Monthly Archives: August 2010

Fabric Buying Skills

Haha!  I bet you thought it doesn’t take much skill to buy fabric.  Just cash or a credit card.  But I am here to tell you my friend, that it does take some skill.  Just as buying patterns does too.  Let me ‘splain.  

While I do not have the legendary stash that Carolyn has, but I do have a modest collection.  Remember the fabric chair?  (well now it’s the fabric big boy bed that Jack doesn’t use).  


I have noticed a trend lately in what fabrics I use.  For instance, I used two of the three fabrics I recently bought from Elliott Berman within a month of their purchase (the Christian La Croix skirt and the FKA zebra print, I mean bamboo print skirt).  




Most recently purchased with my Canadian friend at Paron’s (which I’ve decided is my new fave place to shop in NYC’s garment district because I love their fabrics and their prices), the silk twill and the stretch cotton chambray, both made within two weeks of their purchase. 



So what does this tell me?  That I am older and wiser my friends.  I am a better judge of character when it comes to fabrics now.  Oh how I wish that was so with men.   As we both know now, men and fabric have similar characteristics.  Seriously though, I think in the beginning of my sewing learning curve, I just bought things that caught my eye without a thought as to how appropriate they were for the intended pattern.  Now I  know that I am not fond of stretch wovens… that I love knits but want to really learn fit with wovens… that I love natural fibers… 

With regard to pattern buying, I was bedazzled by patterns with tricked out seam work, with artistic pleats, etc.  Now I know how to look for a pattern with good bones (ones with princess seams or darts which are opportunities for getting a good fit), maybe with few pattern pieces to make things quicker and easier to assemble, and that can build a great wardrobe without looking too boring or too singular.  So now when I buy patterns, I am no longer distracted by one trick ponies. 

So it is with this new-found confidence that I look forward to the Pattern Review NYC Shopping day on August 28th.  Are you coming?  I’m still making my list of stuff to buy.  I’ll share it with you later.  

Happy sewing everyone!



That’s what I’m now calling unsolicited compliments.  I received one today on my stretch cotton chambray B5147 dress as I was walking home for lunch.  A woman was walking the opposite direction as me and told me, “Great dress!” 

Wow!  I am so pleased right now sitting in my office.  It’s absolutely delightful to get a compliment from a complete stranger.  To date, this is my second unsolicitation.  The first happened a month or two ago as I was walking out of my office.  I was wearing my Christian La Croix skirt and a woman (not the same one) said, “Beautiful skirt!”

So the question of the day is: Have you received any unsolicitations lately?  Tell me all about them!

Super-duper excited

about my B5147 morph from day into evening-wear project!!!  

So I know Robin’s been experiencing drama here and here with her first version of B5147 and I can’t keep my hands off tweaking the bodice (sounds almost r rated!). But I am excited to report that I have found nirvana with my fit for this bodice.  Here are the changes I made to the bodice to make it more fitting for evening wear (get it?  “fitting”?) AND to be more flattering fit-wise too: 

  • scooped out the neckline by 3 inches to give a more evening look.  I came at this measurement by trying on my silk twill version and measuring down from the existing neckline to where I wanted the evening dress neckline to be.
  • sculpted out the side of the shoulder strap/armscye area to give a more evening look.  Adjusted the width of the back shoulder strap to match the front.
  • widened the top portion of both fisheye darts to pull in the bodice under the girls, thereby giving a more flattering silhouette to the waist of bodice.  I am really proud of this change working out well because I just kind of eyeballed it.  No math involved!
  • increased the bust dart again by 1/4 inch on the top to reduce draglines at the side.
  • added 3/4 inch wedge below the bust dart to restore length to the side seam and maintain integrity of the hip curve after altering the bust dart.
  • pinched out a 1/4 inch of the outer shoulder seam for the front only, tapering to the inner shoulder seam to reduce gaping of the armscye.

B5147 front pattern altered with neck, dart and armscye changes


B5147 back pattern with shoulder strap altered to match front


fisheye dart widened


Bust dart increased and wedge added


I might need to tweak the following on the final dress, but will do it during construction, basting as I go: 

  • take a titch out from the front at the armscye side seam, maybe a 1/4 inch tapering to nothing at the dart to reduce armscye gaping.
  • pinch out the same amount from inner shoulder seam to reduce neckline gaping.
  • straighten up side seam after adding the wedge under the bust dart.

I should have taken a picture of the muslin on me, because I was really happy with the fit, but I didn’t insert the zipper.  I just had Thea pin up the back at the seam allowance to mimic the zipper.  Then I forgot to take a picture after we were done with our fitting.  Sorry!  Suffice it to say, that I am very happy with the fit of this dress now.  And I love that I have an evening version of this sheath dress. 

