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Keep Those Stitches Loose!

April 20, 2015

Sew Well wrap dress progress

Thank you guys so much for your encouraging comments on my last post – I was so nervous about blind stitching the facing down on my wrap dress!  I powered through and got the dress finished in time to wear it to breakfast with the friend who very generously let me borrow her vintage Vogue 1548 pattern.

Unfortunately, while I was able to keep my stitches mostly invisible on the top (see above), I was not so successful on the hem (see below). After wearing the dress for the day, I realized the difference between the top and the hem was the tension in the stitches.  You guys had warned me about making my stitches too tight!

Sew Well wrap dress progress

I’ve since released the tension from the hem, and things are looking a lot better.  Now I just need to get new photos…

The moral of the story: keep those stitches loose!

Book Learning

April 2, 2015

Sew Well - Blindstitch

Today’s Book: Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer

Today’s Lesson:  Blindstitch, p. 35

Today’s Project: That wrap dress I’ve been talking about for months.


After finishing my husband’s shirt, I immediately started working on a wrap dress. I bumped this particular dress to the top of my sewing list because I’m borrowing vintage Vogue 1548 (an original DVF pattern!) from a friend, and I wanted the chance to make the dress up for the first time using the original instructions. (And, I’ve already kept the pattern for too long!)

I’m glad I did because one of the last steps in bodice construction is to blindstitch the facing in place, a step I might not have been brave enough to try without being explicitly told to in the instructions.

Make tiny stitches along the front center of my silk jersey dress?!

Even though I know that I’m supposed to blindstitch the facing down, I’m pretty fearful that my stitches won’t be as blind as they should be. So, I pulled out one of my trusty sewing books to make sure I was doing the stitch correctly.

I’m now trying my best to “take a tiny stitch in the garment skimming the backs of several threads,” as the instructions suggest.  Hopefully my efforts will pay off.

Stay tuned…

Any tips out there from those more experienced in getting a truly blind blindstitch?

Interview with BurdaStyle’s Denise Wild (and Millions of Dresses, Dresses for Me!)

March 23, 2015

Today I have a special treat – an interview with Denise Wild, the Editorial Director of BurdaStyle US – my first interview with someone in the big leagues of sewing!

The interview is primarily focused around BurdaStyle Magazine’s book BurdaStyle Modern Sewing – Dresses for EveryOccasion, a book based almost entirely around dresses!  I have always liked wearing dresses for formal occasions, and I’ve recently been exploring how to make casual dresses work for me now that I’m not spending day in and day out standing in front of a lab bench.  So far my favorite wear-anywhere dresses are based off a BurdaStyle pattern (the twist dress I made here and here), so I have high hopes for the dresses in this book.  I mean, look at that cover dress!

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Dresses for Every Occasion

The book itself is set up very similarly to BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Wardrobe Essentials (reviewed here) in that it’s a compilation of previously published BurdaStyle patterns.  But, just like Wardrobe Essentials, it’s a steal at $29.99 if you imagine yourself making several of the patterns included in the book or if you’d rather trace than tape. After an introductory chapter explaining the basics of sewing, the book launches into its patterns, which are organized by theme – vintage, trendy, casual, and formal. If you’d like to see any of the patterns in more detail, I’ve included links to all of the individual patterns throughout my interview below.

Okay, on to the interview!

Hi Denise, thanks for taking the time for this interview. I want to start by admitting that I’ve been searching for a go-to dress pattern since I started sewing five years ago. I was pretty excited to see so many different dress patterns in BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Dresses for Every Occasion.  There are definitely a few patterns that caught my eye right away.  I’m curious – how did the dress patterns get chosen for this book?

Our goal was to showcase versatility in style. From vintage and modern to casual and formal, you’ll really find a dress for all tastes and occasions. We chose some of BurdaStyle’s most popular dress patterns, and incorporated many that are easy to sew as well as many that are more advanced.

Do these patterns represent a selection of BurdaStyle’s most popular dress patterns?

You bet they do! Fans of BurdaStyle will surely see some of their favorite dress patterns, as well as many new ones, too.

In the Introduction to the book, you say that dresses are your favorite things to sew. How long have you been sewing, and do you have a favorite dress pattern?

