Monthly Archives: May 2010

Trench Coat Sew Along II

Well, the Trench Sew Along II is starting up with some of the old cast of characters and a few new ones.  If you would like to join us in making a trench or a coat, please do.  Let me know in the comments below…

Happy sewing everyone!

Plain Vanilla

This is the skirt I’m working on right now, Simplicity 2452.  It’s part of my TNT project (the search for work wardrobe basics that fit well, look good and that I can make over and over again).  It’s a simple, no waist band, 4 dart, 3 piece, pencil skirt with vent pattern.  I’ve had my doubts about this pattern along the way, but with proper fitting and the right fabric, I think it can be a winner.  However, as my close friends and family will no doubt attest, I have this habit of complicating things.  I know.  Weird, right?  So I took this simple skirt and complicated it up by adding a lining and thinking I am really smart to add a grosgrain ribbon at the waist to stabilize it.  I’ve added linings before to patterns.  Sure it’s a lot of extra steps, but it’s relatively easy. 

Easy that is, if you use a simple, plain vanilla pattern.  I know what you’re thinking: “Didn’t she just say that this skirt was simple?”  Why yes, I did, but I also said it had a vent, didn’t I?  A vent in and of itself is relatively harmless and quite useful to have if you want to walk while wearing your pencil skirt.  But when you want to add a lining, the vent on this otherwise innocuous and simple skirt becomes quite troublesome.

I was patting myself on the back that I remembered to construct the lining with the vent going the exact opposite direction of the skirt so it would mirror image it when put together, until Thea, my teacher and I started to work on adding the ribbon and lining last night.  That’s when I realized, I should not have finished the vents on the fabric and lining independently of each other. 

Let me tell you who my nemesis is when it comes to sewing: ORDER. OF. CONSTRUCTION.  I know that eventually I won’t make these stupid mistakes, but really.  Why can’t these patterns come with lining instructions????  Is it too much to ask that someone else do my thinking for me ahead of time?  Really???  Sheesh!

Anyway, here’s my advice to the other beginners out there struggling, as I am, each step of the way.  If you’re going to add stuff and be “creative” with your patterns, you better be darn sure that those patterns are of the plain vanilla variety, at least until you have some skillz under your belt.  (Disclaimer: I love vanilla, so I mean no disrespect for this flavor. It’s actually my fave ice cream flavor.)

I am chalking this skirt up as a learning experience.  I am not undoing the vents and then sewing them back together.  I am going to wear it as is dammit.  And I am going to wear it proudly.  No one’s going to know but me and I really stitched those vents closed but good.  It would take hours of unpicking to get them apart again.  I sewed it down with several lines of stitching each to make sure they wouldn’t rip apart.  And boy am I sure now. 

In other sewing news, Thea and I figured out a work around for the Knip Mode skirt.  But I will save that story for another time. 

Until then, happy sewing!

New Goodies

And no, it’s not fabric…  *sigh*

I had a couple of gift cards for Barnes & Noble.  So I ambled my way over there during lunch yesterday and bought some much-needed fitting books.  Yes, I do read your comments and the general consensus from all of you was that I needed the book, “Fit for Real People.” 

Unfortunately, my neighborhood store didn’t have it in stock, but I was able to order it on line.  I did get the following books however…

This Nancy Zieman book demonstrates the pivot and slide method of altering patterns.  I have just begun to read this one.  But so far so good.

I’ve heard a lot about this book on the interwebs, but haven’t thumbed through it yet.  Can’t wait.

I could have used this book when I made my niece Katie’s dress because I wanted to add a picot edge.  Oh well…  There’s always my niece Haley’s dress.  🙂 

I also bought Built by Wendy: Dresses (Amazon didn’t have a picture of the book on line, so here’s the link).  This was an impulse buy.  I thought it would be great for simple summer dresses. 

I can’t wait to read about FBA’s in the Nancy Zieman book and in FFRP.  Thank you all for your advice.  I really appreciate it.  I am curious though why no one recommended the Nancy Zieman method.  Have any of you tried it?

Oh and I have about $30 left on my gift card…  Any suggestions for my sewing library?

Happy sewing everyone!

Confession and Announcement

My post title sounds so grandiose, doesn’t it? 

