Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fall Essentials Sew Along: Done!

The Fall Essentials Sew Along (FESA) has come to an end.  Here are my accomplishments:

1.  Fashionable Foundations for Frosty Weather : bottoms, trousers, skirts, jeans, etc
Tania CulottesJalie 2908 Gray jeans, McCalls 3830 (modified to A-line), HP Marrakesh Pants

2.  Chic Chemises for Cool Climates: blouses, tops, cardigans, sweaters:

New Look 6808, New Look 6407, Jalie 2556, Butterick 5354, Jalie 2449 Crossover Tee, Kwik Sew 3555, New Look 6150 (unblogged), Kitchy Coo Lady Skater Dress as a Tee (unblogged)

3.  Fabulous Frocks: any type of dress

4.  Underneath It All: underwear, bra

Orange Lingerie Marlborough Bra

5.  Tender Tootsies (no plans to make socks)

6.  Those Cozy Nights: pajamas

Very exciting (ha ha), knit PJ pants made from New Look 6110 (yes, I have very short legs!)

7.  Baby It's Cold Outside:  Outerwear, hats, mittens
Sigh...I really wanted to make a coat, but it just didn't happen.  I did, however, make 2 very cute Halloween costumes: Anna & Elsa

The cold never bothered me anyway

Hopefully my coat-making will start up soon.  All in all, I think the FESA was a big success. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Orange Lingerie Marlborough Bra

I have been tempted by bra making for a while now.  I was very impressed with Kathy's Marlborough bras and bought the pattern after seeing her success.   I had already made my first muslin when Craftsy released their Bra making class with Beverly Johnson.  I signed up immediately. 

I bought all of my supplies and fabric from  The fabric is called techsheen which is a satin powernet.  For the back band, I used swimwear powernet from my swimwear stash (purchased from

The Marlborough bra is from Orange Lingerie and is a pdf download available here.  I had a few questions about the bra and emailed Norma at Orange Lingerie, and she was kind enough to get right back to me.  (I love good customer service!)

Per the Orange Lingerie website:
The Marlborough is a pretty and supportive full frame underwire bra for everyday featuring:
◾• A three piece cup that allows for increased shaping and more ability to play with pattern prints and color combinations;
◾• A power bar that moves the breasts toward the front of the body for a slimming effect;
◾• A comfortable scoop back that lies smoothly under clothes and enhances support; and
◾• A lace upper cup to feel and look pretty everyday.

One great thing about this pattern is that the each size is grouped together and is printed on 2 sheets of paper so you can choose which pages to print which saves on printer ink.  There is also NO TAPING because the pieces fit on whole sheets of paper.  Woo Hoo!

The pattern comes in sizes 30A to 40DD.  The sizing was quite a bit different from RTW sizes.  Per my measurements I was directed to make a 38D (!!)  My ribcage measurement is 33", so the 38 really threw me for a loop.  But I plodded on and wouldn't you wasn't bad!  The cup size was great but I found the band to be too tight.

I really liked the shape of the cups.  It is a 3 piece cup with and upper cup, lower cup, and a powerbar along the side.  I thought this would provide nice shaping.  I have found that unpadded RTW bras with only a 2 piece cup tend to be pointy on me.  This was not the case with this one.

I made 2 test versions before this one.
I made the size 38D and the band was really tight.  My ribcage is 33".  I added 1" to the length of the band.

Finding the correct wire size took a little trial and error.  I used the printouts from the Craftsy class, transferred the most likely wire sizes to a cardboard template and checked the fit.  Since I wasn't ordering my wires from Bra Maker's Supply (Beverly Johnson's company) I needed to translate her wire sized to Sew Sassy's wires.  I measured the length, width and depth of the cardboard template that fit and searched for the best match on Sew Sassy's website.  I bought 2 different sizes whose main difference was the overall length, (same width and depth) and the shorter one was best.

This is how long the first set was:

I had flat spots in the lower cup above the underwire near the center of the bra.  According to Beverly Johnson's Bra making class on Craftsy, this happens when your breast is rounder than the bra will allow and you need more volume in the lower cup.  Per her instructions, I split the lower cup in 2 from the apex down and added 1/8" of width to each piece while keeping the seam lines the same.  Here are my before and after pattern pieces:

Photo doesn't show it, but I added seam allowances too!

I marked the seam lines, and using a French curve, made a new stitching line that curved out to a maximum of 1/8" from the original.  This gave me 1/4" more width/volume on the lower cup.  Don't forget to add seam allowances to this new seam line!  (My photo doesn't show them).  I then altered the Direction of Greatest Stretch (DoGS) as shown in the photo. 