They are! I’ve been sewing since I was 13, and dresses are definitely my go-to garments to sew. I love wearing them (so I’m always happy to build my wardrobe with things I’ll proudly wear), and I love the challenges that come with sewing new dress styles, details, and different fabrics. I don’t have a favorite dress pattern. Instead, I like to change things up and try new patterns often. Although when I do find a pattern I like, I’ll make it in multiple colors or fabrics. :)

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Dresses for Every Occasion

[The vintage patterns included in the book – top row left to right:  Sheath Dress 09/2012 #109 | Lace Dress 09/2012 #108 | 50s Halter Dress 07/2012 #133; bottom row left to right: Gathered Sheath Dress 11/2012 #138 (the plus-sized version is the Pleated Dress (Plus Size) 08/2012 #142) | Double-Breasted Blazer 12/2012 #101Darted Skirt 12/2012 #108 | Vintage Bouclé Dress 12/2012 #141]

Most of the patterns in BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Dresses for Every Occasion range from BurdaStyle sizes 36 to 44 (bust sizes 33” to 39.5”), yet the size chart in the book ranges from sizes 32 to 60 (bust sizes 30” to 57.5”). I figured the pattern sizes included in the book likely correspond to the sizes released online, but I know that at least the “A Little Bit Audrey Sheath” is available online up to size 52 (bust size 48”). How are the sizes for the book selected? Has BurdaStyle considered making a book that would include more sizes?

You must be a mind-reader! We’ve just wrapped up our third book, and it’s all plus-size patterns. It’s got a great range of outfits suitable for work, play, date nights, you name it! The book will be in bookstores at the end of June, and it’s already on Amazon for pre-order. Following that, we’ve got more great books in store, and our goal is to feature on-trend clothes that will fit every body.

The patterns in BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Dresses for Every Occasion range in skill level from “quick and easy” to “more challenging, for advanced learners”. The pattern with the highest skill rating is the jacket of the “Beguiling in Blue Jacket and Skirt” set made out of Duchesse satin. What advice would you give to a newer seamstress who wants to tackle this jacket pattern?

To a newer seamstress who wants to tackle a difficult pattern, I’d say bite off only what you can chew. I always suggest new sewers pick patterns that are suitable for their skill level before they challenge themselves with fabrics and details that they’ve never sewn before. For someone who wants to specifically sew the “Beguiling in Blue Jacket and Skirt”, I’d say choose an easier fabric to sew (maybe a lightweight cotton twill with a bit of stretch), and I’d suggest sewing the skirt first. Once it’s time for the jacket, take your time, go extra slow, and double-check each instruction before you move forward. Also, consider having your buttonholes sewn by a professional, or practice them at least three or four times on a scrap of your jacket fabric until they’re perfect. There’s nothing worse than ruining a beautiful project with messy buttonholes.

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Dresses for Every Occasion

I really like how BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Dresses for Every Occasion pairs the vintage-inspired patterns “A Little Bit Audrey Sheath” and “Très Tweed Mock Two-Piece” with what appear to be actual vintage photos of women wearing similar dresses. When BurdaStyle produces a vintage-inspired pattern, does the inspiration always come from actual vintage dresses in old photos?

Yes! BurdaStyle has been creating fashion sewing patterns since 1949 when BurdaStyle magazine was called Burda Moden, so those vintage photos you see are real images styled by BurdaStyle back in the day, and the garments are real, original BurdaStyle patterns. The updated patterns have just been modified slightly from the originals to bring them into a more current fashion sense and to make them better suited for a more current body type.

Does BurdaStyle plan to publish more books like BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Dresses for Every Occasion and BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Wardrobe Essentials? If so, what can we expect next?

Absolutely! Our full-figure book is already available for pre-order on Amazon, and following that, you’ll have to wait and see. :)

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Dresses for Every Occasion

[The trendy patterns included in the book – top row left to right: Dolman Dress 06/2012 #134 | Asymmetric Dress 02/2013 #110; center row:  Puff Sleeve Dress 07/2012 #131; bottom row left to right: Light Cowl Dress 01/2013 #123B | Light Cowl Top 01/2013 #123A]

How long have you worked as the Editorial Director of BurdaStyle US, and what do you enjoy most about your job?