Remember when I organized my sewing area and put up shelves in the bedroom closet for my fabric stash?  Well, since then my sewing area has gone to the dogs.  At least in regards to the fabric stash.  Each new arrival keeps getting added to my chair.  After the debauchery that was PR Weekend Philly, here is what my chair looks like now.

OMG!  And the confession part of this post is that I accidentally bought more yardage from FabricMart.  It was an accident.  Honest!

Now for the announcement…  I met Sara of Trench Sew Along fame at the PR Weekend and she mentioned that she’s renewed her interest in finishing her trench.  Then, coincidentally, Robin said she wants to make another trench coat.  And I’ve been itching to make another coat too.  So… 

We’re reviving the Trench Sew Along.  If anyone wants to join us, please feel free to do so.  Either leave me a comment here or there and I will start the process to add you to the blog. 

I’m finishing up my knit top and starting another pencil skirt tonight.  Wish me luck.

Happy sewing!

NL 6901 Take Two

Never one to back down from a fight, I took another stab at New Look 6901.  Yes folks, we’re back to my search for TNTs.

NL 6901

I had read about the cheater FBA for knits on Debbie Cook’s blog and thought I had nothing to lose but some knit fabric as another muslin.  Since my first muslin was GINORMOUS…

1st NL 6901 muslin

Oh sorry, was that too loud?  I decided to go down two sizes from a 16 to a 12.  And since the size 16 was too small in the bust, I chose to go up to the 18 from the armscye and blend it into the waist line.

front cheater FBA

Cheater FBA Back


Shoot, I’m just now wondering if I should have altered the back too?  Well I did and this is where we stand now.

too much fabric at the armscye?

Still a little tight at the bust, but acceptable

I have mixed feelings about this second version.  I am very glad I made this again though.  Fitting is a process.  There is no skipping over steps — it just can’t be done that way.  I love the overall fit of the size 12.  It’s fitted, without being too clingy.  There is definitely more room for the girls this time, but still a few pulling wrinkles across the bust line.  And the drape still falls mostly behind the bust wrinkles; kind of annoying to me.  My gut feeling is that I did the best cheater FBA I could because my side seams are pretty straight.  But I also think that this pattern is just not working for me and I should find another pattern that does.  One more thing, I don’t think the drape neckline works with suit jackets at all.  I would have to wear this solo or maybe with a sweater.  I would feel very exposed without a suit jacket and have to suck in my stomach for 9 hours at work.  Talk about exhausting!

But let me ask all the more experienced fitters out there:  please give me your honest opinion about this top and any suggestions you might have to make it work, if possible. 

And in case you’re wondering, I will most likely finish this top and put it into my work wardrobe rotation.  But I will have to make a skirt to go with it first.    😉  

Happy sewing everyone!

PR Weekend Philly Redux

Still tired, but here are some pictures to sate your curiosity.  Trena, as well as some other bloggers, are writing more substantive play-by-plays of the weekend. 

It was so amazing to meet fellow bloggers and sewists, and to see them wear creations I have seen online and reviewed on Pattern Review live and in person.  I was blown away by the talent and knowledge.  I reunited with Karen, Trena, Cidell, Carolyn and Lindsay T.  Karen was kind enough to host me for the night, or should I say her cats were kind enough to allow me into their home.  I roomed with Connie and we talked until the wee hours. 

The Kenneth King class was amazing.  I was pretty intimidated by the topic but it was surprisingly easy to embellish.  As usual, he was a hoot with tons of funny stories.  Again I have to say that he is an amazing teacher; very patient, not condescending, and great at explaining all the steps involved. 

Kenneth King


Kenneth King at work


Noile and Trena working away


My table, Kyle to the left there


The museum was amazing.  My favorite garments were the 1870’s Worth dress and the Fortuny dress.  I couldn’t believe how close we could get to the garments.  It was so cool to see all the hand stitching and construction details. 

Worth Dress Evening Bodice


Worth Dress Day Bodice


Detail of Worth Dress Skirt


Fortuny Dress


The dinner was so much fun.  We had an impromptu fashion show where almost everybody got up to talk about their garment or accessory.  There were some amazing dresses and bags.  I believe Connie’s bag won a PR contest last year.  It’s gorgeous! 