Unfortunately, I won’t have time to sew until next week as Jack and I have a very full weekend planned.   But at least I have figured out all the major stuff and can just cut and start sewing next week.  I am going to underline the brocade with silk organza as it is quite a loose weave and bags out if you just look or breathe on it.  That will add some time to the process, but it will be well worth it in the end.    

Happy sewing everyone!


That’s me.  Crazy Elizabeth.  Didn’t I just say that I would use a different pattern for my next sheath dress?  Well, I always reserve the right to change my mind.

In the interests of saving time and being more efficient, I have decided to use B5147 again for the dress I am making for my cousin’s wedding in early September.  I have so many other things to make besides this dress, that it just makes sense to use this pattern again.  I will, however, tweak the fit in the bodice some more to get it closer fitting.  It still gapes a little at the armscye.  And I have  noticed that a lot of the sheath wearing women at the office are wearing them really fitted.  I know I don’t have a 25 year old’s body, but I do have at least one, ahem two, assets to show off.  May as well make the most of what I’ve got.  😉 

So I will probably play with the bust darts and the fisheyes a little more and maybe consider changing the shape of the armscye/shoulder area a little.  Hopefully I won’t ruin the dress in the process.

Do you want to see the fabric I’m going to use???  It’s one of my favorites I have ever bought.  I’m such a sucker for metallic, shiny things.  Strange enough, when I bought it, I earmarked this fabric to make a dress for this specific wedding.  The fact that I am actually going to do so is probably a minor miracle. 

Vera Wang brocade from Fabricmart

From the get go, I’ve always wanted to use the wrong side of the fabric.  In the picture above, the wrong side is on the left and the right side is on the upper right.  I just love the definition of the flowers on the wrong side better.  Also, it looks edgier on the wrong side.  Take a look at the dress Lindsay T made for her daughter using this fabric.  Isn’t the fit just 100% perfect???  I love that dress!

I’m not sure if I am going to be able to get this version done by the Butterick 5147 Dress Sew Along deadline (August 13th) though.  Check out the progress people have made on their dresses at the sew along!

I’m off to pre-treat my fabric…  Happy sewing everyone!

B5147 – The Silk Twill Edition

I finally finished it!  But boy do I understand UFO’s now.  If you don’t finish it right away, it is likely to languish for an indeterminate amount of time.  It’s not that you don’t love it anymore.  It’s just about lost momentum.  If I hadn’t decided to enter this dress into the Pattern Review/ASE Natural Fibers Contest, I might not have finished this dress for a long time. 

Without further ado, some pictures courtesy of my sister, Meredith.  Although there was a lot of pushing and biting during the photo shoot (our kids, not my sister and me), we managed to get a few shots worth posting.  One note about the pictures first, though, if you will indulge me: I could not get the head on picture to look flattering no matter how I stood.  Trust me when I say that it is much more flattering in person.  Not sure why it looks the way it does.  My sister, a kind soul, said it was the lens she was using. 

No, I did not put in the hook and eye yet.  I hate sewing those on.  But I will.  Maybe…  Someday…  Maybe…  Oh wait, I’m submitting this for a contest.  Ok.  I will.  *shrugging resignedly*

With this version of B5147, I made the following changes:

  • increased the bust dart, at the bottom of it only, by about 1 cm, thereby taking out some (but unfortunately not all) of the drag line that points to the bust area.  Partial success.  May increase the dart more on the next version.
  • I staystitched both the neck and armscye area on both the lining and silk to maintain the shape integrity.  Success!
  • hemmed the lining before finishing the slit lining for a cleaner finish.  Me likey!
  • zig zag finished the silk hem allowance. I thought serging it would be too bulky and show through whenever the dress is pressed.  I thought I would hate the zig zag finish and that it would be inadequate for this fabric, but was pleasantly surprised how well it worked and looked.  An oldie but a goodie method!
  • Again, I hand stitched the hem.  I was worried that even hand stitching would show on this silk twill, but, again, I was pleasantly surprised that it did not.  Yeah!

Some interior pictures… 

finished slit with hand edgestitching and slipstitching

hand slipstitched lining


Now that I have made 3 iterations of this dress (including the muslin), I have some doubts as to it’s viability in my TNT project.  And in case you are wondering at this point, yes, I am very picky. 

Here are my thoughts:

  • even if I adjust the bust dart, I think the shape of the shoulder straps/armscye is wrong for me.  It needs to be a thinner strap on the outside (meaning closest to the arm rather than the body) and/or the armscye needs to be cut in (closer to the body) a bit more.  The shapelessness in that area makes me look larger than I am.
  • the neckline, while being very comfortable for me, is probably not as flattering as it could be.  A V-neck is much more flattering to C-cups and larger as it does away with the “bag o’ boobs” look.