I’ve been working as the Editorial Director of BurdaStyle US since April 2013, and I would say what I enjoy the most is being surrounded by gorgeous patterns every day, and connecting with inspired, passionate sewers every day. We have such a strong and connected group of members (there are currently over 1 million members!), and I get to engage with them regularly on the website and in the online courses. Also, we publish new BurdaStyle sewing patterns on the website every week, so I love seeing the latest styles and planning my next sewing projects.

In a recent issue of the US edition of the BurdaStyle magazine, I noticed an ad for your book Mend & Make Fabulous. Can you tell me a bit about this book and what went in to writing it?

Mend & Make Fabulous is sort of a two-part how-to sewing book. First, it’s a mending resource, giving you detailed instructions for the most common garment fixes and repairs including replacing zippers, closing tears, restoring color, and hemming jeans and dress pants. Second, it’s a DIY inspiration with how-to instructions for up-cycling, embellishing, and modifying your existing garments, whether you need to modify them because of a flaw, or whether you want to give your clothes a fresh, new look. To me, the best thing about Mend & Make Fabulous is that someone who has never sewn before can pick it up and easily understand what to do thanks to the very clear, precise instructions as well as the detailed, step-by-step photographs. And of course, it’s a great go-to resource for those who have been sewing for years, who just need that quick reference for how to do a particular repair. The book is filled with gorgeous images, great tips, and useful techniques that anyone who values the life of their clothes will surely use.

Vintage dresses - top row left to right:

[The casual patterns included in the book – top row left to right:  Gathered Dress 06/2013 #133 | Batik Dress 07/2013 #122A | Bangle Dress 07/2013 #125A; center row:  Knotted Top 09/2013 #101A;  bottom row left to right:  Jersey Dress 02/2013 #114 | Knotted Dress 09/2013 #101B | Ribbon Dress 03/2013 #110]

I also know that you created the fashion sewing site In case some of my readers are not familiar with the site, how would you describe it? is a website I created out of my passion for sewing. It’s got loads of fashion and sewing articles including sewing tutorials and how-tos as well as fashion trends and inspirations. The website is meant to showcase sewing in a fresh, new light, and bridge the gap between sewing and fashion.

I’m currently learning how to juggle life as a new mom with all of my other responsibilities. Fun things like sewing often fall to the bottom of the list, which mean I sometimes go weeks without turning on my sewing machine. How do you juggle your Editorial Director job at BurdaStyle US with writing books, contributing to your site, sewing for yourself, etc.?

Ah, the question of the century! Let’s see… Well, fortunately, because my job encompasses what I love to do, I work almost all the time and it doesn’t bother me. As far as juggling things, I use schedules and lists and apps to keep me on track. I love the GoTasks app, which syncs my to-do list on my phone with my Google Calendar, and I use the Simplenote app on my phone (and the corresponding Notational Velocity software on my computers) to keep notes with me on every device wherever I go. I make a habit of sewing once a week (Sewing Sunday!), even if it’s just a hem or repair, and I schedule me-time as much as I can, whether it’s a spa date with a friend, a run through the mall, or a trashy-TV marathon. I guess I just try to get as much done whenever and wherever I can, and then I squeeze in personal as often as possible.

What would you like to be doing in five years time?

Sewing, of course! In the sun on a beach. Okay, that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. But maybe I can make it work by hosting a beach-side sewing retreat. Yes! That’s what I would like to be doing in five years!! :) Who’s joining me?!

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Dresses for Every Occasion

[The formal patterns included in the book – top row:  Double Layer Skirt 12/2012 #105 Velour Jacket 12/2012 #115 (the same pattern as the Belted Coat 12/2012 #117 also in BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Wardrobe Essentials) | Princess Dress 11/2012 #121; center row:  Split V Neck Dress 08/2013 #116B; bottom row left to right:  Pleated V Neck Dress 08/2013 #116A Calf-Length Dress 10/2012 #128 | Little Black Dress 12/2012 #110]

Thanks Denise for taking the time to answer all of these questions.  I had no idea BurdaStyle has been around in some form since 1949!  And, you sound like a super woman with your ability to juggle time for yourself in between all of your to dos.  I’m going to have to look into those task-scheduling apps…

Interweave/F+W sent me BurdaStyle Modern Sewing – Dresses for Every Occasion for review.  All opinions are my own.