The upper cup was a little loose, so I took out a small wedge from the pattern piece, near the power band seam line.

The most difficult part of the construction for me was topstitching the channeling.  It was hard to keep it neat, parallel, and wide enough for the wire to fit. 

Here is the final version:

While not perfect, it is perfectly wearable, and very comfortable!

The biggest change I will make next time is to use 1/2" elastic for the straps.  I only had 3/8" and I'd prefer the straps to be sturdier.

I can see how bra making can become quickly addictive.  There are only a few small pieces, so cutting them out is quick.  The seams are short, so sewing them is quick too.  I envision a lot more bra making in my future! 

PR Sewing Bee Round #2

I advanced to Round #2 of the PR Sewing Bee.  This week's challenge (and I do mean challenge) was to use men's button down shirts to make a garment for an adult.  I had a number of my husband's dress shirts in the "Refashion" pile which are no longer suitable for corporate wear. 

I chose one lavender and one dark purple shirt and after racking my brain for quite some time, decided on McCalls 6286 (now OOP).

I used the lavender shirt for the front, back and sleeves. The dark purple would be the collar and button band.

I had a rough time fitting this top.  I cut a 14 and did a 1" FBA creating a bust dart.  It was a little snug so I cut my pattern apart again and made it 1.5".  This made everything worse.  My muslin fit better than this:

Dear God...Avert your eyes!

I ripped out the bust dart and pointed it up toward the apex but wow...what a mess!

Long story short: the fit was horrible.  If it wasn't for the contest, this would have gone right in the re-recycle pile. 

Once I put it on, it looked like a waitress uniform, or worse, a bowling shirt. 

Contest entry photo

The collar was pretty though:

I split the raglan sleeve into a 2 piece sleeve, and made my own piping to highlight the seam which came out nice (even though it added to the waitress vibe):

The back didn't even look good:

Needless to say I did not advance to Round #3 with this atrocity.  Oh well.  On to more exciting things.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Great PR Sewing Bee : A - Line skirt

Pattern Review has started "The Great Pattern Review Sewing Bee".  The first challenge is to sew an A-line skirt that has the following:

1. Zipper
2. Lining
3. Button/hook or any other closure
4. Waistband
5. Hem

Rather than drafting an A-line skirt from scratch, I began with my trusty McCalls 3830 Pencil skirt pattern and turned it into an A line skirt with a waistband.  I used Winifred Aldrich's excellent reference book "Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear" to do this. 

I traced my pattern pieces for the pencil skirt and started making changes.  For the front piece, I cut a vertical line through the center of the front dart down to the hem.  I then rotated the piece closing up the dart.  This swings the hemline outward.  I then added 1" to the width of the lower edge of the pattern piece and drew a straight line from that point at the hem up to the hip.

For the back piece, there was one 1" wide back dart.  I am very curvy in the back and did not want to remove the back darts entirely.  Instead I turned the 1" dart into a 1/2" wide dart, using the same cut and rotate method as for the front piece.  I added 1" to the width of the lower edge of the pattern piece as well.

Contest or no, if I make something, I want to wear it, not have it languish in my closet.  This A-line skirt needed to be a staple that would get a lot of wear.  An A-line skirt can be a great item for a capsule wardrobe.  I decided on a brown corduroy that I purchased in India and have had for several years.  In fact, all of the fabric and notions for this project came from my stash.  The lining is a brown and pink houndstooth charmeuse satin from  I previously used this lining fabric on my second Simplicity 2057 jacket, and there is still some left. 

McCall's 3830 does not have a waistband, so I needed to make one myself.  I cut a straight waistband 3" wide and a few inches longer than my waist measurement.  I used 1/2" seam allowances so the finished waistband would be 1" wide.  I like to make my waistbands extra long so that I can sew them to the precise length after the skirt is assembled and fitted.  I shifted the original center back zipper to the left side an inserted a lapped zipper. 

The contest requires a lining for the skirt.  I used the front and back pattern pieces for the lining.  The original pattern used front and back facings which became unnecessary with a lining and waistband.  This was my first time lining a skirt and I must say that I love the result.  Smooth slippery fabric next to your skin is fantastic.  I attached the lining at the zipper by machine and after a few passes, it looked quite good. 

Machine sewn lining at zipper

The trickiest part of an A-line skirt is hemming it.  To eliminate bulk at the hem, I serged the raw edge rather than turning the raw edge over.  I put the skirt on my dressform, pulled out my handy laser level and marked the hem.

