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December 17, 2014

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Modern Sewing Wardrobe Essentials

Yesterday I showed off the new top I made (and have been wearing constantly!) from the BurdaStyle 11/2011 Knit Wrap Top #114A pattern, which I got from the new book BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Wardrobe Essentials.  I’m back today with a little more about the book since it was sent to me by Interweave/F+W for review.  Bonus:  it retails for $29.99, but last I checked it was on sale through the link above for $15.00!  (And, that link is not an affiliate link, so if you’re not a fan of affiliate links but would like to take advantage of the sale, click away!)

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Modern Sewing Wardrobe Essentials

But, before you buy, maybe you want to see a little more of the book?

I’ve always been a big fan of BurdaStyle.  Once upon a time, I was even one of their regular bloggers!  But, these days I find it hard enough to make time to keep up with my own blog, so I’ve given up even thinking about posting my finished projects to social sewing sites like BurdaStyle.  I definitely miss being up to date with everything going on over there though, and it was so nice to get a peek at their new book!  The book is essentially a select collection of previously published patterns.  And, to my enjoyment, I recognized many of the patterns in the book from my days working with BurdaStyle!  In fact, back in my BurdaStyle heyday, I even made one of the patterns that they decided to include in this book!

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Modern Sewing Wardrobe Essentials

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you might recognize the stripey swing dress that I made from the Swing Dress 08/2012 #133 pattern.  I liked the style lines of the top so much, I also used this pattern to make my Gridlock dress.  For both of my swing dress versions, I used the online PDF pattern since there was no book at the time, but you could now just as easily use the pattern included in this book.  And, if you go the book route, you don’t have to print and then tape together endless sheets of paper!  The book includes full-sized versions of all of the patterns, but they are printed on thick paper and all nested in a crazy web like typical Burda magazine patterns.  Tracing is required.  The book also includes a lot more instructions than what I remember came with the online PDF version, so there’s also that.

Every individual pattern in this book can be downloaded from BurdaStyle.com for $5.99.  To help you out, I’ve linked to all the major patterns here.  Many of the book patterns are also associated with an additional variation, but I haven’t shown or linked to those for the sake of space.  If you like a pattern and are curious what other variations might be included with it, click on any of the links I’ve included (again, not affiliate links) and look in the description where it says, “This is the same pattern PDF as…”.  Those options should give you an idea of what else you can do with the patterns in this book.

Anyway, all this rambling is to stay – if you only like one or two of the patterns included in the book and if you’re comfortable using an online BurdaStyle pattern, you’re better off going the individual online PDF route.  Or, if you already have every BurdaStyle pattern ever made, then you already have every pattern offered in this book since it doesn’t include any new, made-just-for-the-book patterns.  But, if you find yourself taken with several of these patterns or if you like more detailed instructions and extra information on sewing technique, then this book is definitely worth it.

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Modern Sewing Wardrobe Essentials

The only other dress included in the book is the Cowl dress 10/2012 #118A. I remember when this pattern came out, and I think it was one of their best sellers for awhile.

The bottom row includes the Mini Skirt 08/2012 #135, a classic skirt shape with carry-everything pockets, and the Belted Coat 12/2012 #117.  The coat has really interesting style lines that hide pockets, and it reminds me of the robe-like coats I’ve been seeing this fall.

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Modern Sewing Wardrobe Essentials

The book includes lots of sets.  My favorite is the red Long Sleeve Blazer 08/2013 #106 and Editorial Pants 08/2013 #118C combo.  I’ve heard good things about BurdaStyle trouser patterns, and I’ve always wanted to try a pair.  There are two trouser patterns included in the book, but I like this one better because it’s not pleated.  But, if you’re more of a pleats person, the next pattern set is for you!

The middle row includes the Hip Length Blazer 04/2013 #101 and the Pleated Pants 04/2013 #103 trouser suit and the Boxy Jacket 09/2012 #101 and Pleated Mini-skirt 09/2012 #116A combo. I think the pink jacket and skirt combo looks particularly cute on their model (who’s holding a cake!?) in the fabrics they chose.

The bottom row includes the plaid Draped Tank 04/2013 #112B and Flared Skirt 04/2013 #118 and the cover garments, the Folded Yoke Blouse 10/2012 #122 and the Pocket Skirt 10/2012 #121B.  I find these last two intriguing.  I really want to know how the folded yoke and the kangaroo pocket would look in real life!