Blue Plaid Butterick 4712

March 19, 2015

Sew Well - Butterick 4712 in blue plaid flannel from #MoodFabrics

It finally feels like Spring here in the Pacific Northwest.  The sun is shining, the forsythia is blooming, and my last handmade Christmas present from this past Christmas is finally finished.  Ha!

Christmas morning my husband unwrapped the cut pieces for this blue plaid flannel shirt. I’d ordered this blue plaid flannel fabric from Mood Fabrics the second I saw it online since I knew it was just perfect for my husband.  He’s a blue button-up shirt kind of guy, and this particular pattern screamed Pacific Northwest. And, well, that’s exactly where we live.

With the cutting behind me, I thought for sure he’d have a finished shirt in no time.  But, a lot of crazy life events have kept me away from my sewing machine the past few months.  Not to mention that after diligently cutting out each pattern piece, I got frustrated that one side seam didn’t match up.  Silly, right?  Especially since it doesn’t bother me at all now that the whole shirt is together.

Sew Well - Butterick 4712 in blue plaid flannel from #MoodFabrics

Okay, so how exactly did I mess up just one side seam?  Well, I started my plaid matching at the center front.  I decided to center the black vertical stripe (though I later noticed that many similar ready-to-wear plaid shirts have the lighter vertical stripe centered), then I used the right side seam to determine how to cut the back.  What I failed to notice was that my horizontal stripes were not perfectly horizontal – the pattern skews ever so slightly up from left to right (or from right to left as you’re looking at it). What that means is that by the time the pattern wraps all the way across the front and around the back, there’s a noticeable shift in the horizontal line at the left side seam.  Since I only had dust left after cutting out the pieces the first time around (I even had to piece the under collar because I cut the yardage so close), I wasn’t able to go back and try recutting, but I think maybe I should have trued the fabric grain before I started cutting?  Instead, I just prewashed the flannel (three times!), pressed the wrinkles out, and then trusted that the fabric on grain.  Now, at least with this particular fabric, future Amy is imagining past Amy pulling at diagonal corners of the fabric until the horizontal stripes are perfectly perpendicular to the vertical stripes after pressing but before cutting.  How does that sound to those of you with more experience? Any advice out there?

The problem continued on into the sleeves. When I was cutting the sleeves, I tried to match the horizontal pattern as well, using the front left side as my template.  And, the left sleeve (above) matches really well.  But, the right sleeve (below) is slightly off despite being an exact match to the left sleeve.  Since matching the sleeves was mostly just a fun challenge I gave myself (I can’t imagine anyone would ever notice, especially not my husband!), I am actually really happy to have gotten one sleeve right.

Sew Well - Butterick 4712 in blue plaid flannel from #MoodFabrics

And, as I mentioned above, now that the shirt is finished, the slight mismatches don’t bother me at all.  My husband’s been wearing the shirt all day, and I haven’t noticed.  I think a mismatch at the center front would have been harder to overlook, but thankfully that’s spot on!

Sew Well - Butterick 4712 in blue plaid flannel from #MoodFabrics

The pattern I used was vintage Butterick 4712, which I’ve made up roughly once a year for my husband since I began blogging back in 2011 (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and now here’s 2015).  Thanks to the fitting I did during Peter of Male Pattern Boldness’s Men’s Shirt Sew-Along, all I have to do now when I find a fabric that will make a great shirt for him is cut and sew. (Although, looking back at that post, it seems I took some width out of the shoulders back then, which I don’t remember doing this time around – I’ll have to look into that before I make another!)

Sew Well - Butterick 4712 in blue plaid flannel from #MoodFabrics

As I mentioned earlier on my blog, just about every seam of this shirt was sewn three times.  First, it felt like I sewed most every seam wrong the first time around. Even the plackets were stitched inside out, which I unfortunately noticed after slicing into my sleeves.  But, look at them now – a good save and a near perfect match!