Can I change these things myself?  Maybe.  But, as I have already found out, sometimes you have no idea how a change in one area might affect another completely different area.  And I really don’t want to experiment for months on end.  I’d rather just try to find a sheath dress with the elements I now know that I want and muslin it for personal fit from there. 

What’s next?  I have some baby stuff to make, a dress for my cousin’s wedding, and fall coat.  That’s a lot to accomplish in August, but I gotta try!

Wish me luck!


After professing my love for natural fibers, I came home to sew last night and found myself paralyzed with fear, unable to sew.  I think I talked myself out of finishing my silk twill dress.  Not because I don’t think the fabric won’t be a good boyfriend and behave itself; I think it will.  But because I started thinking about the zipper.  I’ve noticed that the bottom of the zipper in my black and white bamboo skirt and in the stretch cotton chambray version of B5147 protrude a little.  I’m just not sure why.  I can’t figure it out.  And if that happens with this dress I will be very upset.  I don’t want any major flaws.  Little ones I can take because I doubt a non-sewist would notice those, but a pokey zipper?  I think everyone will notice that. 


I think I just have to get over this.  It doesn’t help that I’ve lost momentum on this dress since I last worked on it.  That stupid birthday week and my friend visiting put some distance between me and my dress.  In this case, distance does not make the heart grow fonder.  😉  

I have a work event tonight, so I won’t be able to work on the dress until Thursday night.  Oh, and Robin just reminded me of the natural fibers contest going on now at PatternReview.  Doing a PR contest was one of my goals for 2010.  I’m pretty excited about entering this dress into this particular contest.  The deadline is August 10th.  I definitely can make that.  Maybe this is just the kick in the pants that I need to finish this dress.  Yeah!

In other sewing news, I finally picked out my pattern for the Trench Sew Along!  The new Simplicity Fall line came out and there was a great lined coat in the line up.  I love it!!!  Check out my post at the Trench Sew Along to see the coat.  And if you’re considering making a trench or any kind of coat, please join us (just let me know in the comments and I’ll send you an invite).

Happy fearless sewing everyone!

Is fabric like a boyfriend?

I hope the subject line of this post did not get anyone’s hopes up, because there has been no dating in my world.  As soon as I said that was sticking my toes in the water, I was sidetracked by my sewing.  The charismatic pull of fabric far outstripped the allure of needless drama and anxiety that dating would no doubt induce. 

But back to the topic at hand and the question of the day…

I have put most of the clothes I have made so far into heavy rotation in my work and casual wear wardrobe.  Remember when I wrote about and asked you how our garments wore?  Since that post, I have made a bunch of skirts, and one dress (as you probably suspect, I have not yet finished my second B5147 due to birthday week outings and having a houseguest).  And now I feel I have a little experience under my belt in terms of having used different fabrics.  I’ve worked with various knits, stretch wovens, brocade, cotton pique, chiffon, cotton voile, cotton interlock and ribbing, and am now working with silk twill. 

Which fabric type is my favorite now?  Despite my professed love for knit dresses, it’s not knits.  Can you guess?

My new love is for natural fibers, like cotton, or silk (except for cotton pique, explanation later).  Why?  Because natural fibers don’t lie or cheat on you like some men.   Natural fibers don’t grow larger on you while handling them like middle-aged man.  They don’t get saggy butt syndrome like, you guessed it, a middle-aged man (unless they are cotton pique – more on that later). 

 Remember my first sheath dress (B5147)?  That was made with a stretch cotton chambray.  I’ve worn it twice and it’s stretched out from being a sheath dress to becoming a shift dress.  Ugh!

Remember my black & white zebra I mean bamboo pencil skirt made of cotton pique?  Yeah, well, it’s a little a-line ish now and completely stretched out after 3 or 4 wearings.  Coulda shoulda underlined this puppy!

How about my brown pencil skirt in a stretch suiting fabric?  It has such weird hand that it defies description.  I do not like wearing it that much. 

Now, natural fibers…  They don’t grow larger on you when you’re least expecting it.  They love to be pressed and take a crease like no one’s business.  They may get wrinkled, but you can iron those wrinkles right out.  In short, natural fibers never cheat on you.  They’re the keepers in boyfriend lingo.  Like a good boyfriend or even husband, they’ll go the distance with you and make you look good, even at the end of a long day. 

I don’t want you to think I am turning my back on knits or knit dresses.  They will always have a special place in my heart, being some of my first and most worn garments in my closet.  They’re my first love.  It’s more that my tastes have widened and matured and I recognize the value of a good man, I mean a solid and upstanding fabric.  — A fabric that tells it like it is and doesn’t hide the truth.  — A fabric that makes good on the promise it made to you in the fabric store.  A natural fiber keeper with nary a hint of lycra.  Now that’s what I’m talking about!

So what do you think?  What are your favorite fabrics with which to sew?