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Modern Sewing Wardrobe Essentials

Finally, the bulk of the book is made up of tops.  I’ve already shown you the one I made and the two in the sets, but there’s still five more!  The styling for the Three Quarter Blouse 06/2013 #119 was just too good not to make it the main photo for this collage.  To me it says:  make this shirt, and a man in a robe will appear on your bed.

The middle row includes the Gathered Blouse 07/2012 #116 and the Rouched Top 10/2012 #114A.

And, finally, the bottom row includes the Carmen Blouse 01/2013 #117 and the Inverse Pleat Blouse 09/2013 #118B.

So, by my count there’s 20 patterns in total, many of with included variations that I haven’t shown here. The book says there’s 21 patterns in total, but I think that’s because they’ve counted the cowl-neck top, a variation on the cowl dress, as its own separate pattern.  Regardless of how you make the count, it’s a lot of patterns.

One final thing worth noting that Jenny of Cashmerette pointed out:  this book does not include a large range of pattern sizes.  In the “BurdaStyle Patterns 101″ section of the book, it looks like the patterns should go to size 60 (66 1/4″ bust), but both the knit top and swing dress I made actually only go up to a 42 (37 3/4″ bust).  Other patterns go up to 44 (39 1/2″ bust).  But, none of the patterns in their book appear to cover the top half of their size range.  Beth of Sunnygal Studio just raved about one of BurdaStyle’s plus patterns, so perhaps BurdaStyle should consider reaching out to their curvy customers with yet another book?!  With the backing of the Curvy Sewing Collective, that could be another hit BurdaStyle book!

Interweave/F+W sent me BurdaStyle Modern Sewing – Wardrobe Essentials for review.  All opinions are my own.

Draped Tee in Silk-Cotton Jersey

December 16, 2014

This top is also part of a review I’ll be posting tomorrow on the new book BurdaStyle Modern Sewing – Wardrobe Essentials . I often just review books by posting a finished garment, but I enjoyed summarizing all of the patterns in the last book I reviewed, and adding all of the pattern photos from this book to all of these photos and all of this text just felt like too much. So, come back tomorrow for a look at a ton more BurdaStyle patterns!

Sew Well - Draped BurdaStyle Tee in Silk-Cotton Jersey from #MoodFabrics

This month I wanted a quick make, something that would leave me with plenty of time for holiday cheer… and chasing Baby Girl all around the house!  She’s now crawling, pulling up, and cruising around!  In fact, she’s so busy these days that I only have time to sew and blog while she’s sleeping.  I’ve had to resort to taking indoor shots here because I was only able to sneak in camera time during one of her noontime naps.  The best windows in the house are in the living room and dining room, two rooms which are currently covered in Christmas decorations, baby toys, kitchen remodel junk, and all of our artwork.  After trying various angles with the camera on the tripod, I decided that you get the artwork.  Not because I’m trying to be artsy, but simply because it was the clearest space with the best light.  Life is crazy these days!  Ha!  Anyway, I know you’re here for the sewing, so I’ll get on with it!

Sew Well - Draped BurdaStyle Tee in Silk-Cotton Jersey from #MoodFabrics

Lately I’ve found that my quickest makes are typically knit garments.  Just serge and go! Mood Fabrics has quite a large selection of jerseys online, and after a lot of deliberation, I ended up choosing this “famous designer” silk-cotton jersey.  Tough it seemed like it would pair well with my coral Nina cardigan, which I’ve been wearing a lot lately, it also felt a bit like a spring-season fabric.  There were limited quantities available, so I decided to pounce.  I’ve see too many great fabrics disappear before I got to them.  Plus, who doesn’t like a bit of color to liven up a gray winter?

Sew Well - Draped BurdaStyle Tee in Silk-Cotton Jersey from #MoodFabrics

This fabric has a lovely drape and is incredibly soft, but it is also a bit sheer.  When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to make with it, I kept coming back to the fact that it felt like a really fancy t-shirt fabric to me.  I ended up pairing it with the BurdaStyle 11/2011 Knit Wrap Top #114A pattern that I found in the new book BurdaStyle Modern Sewing – Wardrobe Essentials - a basic long-sleeved tee with a fancy draped, wrap-style front.

Sew Well - Draped BurdaStyle Tee in Silk-Cotton Jersey from #MoodFabrics

One of the interesting features of this pattern are its dropped shoulders.  I feel like so much of my time “sewing” is actually spent fitting patterns, so it was a bit weird for me to have a shoulder seam that was not at my shoulder.  But, I decided to roll with it since that’s the way the pattern was designed.