Sew Well - Butterick 4712 in blue plaid flannel from #MoodFabrics

Then I would carefully rip out those stitches and restitch.  Finally, every seam was either top stitched or flat felled.  I have to say that flat felling the seams was a lot easier than I’d imagined and make for a wonderfully neat finish inside of the shirt.  There are no exposed raw (or even serged!) edges anywhere in this shirt.  Even though sewing this shirt seemed to take forever, it was worth getting such a good finish on it.

Sew Well - Butterick 4712 in blue plaid flannel from #MoodFabrics

Also, aren’t they so cute?!  When we tried to take photos for this post outdoors, we realized the ground was way too wet and soggy for our diaper-clad little girl.  So, she became a prop instead.  Best prop ever, in my opinion!

I hope everyone is enjoying the shift in seasons as much as we are!

This post can also be found on Mood Sewing Network. I used my MSN allowance towards the purchase of the fabric.


Happy Pi Day!

March 14, 2015

Sew Well - Placket Plaid Matching

Hi folks! My good news here is that I finally finished a garment! That plaid flannel shirt that I was making my husband is now on a hanger in his closet. And, the plaid not matching in a few places doesn’t actually bother me at all since, overall, the plaid actually matches pretty well.  I hope to get photos of him in it this weekend and get a post up next week!

But, my brain must be full of sewing cobwebs because I had to rip out almost every single seam and restitch. Have you ever had to resew a placket after already slicing into your fabric? It’s not for the weak of heart! But, the first time around I’d matched right sides together when I needed to match the right side of the placket with the wrong side of the sleeve – as it was first sewn, the placket was on the inside!  Now look at it!  The plaid is even a decent match!

Also, the fact that the entire shirt is flat felled and top stitched means that pretty much every seam was sewn three times. The first wrong time, the second right time, and the third finishing time. Whew. I feel my sewing groove coming back on though, and I’ve already pulled out the next thing I want to make!

Anyway, as it’s a very special Pi Day, I’ll leave you with a crazy video all about pi that I’ve loved ever since my graduate school days back at Caltech.

Inspiration: Girly Style

March 9, 2015

Sew Well - Girly Style Wardrobe

I have to admit that I’ve done a lot less sewing for my little girl than I imagined I would.  I thought I’d be whipping up cute dresses right and left.  Ha!  I’ve made one.  And it had a cat tail.

Sew Well - Girly Style Wardrobe

It’s just that up until now she’s been growing so fast. And, we’ve been given so many hand-me-downs that’s it’s seemed silly to make something she’ll outgrow in a month or two when she already has plenty to wear. But, I still love the idea of making her clothes.

Sew Well - Girly Style Wardrobe

I’m especially feeling inspired after reading through Girly Style Wardrobe by Yoshiko Tsukiori. I have several other of her books, including Sweet Dress Book, which I reviewed here. But, this book is the first I have of hers that’s geared towards kids.  And, I have to say that her style translates really well into kids’ fashion. The 28 patterns included in the book are seriously cute. And extensive. The book includes patterns for camisoles, blouses, smocks, tunics, dresses, boleros, skirts, pants, caps, purses, bags, and slips – really, as the title says, an entire girly wardrobe.

Sew Well - Girly Style Wardrobe

One of the first patterns that caught my eye was the square-necked blouse (left above).  I thought the pleats would pair well with the textured cotton I knew I had left over from a skirt I made a few years back (fabric originally from

Sew Well - Girly Style Wardrobe

I also really liked the winter dress (the long-sleeved dress above), but as I was trying to figure out how much fabric it needed so I could start auditioning my stash for this dress as well,  I realized the sizes included in the book range from 3 years old to 10 years old. My little girl is only 13 months, and she has a lot of growing to do before she can fit into clothes meant for a three year old!

Sew Well - Girly Style Wardrobe

So, my little girl will have to wait a couple years before I make her anything from this book. But, the upside is that I’ll have more time to sew then, right?!


Laurence King Publishing sent me Girly Style Wardrobe for review.  If you like what you’ve seen and buy the book through the Amazon affiliate link above, a few pennies will end up in my pocket.  All opinions are my own.

