Monthly Archives: January 2010


We interrupt our usually good sewing karma programming to bring you this breaking news.  Unbeknownst to Elizabeth, on one of her first fabric shopping excursions, she was sold a stretch cotton in a beautiful black and white alhambra clover pattern and it is OFF GRAIN!!!! 

I went crazy tonight, trying to match the clovers at the CB seam and couldnt get it to match no matter what I did.  I am so disappointed.  And to top it all off, in my newbie state I bought way too much of this fabric, like 3 yds.  What am I going to do with 3 whole yds of off grain printed fabric???

Please tell me there’s something I can do!  PLEASE!

Here’s the offensive fabric…

It’s my Blogiversary!!!

I am in sheer disbelief that it’s been a year since I started this blog.  Since I just did a review of the last year and a post about my goals for 2010, I won’t repeat myself here.  But I think this anniversary is worth at least a little mention and hope you will indulge me.  

I have met so many wonderful people on line in my sewing research, through reading tons of sewing blogs (you don’t want to know how many, trust me), and through Pattern Review.  I’ve even met some people IRL (in real life): Carolyn, Karen, Lindsay T, Cidell, Trena, Wendy, Dishmey, Barbara, Mica…  to name just a few.   To the last, all are wonderful and talented women.  And did I mention helpful?  Carolyn and Karen have both patiently fielded late night panicky questions and Karen was even a guest blogger on my Trench Coat Sew Along

This online and IRL community has been a godsend to me as I muddled my way through this past year learning to sew and I would like to acknowledge what a great resource you all are.  I may not have the fanciest blog on the block, but I thank you for visiting me nonetheless.  As ever, your comments, feedback and advice are most welcome.


Burda 11-2009-120 Skirt: Up close and personal

It was a race until the end, but yes, I am wearing my skirt today at work.  I was furiously hand sewing the hem last night at 1am, but I am proud to present to you this picture of me in Burda 11-2009-120. 


Here’s my pattern review a la

Pattern Description:  Burda’s text:  Together again — Getting back together must be celebrated, and that requires the right outfit! Our flared, knee-length tweed skirt with double-layered, inverted box pleat in front is chic and just the thing. 

Pattern Sizing:  Burda sizes 38-46; I muslined it at 38 and it was too small.  The 40 was just right and what I ended up making.  I guess I’m a 40 in Burda.  I would like to be a 38, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen anytime soon, unfortunately.  Another reviewer had mentioned that she thought this skirt ran large which is why I tried the 38 first, but that was not my experience. 

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?  Yes!  I am so pleased!  I even used a tweed, just like the model. 

Were the instructions easy to follow?  They’re getting easier for me and not bad for Burda (even though I am severely disabled in the reading directions dept). I would recommend some changes regarding order of construction though (detailed below).  Burda does leave off most finishing details, so, as a beginner, you might not get a great looking and finished looking garment if you used their directions alone. 

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?  I LOVE (dare I say I am obsessed now?) with the pleats.  That is my favorite feature of this skirt.  LOVE. THEM.  I also liked that even though there is a lot of detail interest in this pattern, there’s actually very few pattern pieces and it’s really very simple to put together, if time consuming.  

Fabric Used:  A gorgeous brown wool tweed from Gorgeous Fabrics.  I am in love with this fabric.  It takes a press so well and it’s actually pretty stable with little to no fraying.  I was pleasantly surprised on both counts. 

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: 

  • I added belt carriers to the back of the skirt using the top portion of the pocket pattern piece as my model to echo the pockets/carriers on the front of the skirt. 
  • I decided not to topstitch the yoke of the skirt as it would have been troublesome to do with all four belt carriers getting in the way.  It would have looked messy IMHO.
  • I changed the order of construction to sew the pockets on the skirt in the flat as another reviewer had suggested.  It’s so much easier than trying to sew them on over the hip curve once the side seams are sewn.  Also, make sure you follow Burda’s instructions on how to top stitch the pocket exactly in order to retain the functionality of the belt carriers.
  • Another reviewer found the lining pattern piece (the front piece minus the pleats) was too small.  I did not find this to be the case for me.
  • Finishing touches to add that Burda doesn’t mention:
       – grade the pleats to reduce bulk in the stomach area
       – tack pleats to skirt so that they remain in place as you walk
       – use hem tape to hem the tweed for an invisible hem
  • Thread tracing helps greatly with the pocket placement on the front of the skirt.  I highly recommend transferring the pattern markings to the front of the skirt using this method.
  • If you make this in tweed, consider using something other than the fashion fabric for the yoke facing as it creates bulk and is slightly itchy on the skin.  Ask me how I know.  😉
  • Another tweed concern is how to transfer pattern markings to the fabric on a folded pattern piece.  Obviously you’ll be using chalk as carbon paper won’t work on this fabric.  I also used pins to mark key reference points so when I turned the fabric over to mark the other side, I could be more precise with my markings.  Worked like a charm.   🙂
  • It pays to be exacting in your pleat placements.  The pleats are what makes this skirt special, so they need to be perfect.  It’s especially important to be exact on the top part of both pleats because as you wear the skirt, they tend to pull apart.  I thought I was careful, but if I make this again, I will have to pay extra attention to this area.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?  I definitely recommend this pattern, even to beginners if they have great sewing reference books or access to a teacher.  This skirt is a timeless staple for any kind of wardrobe.  I probably won’t sew it again in tweed, but maybe another one in a suiting fabric would be nice, like a black gabardine. 