Marking the hem
Once the hem was folded up and pinned, I hand basted it in place along the fold.  Then I hand sewed the hem, easing in the fullness.
Hem: basted and hand sewn
I used a similar process for hemming the lining.  I pinned and pressed it to the correct length and basted it in place near the fold.  Since the lining fabric was very prone to fraying, I turned the raw edge under and basted the raw edge only using the longest machine stitch.  Before hemming, I pulled the bobbin thread on the basting stitch and eased in the fullness before sewing the hem by machine. 

Lining hem: Eased fullness prior to sewing
Then the lining was done:
Lining Complete!
The finished skirt on display with some new scenery:

Front View


I am very pleased with this finished skirt.  I really took my time to do a nice job finishing the lining and hem. This will be a great skirt to wear this winter with tights and boots.   

One More Frozen Costume: Elsa

I made 2 Halloween costumes this year.  The first was Anna, and the second was Elsa.  Both were made using Simplicity 0733/1233.


Where to begin?  Let's start by calling this pattern "Recommended with Modifications".  It makes a cute dress, but if you want something that will last past Halloween, take it upon yourself to line it. 

I made a size 8 in this dress and since my daughter is a rectangle, added width at the waist.  One of the biggest things that irks me about girls' patterns is the assumption that little kids go in at the waist like a woman.  They don't.  They are rectangles. 

The sleeves, cape and yoke are made of chiffon.  Like the Anna costume, the instructions for Elsa's dress involved appliques.  As I said before I am not an applique person, and so I bought sparkly polyester chiffon for Elsa's cape instead of fussing with appliques.  I could have purchased chiffon that already had snowflakes on it, but I bought the cheaper sparkly stuff instead.  I was also extra cheap and only bought 2 yards instead of 2.25, which only made the cape shorter- no big deal.

In order to hide bra straps, I lined the yoke with cotton that I dyed with tea to make it blend in with her skin tone.  The bodice and skirt of the costume are a turquoise sparkly knit jersey.  To stabilize the bodice, I lined that too.  All of the seams are enclosed and I assembled the bodice and lining before attaching the cape.  (full disclosure: I forgot to sandwich the cape in between the yoke and bodice before sewing them together, and had to topstitch it on afterward.)

The armhole seam was very scratchy and uncomfortable, even after serging the edges with a dense stitch.  So to remedy that, I zig-zagged some ivory colored lingerie elastic to the seam allowance, turned it toward the bodice, and hand stitched it down. 

Soft elastic at armhole seam for comfort

I did use bias tape to finish the neckline, but I folded it down to 1/4" to minimize its appearance. 


I topstitched the cape and covered the stitching with white lace trim.  I used my serger to make narrow (3-thread), dense seam on the free edges of the cape.  The rolled hem setting was a little too dense and a little too narrow on the chiffon; it kept pulling away and simply didn't look nice.   

The last change I made was to lengthen the sleeves and add points to make them more like Elsa's.  My daughter says that the sleeves are too narrow; she couldn't bend her elbow more than 90'.

So that's it for Halloween 2014.   

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Frozen: Anna Costume Simplicity 0733/1233

It's Halloween time again, and the costumes are done!  First up is Anna.  I used Simplicity 0733 which is also known as Simplicity 1233.  Weird--the envelope has one number and the pattern pieces have the other.

I'm going to cut to the chase:  the dress is cute, the cape is easy, but the pattern's finishing methods really left me scratching my head.  Several times I looked at the instructions, looked at my fabric, looked back at the instructions, and said "Well, that's stupid. There must be a better and cleaner way to do that"

Lets start with some finished photos:

Cute right?

Here are my complaints:  The bodice piece is the black and the aqua-blue at the neckline is an inset piece sewn to the top of the bodice piece.  The instructions tell you not to finish the edges, just baste it on and then sew trim over the raw edges.  I made lining for inset piece, sewed them together keeping the neckline (at the collar) free, and turned them right side out keeping all of the raw edges inside.  Then, I sewed trim over the edges.  Much cleaner.

There was a similar lack of finishing at the scallop trim at the bottom of the skirt.  Again this is a piece that is meant to be sewn to the skirt without finishing the edges first.  Here are the directions:  "Turn band to OUTSIDE; press.  Pin edges in place.  Stitch close to raw edges of scallops or zig-zag (satin) stitch along raw edges."  Sounds like instructions for some serious sloppiness. 

This is what I did:  I interfaced the scallop band as instructed.  Then I cut another set of scallop pieces out of white cotton.  I sewed the scallop edges of the aqua-blue and white cotton scallops right sides together. 

Then I turned it right side out and pressed.