Sew Expo Recap 2015

March 4, 2015

Sew Well at the Sew Expo

It’s been quite a month. I’ve had two family members in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital for different issues and an incredibly stressful science paper deadline that was compounded by lots of drama from my co-authors. Couple that with an amazing baby girl who just found her legs, and my days have been more than full! I haven’t turned on my sewing machine since my last post, which marks my longest dry spell since starting to sew back in 2010. Any hope that I might have been able to pull together an AlterSWAP (alternative Sewing with a Plan challenge) on the Stitcher’s Guild site is long since gone. Even the two projects on my sewing table – my husband’s plaid shirt and my silk/wool jacket – have just been collecting dust.

What my sewing needed was a boost! And, thankfully, this year’s Sewing and Stitchery Expo couldn’t have come at a better time!

Back before things got crazy, I’d looked into the classes at this year’s Expo. Last year I had a lot of fun going to a full day’s worth of classes, but I felt like I missed out on some of the social aspects of the Expo since I couldn’t join Helena of Gray All Day and Leah of Away I Sew! when they were exploring the vendor tables since I only had a few minutes break between each class.  But, I still thought a class or two would be fun. Unfortunately, when I went to sign up on the first morning online registration was open, the class I really wanted to take – Collars and Lapels with Pamela Leggett – was already sold out! I hadn’t prepared a plan B, so I ended up not signing up for anything.

In the weeks leading up to the Expo, I’d heard from a number of other friends that they were also going to be there on Saturday, so my loose plan for the day was to start at the “Vogue, Butterick, McCall’s & Kwik Sew Patterns 2015 Wear Now Fashion & Palmer/Pletsch Sewing and Styling Tips by Melissa Watson” free fashion show and then see where that took me.

The fashion show was interesting. I liked seeing all of the garments made up and being worn by real people, but I wasn’t sure how to best take advantage of the show. Perhaps if I’d brought a pen I could have written down my flashes of inspiration or some of the sewing tips being shared by Melissa Watson? Since I hadn’t, I just sat back and enjoyed the show.

Afterwards, I briefly ran into Suzanne, who I met last year at the meet up I hosted at my house, and Missy of Missy’s Craft Journal, who I met last summer at a fitting meet up and who was also at the meet up I hosted at my house.

Then I saw a huge group of familiar faces all sitting together…

…Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic (read her recap of the day here and here), who had flown all the way from the east coast and who I’ve wanted to meet ever since we were a part of the Mood Sewing Network together;

…gMarie of gMarie Sews, who I also met last year at the meet up I hosted at my house;

…MaLora of Bird and Bicycle, who I would have sworn I’d met before (even though I hadn’t!) because we’d been talking about getting together ever since I moved to Seattle;

…Melizza of Pincushion Treats, who I’ve been following since before she moved to the Bay Area (sadly, around the time I left), and I was ever so happy when she announced she was moving to the Seattle area;

…and Niema of Wearable Muslin, who I had briefly met back at the great sewing giveaway.

As we were chatting, J of Toile and Trouble joined our group. Another Seattle sewing blogger I’d been hoping to meet!

The seven of us headed off together to explore the vendors.  One of our first stops was the  Marcy Tilton booth, where we ran into Gertie of Gertie’s Blog for Better Sewing.

Then, while we were shopping for fabric at Vogue, we ran into Shams of Communing with Fabric, who I hadn’t seen in person since I left the Bay Area.

We met quite a number of other people as well, but since I didn’t think to bring a pen, I wasn’t able to write down any of their names.  If you were there and said hello, let me know in the comments!

While we were shopping, I was keeping my eye out for Helena of Gray All Day, Maris of Sew Maris, and my friend Yvonne, but our path’s didn’t cross. I later learned that Helena wasn’t even there that day and that I’d somehow missed Maris at the Vogue show earlier that morning. As for Yvonne, I just have to hope that she had so much fun that she’ll want to come back next year (nudge, nudge!).

Being around other people who love sewing was so inspirational.  My day at the Sew Expo motivated me to move sewing and blogging back up my list of priorities.  In the past few days, I’ve cleaned my sewing area and dusted off my current sewing projects, and now I’m writing my first blog post in over a month. At this rate I might even have a finished project here soon!


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