did not feel tight in the low hip area at all, but alas they were, for as you can see from the photos above, the pulling disappeared after adding about 1/4 inch from the low to high hip.

So next up: I might try to bang out a few pair, assembly line-style.  Palmer/Pletsch states that 2 pair of pants can be made in 4 hours.  Them's fighin words, don't you think?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Spring Wardrobe Planning

Every January my thoughts turn to sewing spring clothes. Perhaps I associate tweeds and plaids with fall, perhaps post-holiday blues make me wish for a new season.  It's going to be a high of 25 degrees here tomorrow, but that isn't stopping my warmer weather daydreams.  Here are RTW inspiration images (from Polyvore) for a sewn spring wardrobe:

Spring Wardrobe Planning

It's going to be very navy-heavy: I have a ton of navy blue fabric in my stash, so it's clearly time to start sewing it.  Navy is the ultimate neutral: what doesn't it go with?  (Seriously, think about it.  Black.  And perhaps brown.  But there are arguments for both of those.)

The navy palette will be punctuated with shots of yellow, kelly green, and apricot.  (Speaking of apricot, my dream spring outfit would be a deep lavender skirt, an apricot shell, and an olive jacket.  May have to hunt down a lightweight lavender wool crepe or thick cotton...)

A la those at JCrew and Madewell, I'd love to sew up a gingham button-up shirt.  Or two.  Or four: yellow, blue, green, red... It will be a challenge to learn how to sew plaids/stripes: something I haven't done yet.

I also plan on sewing a few tan jackets.  I love beige: not on my walls, but in my closet?  Definitely.  I wear a lot of solid-colored sheaths to work, and neutral jackets to throw on top would be great wardrobe builders.

Patterns are still TBD.  I'll probably sew a lot of Burda patterns from my 2011 subscription.  I'm a converted Burda devotee, and it was such a treat to receive the magazine in the mail each month.  But I can't keep up with the patterns.  There are so many pieces I wanted to make, but I only had time to sew 1 or 2 before the next round of patterns arrived.  It became almost overwhelming.  This may be a strange solution, but my plan is to start my subscription again next year after I've sewn from the 2011 magazines.

Are your thoughts turning to spring - or even summer - sewing?  What are your plans?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

1930s Sofa Slipcovering Odyssey

Warning: to those fashion sewers who abhor home dec sewing, may want to move along.

We needed a sofa for the living room of our new house, and I found this 1930's settee at an antique store in the Stonington Borough, CT (sorry for the bad iPhone photo):

The light blue striped (silk?) fabric was terribly sunstained and had to be replaced. For some reason I got the idea into my head that I could slipcover the sofa. Having never slipcovered a thing in my life. I mean, the library has books about DIY slipcovering, so it can be done, right?

After about 40 hours of hard labor, it can be. Below, the photographic evidence:

The robin's egg blue and red fabric is Robert Allen, purchased at a wonderful discount home decor fabric store, Just Fabrics in Cranston, RI. I draped the fabric on the sofa, and traced out where I thought the seams should go using tailor's chalk. I then cut out the pieces with a 2 inch seam allowance using my Olfa rotary cutter arm.

My sewing garment skillz applied to this project: I added side panels, stengthened with cording, to accomodate the curved back (like princess seaming!)

I also inserted a regular - but massively long - upholstery zipper on the cushion, which is down-filled. I added these little tabs to cover the zipper ends!:

This part was tricky to do because I had to seam the inner arm, side arm, and deck (bottom part underneath the cushion):

Picture of the back:

In order to get the fabric to curve along the back of the sofa instead of hang straight down, I cut and basted the pieces, and pulled them very taut while on the sofa, temporarily anchoring the pieces with pins, and then re-drew seam allowances based on their new taut positions. Okay, that part was tough, too. Because the slipcover is so fitted I added 2 invisible zippers on the back side seams to enable the cover to come on and off.

Despite leaving a 2 inch seam allowance, the bottom edges came up short in a few places so I had to finish the bottom with self-made bias binding. It was actually very easy to do: just a lot of straight line sewing.

Whew. Though I still need to sew curtains for almost all the rooms in the house, I need a break from home dec sewing for awhile. A long while. Back to garment sewing, yay!

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Do you tweet? I scornfully opened a Twitter account in order set up a Pinterest account, eventually began following things I like, and am now hooked. I randomly tweet about sewing, style, life.... Like how Connecticut was hit by a freak Nor'easter 2 weekends ago and we lost power for 10 days. That was unpleasant. There's a "follow me" button in the upper corner. If you Tweet, please let me know, becuase I'd love to follow my sewing friends.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Summer to fall transitional dress: Burda 7-2011-122B

Though the nights have turned cool, the days have retained a sunny warmth, and with these last days of summer in mind I recently made Burda 07-2011-122B:

Burda 7-2011-122B

Really, I was desperate to sew with this divine cotton voile from Elliot Berman ($13/yard).  The fabric is so soft and flowy that I wouldn't be surprised if it contains a bit of silk.

The only change I made was to raise the neckline slit a bit (rather scandalous as is, don't you think?  I love how Burda billed it as 'businesswear" in the magazine spread!). 

I finished the entire inside of the dress with french seams, including the pockets thanks to Trina's super-helpful tut.

Though I had so many summer fabrics that I never got a chance to sew due to our moving, my mind is now fully committed to fall sewing.  I'll undoubtedly find new fall fabrics at this weekend's rescheduled NYC Garment District meet-up.  Hope to see some of you there.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fall 2011's Color: Teal

I read it in the New York Times, so it's official: teal is the color of fall 2011.  I'm quite pleased by this "news" as I have a number of teal fabrics in my stash that I intend to sew up for fall.