Crazy stuff I did during this skirt making journey: 

  • It took me three attempts to insert the invisible zipper.  It wasn’t matching up placement wise on both sides of the seam.  I finally remember that I needed to mark on the zipper on both sides where the yoke/skirt seam was to get a good placement.  3rd try was the charm thankfully!
  • When attaching the lining to the skirt, I pinned  the front lining onto the back skirt.  Doh!  Luckily I figured that out before I actually took it to the sewing machine. 
  • Unfortunately, my luck ran out there as the next thing I proceeded to do was sew up both sides of the lining forgetting to keep one side open for the invisible zipper.  ARGH!  So after I unpicked the side seam and pinned the lining to the skirt I then realized I had unpicked the wrong side of the skirt.  Double ARGH!!!  So, back to unpicking I went.  Finally an hour later, I get the lining inserted and hand sewed the lining to the zipper.  Phew! 

Skills I could improve upon: 

  •  My hand sewing is not very professional looking.  I need to slow down this part of the process as well as just practicing it more so I get better at the different techniques.  although my hand sewn lining to the zipper tape is one part of which I am pretty proud.
  • I need a little more patience when sewing.  I think my finishing could have been a little better had I not self-imposed a deadline.

Conclusion:  Fabulous skirt.  Easy to make, pleats, tweedy loveliness….  What’s not to love?  I love it and highly recommend it to everyone.  I am pretty pleased with my skirt.  I don’t think it looks handmade from afar.  If you were to examine it up close you might see some wobbly stitching, some lining peeking through on the back belt carriers, but the pleats are too die for, if I do say so myself.  

And now for some down and dirty interior pictures… 

zipper interior with marking at yoke seam to match up


Perfect invisible zipper!


hem interior with hand sewn hem tape


pleats secured with sloppy tacks


lining hem


right side seam with a good join of the yoke seam


What’s up next?  I think a pencil skirt and learning how to match plaids or plaid like prints. 

Happy sewing everyone!


After writing about that four-letter word, budgeting, I have been a very good girl.  However, before I had my budgeting epiphany, I did make some on-line purchases.  Spurred by Caroline’s post about a yummy fabric, I went traipsing to’s site and attempted to purchase that fabric and some others (because why would anyone buy just one fabric when making an online purchase — that’s just not very time efficient!).  I say attempted because apparently I wasn’t the only one copying Carolyn taking Carolyn’s suggestion as it was sold out by the time they processed my order.  😦

I did, however, get some other beauties and here they are in living color…

hexagonal windowpane boucle (?)

silk and cotten blend suiting

rayon jersey print

cotton batiste print

I have no idea yet what I am going to make with these fabrics; I only know that I love them.  The first one is a boucle I think and it’s wonderfully thick and wooly (maybe it’s destined to be a Chanel type jacket???).  The silk and cotton blend suiting has the most gorgeous hand and drape.  I have to find the perfect skirt suit pattern to do it justice.  The rayon jersey will most likely be a summer dress.  And the cotton batiste print is sheer.  Not sure what I’ll make out of that, maybe a blouse?  I’ll have to see what the hand and drape is like after I wash it.

I’m almost finished with my Burda skirt.  I hope to plan on wearing it tomorrow.  I only have the lining insertion and hemming to do.  CAN’T WAIT!!!!  I am really proud of my work on this skirt.  I took my time, made sure to not work on it when tired or after two glasses of wine, and sewed cautiously. And it’s really paid off; I think the skirt looks fabulous.  Sure, there are few things that aren’t perfect, but I’m guessing that no one’s going to notice as it’s worn. 