 Then I sewed the scallop band onto the skirt as directed.  Much much neater:

This costume also called for lots of appliques.  I am not an applique person.  I did it on the bodice, but that was it.  For the bodice I cut out felt per the applique pattern and used fuse-n-bond to stick it on.  Then I sewed some glass beads on for some bling.  The skirt appliques were just too numerous, and I could not cut them out without them looking like crap.  So I went to Walmart and found some pink felt flower shape buttons and used them instead.  I fused them on first, then I sewed around the edges so they wouldn't fall off.  I sewed glass beads to the center of each flower to cover the 'button holes'.

Here's a close-up of the bodice:

The cape was simple.  I used 72" wide felt and left the edges raw.  I was a cheapskate and didn't buy the pom-pom trim.  The over-cape gives my little one linebacker shoulders and if I really cared, I'd take in the shoulder seams.  But I don't, so I won't.

There you go: one Anna costume.  It came out cute, but man, those instructions are really meant for something that will only be worn once and not scrutinized too closely.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Arm Candy and the Expo

I went to my first sewing Expo last week.  I realized at the last minute that I could attend the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo in Fredericksburg last Thursday.  When you know you're going to meet up with sewing enthusiasts, deciding what to wear becomes very thought out.  I decided that I wanted to make a new purse for the event.  It would need a shoulder strap, look nice, and be large enough to hold a bottle of water.  The time had come to make Vogue 8661:
Vogue 8661
I made View D and used a brown vinyl with black flowers for the front and back and black denim for the sides and straps.  Ta Da!
This bag was very quick to put together and the instructions were good.  One strange thing: the drawings show 1 zippered pocket on one (black) side.  The cutting layouts and notions list agree with that.  However, the drawings accompanying the instructions show 2 pockets one on each side.  Not a big deal, it seems more like a proofreading error.  I only put 1 side pocket in, and it's not likely that I will ever use it. I made the strap longer so I could wear it as a cross-body bag.  I modified the interior pockets to suit my needs:  2 open pockets on one side and a zippered pocket and pen holder pocket on the other. 
Instead of using cardboard to stiffen the base, I used the plastic cover from a good quality spiral notebook:
I am thrilled with my new bag, and it's inaugural use was at the Expo! There was only one class I was interested in attending that day:  Essential Tips for Fitting Yourself by Sarah Veblen.  I didn't realize when I signed up that she was the author of this fantastic fitting book that I use regularly:
The class was really interesting and it really drove home the importance of horizontal balance lines being horizontal to the ground, and drag lines pointing to fitting issues.  After the class, I jumped at the opportunity to ask Sarah about something that has been bothering me for ages: armpit wrinkles in tee shirts.  I was wearing my Vogue 8390 (now OOP) which wasn't the best example of armpit wrinkles, but she gave me some advice anyway:

Sarah noticed right away that the shoulders were too wide (which I knew,) but she also said that the armhole was too high and should be lowered.  Wrinkles in the armpit area, she said, meant that I needed a dart.  "A dart in a tee shirt?"  "Yes".  "Really?"  "Yes."  Woah!

After my quick consult with Sarah, I headed over to meet someone in the class who I recognized:  Audrey from Sew Tawdry.  If you don't already read her blog, you may recognize her from FabricMart Fabricista's Challenge 2013.  The first 2 things I noticed about Audrey were that her skin is gorgeous: glowing and flawless, and she is really tall!  I felt even shorter than normal!  It's always nice to meet sewing bloggers IRL.  They really are so nice and welcoming.  :)

Most of my time at the Expo was spent trying out new sewing machines.  I have been thinking about upgrading mine I was happy to have the opportunity to try out several different brands.  I had a feeling that the Expo would be primarily geared toward quilters and I was right.  All of the machines I tried had quilting capabilities which honestly, I do not need.  I tried out the Viking 960Q, Bernina B 560, and the Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8900QCP.  Of the 3, I liked the Janome the best.  Janome also had the best and most knowledgeable saleslady.  She was honestly a riot and I had a great time test driving the machine and chatting with her.  In the end, I decided not to buy any of them.  I'm going to focus on finding a machine without any quilting features, since they will only drive up the price, and I have no desire to pay for features I will never use. Next up:  Bras!  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tania Culottes: A Perfect Match

While browsing through my stash I discovered an unexpected surprise.  One of the block printed cottons I bought in India was a perfect match to the leaf green knit I used to make my Jalie 2566 cardigan.  Look!

The fabric must have been really inexpensive because I bought 4 meters of it.  Since I had so much, I could make a fabric hog like the Megan Nielsen Tania Culottes.

I made this pattern once before and loved the result:
Original Post

I made an XL an added 3" to the hem length just like last time.  It was a quick sew, I hung it up for 2 days before hemming and it was done!

Since it is essentially a circle skirt, it's very swishy!

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