The first is a deep, rich lightweight teal wool purchased at Mood 2 falls ago. 

I might use this to make an altered version of The Perfect Dress pattern (McCall's 5753, now sadly OOP), changing the skirt from a pencil to a flare, like this Elie Saab dress.  But in teal.

Elie Saab, Fall 2011 RTW, from

My second teal textile is a thick Vera Wang boucle, purchased from during its $1.95/yard sale last year.

I would like to make a collarless winter topcoat with this fabric, like the original Vera Wang coat this fabric was used for.  For this project I might use Burda 9-2011-103, from the new September issue, sans the tri-tier collar:

Burda 9-2011-103

Could we make teal the new black?  Really, what color won't teal work with?  It would happily marry brown, maroon, lavender, navy, mustard.  As proof I present to you this Lela Rose multi-color jacket/blouse/skirt combination, and rest my case:

Lela Rose, Fall 2011 RTW, from

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Will you be at the New York City Shopping Day (via Pattern Review) this Saturday?  I am going to be a naughty bird and attend, despite having taken the train into the city for MPB Day two weekends ago, and despite having a bajillion things to do around the new house.  Both Metro Textiles and Elliot Berman, normally closed on the weekends, are opening especially for the group, and I just can't resist!

Friday, July 8, 2011

McCall's 5433: Milly sailboat print button-up

I thought a dock down the street would be the most appropriate setting to shoot this top:

This fabric was a fabulous score acquired on my recent trip to the Garment Disrict: while getting ready to check out at Metro Textiles, I reached over to look at a bolt of fabric and bumped into a pile of propped up bolts.  A small roll plopped out onto the floor, and I (mentally) gasped with delight... You see, I stalk net-a-porter, and I had recently saved an inspiration image of a shirt made of the fabric that just tapped my foot... 

Detail of fabric from

I would have added sleeves to this top, but unfortunately, there was just over 1 yard left of this soft cotton voile, which was $12/yard.  In fact, I was so tight on fabric that I had to reduce the seam allowance on the sides and finish the edges with the serger instead of French seams.

The pattern is M5433 by Palmer/Pletsch; I made the shorter version, but with no sleeves: 

Because the fabric is relatively sheer I underlined the entire shirt with plain white cotton voile, which of course added to the construction time.  

An inside-out view of the top showing the underlining. 

This shirt took at least 8 hours to make - significantly longer than the 3 hours Palmer/Pletsch suggests this will take to sew.  Ah well, perhaps next time now that I've sewn the pattern once.  I cut a 10 in the shoulders/armscye and a 12 in the rest of the top; the top is quite fitted because of the 2 front darts and vertical back dart, which I think makes for a flattering button-up.  I used vintage buttons from my large button jar stash. 

The total cost of this designer fabric knock-off top was under $20.   Why again doesn't everyone sew?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Burda 03-2011-122: tropical wool pencil skirt with pleats

Sorry for the recent radio silence: last month my husband found a job in the same town I work in and we are in the throes of buying our first home.  What an undertaking.  I found the offer contract confusing, the negotiation process stressful, and the post-inspection bartering antagonistic.  And I'm an attorney. 

Really, I'm thrilled, as the quality of my regular and sewing life will improve ten fold with this move: my commute will drop from over an hour each way to ten minutes (more sewing time!), I will finally have a dishwasher (more sewing time!), a washer/dryer (easy preshinking!), and a dedicated sewing room (self-explanatory).  The appraisal was yesterday, and now we are waiting to set a closing date with the mortgage lender.  So if my posting is a little spotty over the rest of the summer, my apologies ahead of time.

While I've been away for a few weeks, I have the most exciting project to show you (are you getting my e-sarcasm?): a beige pencil skirt.  Wah wah.  It is a terribly boring garment, but as well all know, these utilitarian pieces are wear twice-a-week, wardrobe staples.

The pattern is from the Burda March 2011 issue.  The pleats in place of darts add a bit of interest beyond the usual pencil skirt.

I wore the skirt to work yesterday with a JCrew knit cardigan and S2599,
one of my favorite homespun pieces.  The glasses are the Japhy by Warby Parker.

Burda 3-2011-122

Pleats aren't always a hippy girl's best friend: I sewed this in a size 40, with a 3/4" seam allowance, because the pleats gaped slightly on my size 38 muslin.

The fabric is a lightweight tropical wool with a bit of stretch purchased at Paron's Annex on my recent trip to the Garment District.  I picked this fabric for trouses, but was able to make this skirt with the fabric as Paron's generously gave me at least an extra yard  - perhaps more - gratis becaues it was the end of the bolt. 

I'm proud of the finishing I did on this garment: following instructions in Marcy Titlton's Easy Guide to Sewing Skirts, I added a French vent in place of the slit (which I've read don't hold up well). 

After basting the lining to the skirt wrong sides together, but before attaching the waistband, I flipped the skirt inside out and used the zipper foot to attach the lining to the seam allowance around the invisible zipper. 

I stitched-in-the-ditch to attach the waistband, and for the first time ever uniformly caught the waistband on the inside.

I'm officially a Burda devotee: this skirt solved a long-standing issue I've had with the Big 4 patterns: skirt dumpy butt (such an elegant description, no?).   Have you experienced this?  I feel that the backs of the Big 4 skirt patterns are shaped too wide, and don't curve in to hug a woman's shape.  But this Burda skirt cuts in under the bum and mimics RTW skirts in a way that the Big 4 don't.  Burda, j'taime.  Thank you to you readers who suggested that I move on to Burda.  I'm so glad that I did.