Here’s a sneak peak…

Perfect invisible zipper!

Until tomorrow, happy sewing everyone!

New Obsession and Impromptu Meetup!

Carolyn’s post  of a few weeks ago catapulted me into a new realm of sewing I had heretofore managed to resist, vintage patterns.  After perusing her friend’s vintage pattern site, The Blue Gardenia, and falling in love with a few patterns there, I succumbed.  So now my new obsession is vintage patterns.  Good thing I’m on a budget now, otherwise I would be  OUT.  OF.  CONTROL!!! 

Take a look at my lovely purchases.  My favorite is the last one… 

McCalls 5021


Vogue 1990


Butterick 4515


And speaking of Carolyn, we met up last weekend in the Garment District.  I brought Jack with me and he was on his best behavior, if a little shy.  Carolyn was on a trim mission for her SWAP; I was there for moral support (remember that four-letter word “budget”?).  I did buy $12 worth of buttons (no pictures of them though), but mostly because Jack was entranced with them.  He loves anything small and shiny.  Carolyn bought him a button too!  I guess I’m not the only one who can’t resist his smile.  🙂 

Then Carolyn introduced me to Mood.  I had never gone before as I had heard that their service was bad and the fabric wasn’t marked adequately.  Well, apparently things at Mood have changed dramatically.  Each fabric section was marked clearly.  There were at least two staff people on hand in each section and all were very helpful.  The only customer service problem I saw was the need for more people at the registers — a small concern considering  everything else.  Oh and let’s not forget the wonderful selection and quality of fabrics to be had there.  I saw a gray suiting with a lavender pinstripe that I was dying to own.  And a wool Challis with a gorgeous abstract purple and gray print that sang to me as I passed by.  I showed it to Carolyn and she took a cut home with her.  *sigh of longing*  I can’t wait to see the dress she’ll make with that piece.  It will be stunning!  So, I am sold on Mood and will visit again when I am not on a strict budget (which should be about 2025).  

I am still working on my Burda skirt.  I am taking it slow; I want to make a very professional looking garment.  Last night I sewed the darts and sewed up the pleats.  The tweed, surprisingly, takes to pressing well and I have really crisp looking pleats now.  I love it!  I thought I would hate working with this fabric, but I am really pleased with the hand, and stability of it, and how nicely it takes to pleating.  Who knew?!  Tonight, I’m on to making and attaching the pockets (they’re lined) and attaching the waistband.  Yippee! 

Happy sewing everyone…

Burda Skirt Update

Confession:  It’s taken me over a week to cut out my fashion fabric, lining, transfer the pattern markings and interface the yoke on this damn oh-so-cute Burda skirt.  Why? I ask you for all that is holy did it take me so long.  Hmmm…  Well, let’s take into account the following: 

  1. I’m a beginner
  2. I have never worked with tweed before
  3. This pattern is easy but not the quick fix I thought it would be after the trench project
  4. I’m a beginner
  5. I tend to overthink things (no, really?)
  6. Jack was not being cooperative with bedtime four of the last 7 nights so I wasn’t able to work very much
  7. Oh, and did I mention that I’m a beginner?
  8. Double Oh, 24’s season premiere started this week.

Karen helped me out with some of my stupid duh questions, like: 

  • How do you transfer pattern markings to the opposite side of the folded pattern pieces if a tracing wheel and carbon paper don’t work on tweed?  Answer: Use tailor’s chalk.  Open up the fold and place the pattern piece on the opposite side and transfer markings separately.  DUH!!!  Or use thread tracing.  I did a little of both.
  • To pre-treat or not to pre-treat the polyester lining?  That is the question.  Answer: Not usually, but I steamed it with my iron just to be sure.  I don’t want to spend all this time on a skirt only to have it not wearable after one trip to the dry cleaners. WORD!

So, here’s how I accomplished transferring the markings to my fashion fabric, based on Karen’s suggestions above.  I don’t know if this is THE method to follow, but it worked for me, and I wanted to share it with you. 