The Saturday shopping day was both fun and overwhelming.  I have never shopped that long for anything in my life, much less fabric.  But, boy am I glad that I did.  Here’s my haul.  We spent the morning at Fabric Row in Philly.  The first store I went to was Albert Zoll.  Claudine and I spent at least 20 minutes trolling the button crate.  And I found covered button kits in various sizes as well as buckle kits.  

Albert Zoll


The next store I went to was PA Fabric Outlet where I found some great lace and trim as well as this beautiful lilac silk linen (for a Chanel like jacket?).  The lace will be used for lining hems and little girl dresses. 

PA Fabric Outlet trim


PS Fabric Outlet silk linen and matching trim


Next stop on Fabric Row was Baldwin.  Really beautiful special occasion fabrics can be found at this store.  I practically ran out the door with this silk metallic linen.  I got it for a steal.  I think this might be the fabric for the dress I’ll wear to my cousin’s wedding this Fall. 



Carolyn and I then took a break for lunch (delish!) and met people up at the bus for our next stop on the shopping extravaganza bus tour, London Textiles, a fabric wholesaler in New Jersey.  It was like shopping with piranhas.  Ok, maybe not exactly like that, but you should have seen the mad dash for the remnant boxes.  It was every woman for herself.  Here’s what I managed to grab for myself.  From left to right: 2 silk remnants for a bias blouse, a really long remnant of silk/cotton linen with white/royal purple threads for a sheath dress and a small remnant of a striped silk/cotton linen project tbd.  Caroline was my buying advisor for all of these purchases.  Thank you Carolyn! 

London Textiles


From NJ we trekked to South Philly to the fabled Jomars.  I was very overwhelmed by the time I arrived here, but Carolyn took me under her wing again.  I bought 9 yards of a navy almost black lining, a cotton linen with woven stripes, a Liberty-esque cotton print, some trim for a belt and a teal t-shirting knit.  No plans yet for any of these items 

Navy Lining from Jomars


Jomar Cache


I have no specific pattern ideas yet as to how I am going to use these fabrics/notions, but I love each and every one of them.  They’re so beautiful.  

Karen and her volunteers did such a wonderful job organizing the weekend and everything went off swimmingly well.  I enjoyed myself so much and loved meeting all of these wonderful women and sharing our love of fabric.  I can’t wait to attend another PR Weekend.  Thank you Karen!!! 

One more noteworthy item:  Cidell was kind enough to offer to bring her Knip Mode skirt with her to the Weekend so I could compare and see where mine was off from the original pattern.  It turns out my front wrap curve is pretty different, so I will have to adjust mine accordingly and see if that helps with my draping problem.  Cidell even let me take her skirt home with me so I can work with it.  How cool is that???????  However, I’m a little bummed out still about the close call with wadderville, so I need to put it aside for a week I think.  

So what’s next you ask?  Well, I think Mama needs a new skirt, don’t you?  I’m thinking an unlined, red stretch cotton pencil skirt would do nicely.  Why, yes I do. 

Happy sewing!


I have been back since Saturday night (from the Pattern Review weekend in Philly), but have been way too tired to post about it.  I don’t see myself having the energy tonight either unfortunately.  But suffice it to say that I had a fabulous time and made some great new friends, connected with old friends and bought a ton of fabric!

I will share all the goodies, fabric and tales, as soon as I can.

Till then, happy sewing everyone!

Detour to Wadderville

OMG! What happened here?  Things were going swimmingly well with my version of the Knip Mode skirt… that is, until tonight.  I bagged the lining and attached the waistband last night.  Tonight was going to be all about the buttons and buttonholes.  I was at my sewing machine testing my buttonholes out on the fabric and checking to see if I liked how my Emerald 183 attached the buttons by 8:15 this evening. (Oh, fyi, I decided to go with the white buttons.) 

The testing was very successful.  I cracked my knuckles and got to marking  my buttonholes and button placements on the skirt.  The first pleat was beautiful.  The rest of the pleats are one fat droopy, slobbery mess.  Ok, there was no actual drool involved, but if pleats could drool, these would be dripping oceans of drool.