Since this is a Burda pattern, the seam allowances are not included, so I first chalked the seam lines on the wrong side of the fabric (WS).  Then I used a ruler to mark the 1 inch seam allowances (SA).  I used 1 inch for my SA because I wanted to make sure I had some wiggle room if the next size up (sz 40) wasn’t enough to contain my ample curves.  *sigh*  Picture below. 

tailor's chalk markings


So one side of the folded pattern piece is marked.  Now to mark the second side.  I did not open the fabric as Karen suggested, because I thought of something else to do instead.  If anyone has an opinion (like, “you are a genius!!!” or “here’s some constructive criticism my dear”), please let me know in the comments.   Here’s what I did next:  I marked all nexus point with a pin so I could see where they showed up on the other side of the fold.  Then, when I placed the pattern tissue on the other side, I could match it up and chalk away confidently.  Ta da!!! 

Pins on opposite side of fold


They’re hard to see, but the pins are there.  Here’s the chalked up second side… 

Opposite side chalked


Next, I cut out the lining, no surprises there and I was back to the  tracing wheel/carbon paper method.  Phew! 

Then it came time to interface the yoke pieces.  And because I can’t complete a project without making one mistake, I cut out the yoke pieces without folding the interfacing and then wondered why it wasn’t long enough.  *big sigh*  I bought my fusible woven interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply and used Pam Erny’s method of taking the wrinkles out of fusible interfacing.  This time I cut it on the fold with yoke pattern piece and then trimmed about 1/8 inch off on all sides so that the interfacing lay slightly within the sewing lines of the fashion fabric piece.  This is to reduce bulk in the SA’s.  I made sure to use a hot iron, plenty of steam and to apply the iron at least 12 seconds on each piece.  I also started from the middle and pressing out to the edges so that there wouldn’t be any bubbles.  See below… 

interfaced yoke


Now here’s where the thread tracing came in handy.  On the front yoke pattern piece, there are placement markings for the skirt pockets.  I used thread tracing to show the placements on the right side (RS) of the fashion fabric for when I am ready to attach the pockets.  Aren’t I fancy?  Next thing you know, I’ll be sewing as professionally as Tany!  As if!  *big big sigh*  Here’s my not so pretty thread tracing… 

pocket placement thread tracing


Tonight I hope to sew a majority of the skirt.  I am not so much a beginner now where I delude myself into thinking I can finish it in one night (well, maybe if you’re Carolyn).  You can only pull the wool over my eyes a billion times before I catch on.  Yes, I am that quick! 

Happy sewing everyone!

Sewing Mojo Lost and Found

Thank you everyone for commenting on my last post about budgeting, I have been in mourning about how much I have to cut back and it was great to read everybody’s excuse method for working sewing into their budgets.  Very enlightening.

After writing about how excited I was about 2010 and all the cool stuff I want to learn and sew, my mojo promptly went on vacation.  I hope it went somewhere nice and warm.  Fortunately, I had a sewing lesson this week which forced said mojo to show up to work.  Yeah!!! 

Burda 11-2009-120

I am currently working on Burda 11-2009-120, the super cute, tweedy, inverted double front pleat skirt.  Of course, I looked up some of the reviews of this skirt on Pattern Review and there were some really helpful hints.  One person mentioned it ran large.  Another said that if you sew the pockets up for the belt, the opening for your hand is too small, etc.  I made the muslin with my teacher on Wednesday night.  

Here’s where my Nike ad comes into play, “Just Do It”.  That day, before my lesson, I just didn’t feel like sewing (remember, my mojo was vacationing in the South of France or somewhere equally nice).  I wanted to relax and completely veg in front of the tv and go to bed early.  I was really tired.  But I didn’t want to cancel on Thea and got myself psyched up.  Boy am I glad I did.  Can I tell you how much I love pleats?   And the crisper the pleat the better.  Yum!  I had read that one of the reviewers did some serious clipping of those pleats at the yoke of the skirt to reduce bulk at the tummy, so Thea taught me how to do that.  So cool!  I would never have thought to do that and the Burda instructions make no mention of doing that at all. 

Clipped pleats

So this is what you do, per Thea: 

  1. Cut horizontally right above where the end of your pleat stitching line ends, about 3/4 inch or an inch
  2. Then cut vertically up from there to the top of the pleat. 
  3. Grade the vertical cut so that the two layers of the cut pleat are different widths
  4. Do this for all the pleats (four in total on this skirt) so that you have four grades or levels of the cut pleat (is that the right way to term that?)
  5. Then stitch horizontally to the end of your pleat stitching line to hold the shape of the pleat.
  6. Later, you can tack the top of the pleat to the back of your pocket to make it even more stable.  This will help the pleats to stay in place and hold their shape.
  7. Do a dance because you have nice sharp pleats that will please you every time you look at them.  (You may even take the skirt out of the closet just to look at the pleats occasionally.  Really!)

So, I finished the muslin (up to attaching the waistband and sewing up the side seams) to check the fit.  I cut out the size 38.  Well, I guess that was wishful thinking, because there was no way I could have zipped it closed even had I inserted a zipper.  Whoo boy, was this sucker small.  I knew I put on a couple of pounds lately, but really!  Is it really necessary for these patterns to mock me??? 

I will not show you a picture of the muslin on me due to fear of internet humiliation modesty concerns.  Here is a picture of my beautiful muslin pleats from the right side however, for your viewing pleasure. 


As for the pockets, I did not bother sewing them on my muslin.  If they do end up too small to put my hands into after stitching the belt loops in, Thea suggested that I draw the scoop of the pocket pattern deeper (lower) to widen the opening.  I think that will be the perfect solution to that problem.  I will be tracing out the size 40 pattern tonight and pretreating my brown tweed so that I can start sewing my beloved pleats this weekend.    Can’t wait!  Thank goodness for the return of my sewing mojo.  Yeah!!!

Happy pleating everyone!

Budgeting – Question of the Day

image from

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s January.  I don’t know what it is about the New Year rolling in, but I always look at my monthly budget in January so I can see how far outside my means I am living.  Let me tell you folks, I lived quite large in 2009.  *picking self up off the floor* 

Sheesh!  The main impetus for this year’s budgetary attention was to see how much fabric I could fit squeeze into the budget.  It turns out I can fit about $0.00.  That’s really unfortunate, because I just spent about $60 dollars I apparently don’t have on some from  😦

Seriously though, I would be interested in hearing how the rest of you sewists come up with a sewing budget for yourselves.  Please leave me a comment and share your thoughts on this topic.  While you do that, I am going to cry into my $0.10 cent cup of french press coffee that I make at work to save money while saving myself from the dreck they call coffee in the office pantry.  And yes, I took the time to figure out how much each cup of coffee cost me.  Doesn’t everyone do that???

Oh and BTW, I now consider “budgeting” a four letter word.

Sewing Chops (Goals for 2010)

Now that I have been sewing in earnest for a year, I am finally starting to have confidence.  Not in the traditional sense, meaning I feel confident, but rather I am no longer frozen in fear with new projects.  I guess a trench coat will do that to you.  😉  

Here’s what I learned this past year.  I don’t mean to scare you, but it’s a long list and in no particular order!

  • sewing on buttons
  • making buttonholes
  • blind hems
  • putting on eyelets
  • hand stitches, like slip stitching
  • adding a lining
  • patch pockets
  • different kinds of machine stitching, like top stitching, edge stitching, stay stitching, stitching in the ditch, etc.
  • making notched collars
  • how to use my walking foot
  • sewing on suit closures
  • hemming pants
  • muslins are your friends
  • rolled hems
  • sewing with chiffon is a bitch (but I learned some tricks for this fabric)
  • every fabric is different and sews differently (sounds really stupid until you find out that not all knits are alike)
  • always practice your stitching on scraps of the fashion fabric before you start your project
  • DON’T SEW when tired
  • DON’T SEW late at night (still need to learn this lesson and the previous one)
  • it always takes longer than you think it will
  • pleating
  • gathering
  • pin tucks
  • basting is your friend
  • proper pinning
  • invisible zippers (I’m ok with this, but still need to improve)
  • how to use single fold bias tape
  • darts
  • sashiko embroidery
  • quilting (use longer stitches, be sure to use quilter’s thread, binding, and decorative stitches)

Ok, I’m pretty impressed with myself right now.  😉

Of course, I know I haven’t mastered any of these skills.  It will take me years, I assume, for my garments to look really professional, but I am pleased so far. 

So what’s in the works for 2010?  Well, here’s a very cursory list…

  • sheath dress
  • blazer/jacket
  • use sweater knits for a cardigan sweater set
  • welt pockets
  • find some TNT’s like Carolyn
  • perfect my invisible zipper
  • more lined skirts
  • a tailored shirt
  • make a charmeuse or chiffon blouse
  • participate in at least 1 Pattern Review contest
  • make at least 25 garments (one of which should be a complex pattern like the trench coat)

Am I nuts here?  Is this a doable list?

I am so excited about 2010.  I feel a sense of great anticipation and that this year will be very productive for me.  I can’t wait to sew.  Tonight I am tracing off a new Burda pattern.

Burda 11-2009-120

Happy sewing everyone.