Where did I go wrong?  I ask you.  I beg you.   Can this wadder be moved back to the land of beautiful clothes?  (Oh, and if it could make me look 20 lbs thinner, I wouldn’t complain.)

Here’s my sad wadder:

And here’s Cidell’s gorgeous sculplted pleat beauty, full of life and awesomeness:

Cidell's amazing Knip Mode perfection

My skirt needs a makeover.  HELP!!! 

Any and all suggestions will be desperately accepted.  Thank you!

Need your opinion

I have a very limited button stash with very few “sets” of buttons, i.e., more than one button in a particular style.  But at my recent outing with fellow PatternReviewers, we stopped at Botani Buttons and I picked up a bag of buttons.  There were a lot of one offs in the bag, but it did include some sets. 

My Knip Mode skirt calls for 5-6 buttons.  I found one set that might work, but need your opinion.  I am thinking this button might be too noticeable and become a design feature where I might not want them to be.  So tell me, should I go on a search for different buttons that don’t cry out “Look at me!”?

Here are two pictures.  One shows the fabric as it really looks, the other shows the buttons as they really look.

true representation of the fabric (navy/white cotton woven)

true representation of the swirly white buttons


Let me know what you think please!

Question of the Day: Mojo

Merriam-Webster lists the definition of mojo as follows:

    Etymology: probably of African origin; akin to Fulani moco’o medicine man Date: 1926 : a magic spell, hex,  or charm; broadly : magical power <works his mojo on the tennis court>.

When sewists speak of mojo, I believe they mean something more specific like the will to sew, an inexorable pull into the sewing area, a compulsion to create something through the act of sewing.  I find that my sewing mojo waxes and wanes in indirect corelation to the difficulty of each project.  Funny how that happens, isn’t it?  I am working on the crazy skirt (as my teacher Thea calls the Knip Mode skirt).  By all rights, I should have been done with this baby already.  But I keep procrastinating.  Each step is excruciatingly slow and not because it takes long to do, but because it involves a lot of procrastinating. 

Much as I am wont to complain about pattern instructions and their inscrutable-ness, I still feel at sea without them.  I am such a play by the rule book girl (on most things, but not all).  I use recipes.  I follow directions (when I can understand them).  I like knowing the “proper” order.  Not having directions on how to construct this skirt is such a rudderless feeling to me and causes me to have slight panic attacks.  Ok, ok.  I’m not having panic attacks really, but it does make me procrastinate. 

So I’ve cut out my fashion fabric (LOVE IT!!!!) and of course made my requisite cutting error by forgetting the hem allowance on one of the pieces, but I am ignoring moving forward anyway.  I have yet to cut out the lining (will do that tonight) and need to decide how to interface for the button area.  Should I interface all the way down or for each button individually?  And since this is a wrap skirt, should I piece the waist band to match the skirt pattern pieces (i.e., one for the back, one for the wrap and one for the under wrap?  Or just make one long continuous waist band?

Going back to mojo though, as I mentioned earlier, I find that my mojo mysteriously disappears when I am working on an intimidating project or the difficulty meter heads north.  But something miraculous happened last night.  I was procrastinating as usual and it was 9:30pm before I actually started working on my skirt.  If I want to wear this skirt to the PR Weekend in Philly, I gots to get moving on it pronto!  So, I set up my navy thread, did some practice serging and stitching, and just started working.  (Because my fabric is ravelly, I serged all the sides of the cut pieces before I handled the fabric too much.)  I did one seam, and thought, let’s do another.  Next thing I knew, I had the fabric shell finished (except for hemming and the waistband of course).  I couldn’t believe it.  It was 1/3 constructed in a couple of hours.  I was just going to do my 30 minutes a day, but once I got into the groove, I didn’t want to stop.  It was amazing. 

So the question of the day is this: How does your mojo work for you?  Do you have to just do the work so that it magically appears?  Or do you have to wait for the mojo to appear to do the work?  Which comes first?  The chicken or the egg? 

When I originally set up my 30 minutes a day discipline, my secret hope was that it would jump start my mojo.  And I think it really works!!!  Now I just need to start earlier in the evening, so I have the whole evening to work.  This stupid procrastinating thing is cutting into my mojo time!

Leave your mojo talk in the comments section below please.