Sew Well - Draped BurdaStyle Tee in Silk-Cotton Jersey from #MoodFabrics

Another thing I found was the pattern is designed so that the crossover wrap section wants to sit under my bust even though its sewn into the side seam just below the arm hole.  I was counting on the double layer of semi-sheer fabric giving me a bit of modesty, but only my belly gets double coverage!  At first I thought the culprit was the drape of the fabric, but the crossover wrap falls in exactly the same place on the BurdaStyle model!

Sew Well - Draped BurdaStyle Tee in Silk-Cotton Jersey from #MoodFabrics

The pattern is also really long, not only in the body but also in the sleeves.  I ended up not hemming it since I liked the way the thin raw edges were rolling, so it’s an inch or so longer than the pattern intended, but it would be a very long top regardless.  The instructions say the sleeves are meant to be long since they’re meant to be worn gathered at the wrists, but they’re so long I can completely cover my hands and then some!

Sew Well - Draped BurdaStyle Tee in Silk-Cotton Jersey from #MoodFabrics

The pattern also features a back yoke that is actually an extension of the front that wraps across the shoulders and around to the top of the back.  I really want to make this pattern again in a striped fabric since I think the way this yoke is designed would make the stripes turn out incredibly neat.  The seams are a bit hard to figure out at first when you’re looking at the pattern, but I think horizontal stripes at the front waist would become vertical stripes at the shoulders and back yoke, which would contrast nicely with horizontal stripes across the main back piece.

Sew Well - Draped BurdaStyle Tee in Silk-Cotton Jersey from #MoodFabrics

All in all I think this top is a good pairing of a beautiful fabric with an interesting pattern.  I’ve been wearing it a ton, and my husband likes it, so that’s a successful quick make in my book!

This post can also be found on Mood Sewing Network. I used my MSN allowance towards the purchase of the fabric.  Also, Interweave/F+W sent me BurdaStyle Modern Sewing – Wardrobe Essentials for review, which I plan to officially have up tomorrow.  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.  Neither the free fabric and book nor those pennies are enough to bias my opinion.  (Maybe if someone wanted to pay for my kitchen renovation… Ha!)

Interview with Kellie K Apparel: The Making of a Revolutionary Strapless Bra

December 10, 2014

I’ve been reading a lot more bra-making posts in my blog reader of late. It seems that more and more of you are making your own bras! Though I still haven’t ventured into that area of sewing, I hope the fact that it’s of interest to so many of you will mean that you are as excited about this post as I am.  It’s part review (of a new lining fabric that sticks without being sticky), part interview (about the founder and CEO of Kellie K Apparel‘s experiences going from idea to pattern to fabric to product), and part discount (for those of you who are in the market for a better strapless bra).

A little over a year ago I wrote about a Kickstarter campaign started by a guy I went to graduate school with that was all about creating a revolutionary new strapless bra. Well, his campaign was a massive success and ended up raising over $21,000!  I ordered a bra in the Kickstarter, but my size has not yet made it into production, so I can’t yet tell you my thoughts on the bra (many other sizes have been made though, including 32C, D, DD and 34B, C, D, DD and 36C, D!). However, I have been able to play with a little bit of the fancy GeckTeckTM lining.

Sew Well - GeckTeck lining for Kellie K Apparel's Strapless Bras

Here is the small bit of GeckTeckTM lining I received from Kellie K Apparel.  The magic is in the pink.  And by magic, I mean chemistry.

Sew Well - GeckTeck lining for Kellie K Apparel's Strapless Bras

When you press the pink side against your skin (or your sewing machine, or your window, or countless other things…), it sticks. Even better – it doesn’t feel sticky!  In fact, it doesn’t feel like much other than maybe a really soft, really pliable rubber.  It’s silicone-based, so think of silicone-based cooking materials you might have in your kitchen.

Sew Well - GeckTeck lining for Kellie K Apparel's Strapless Bras

Though it’s being used in the Kellie K strapless bras as a lining, it is much thicker than typical lining fabrics.  When I was waiting for my bit of lining to arrive in the mail, I was dreaming about sewing it into my wrap dress to keep the neckline in place, but now that I’ve seen it, I’m not sure I’d want to sew through it.  I could imagine sewing through the backing if the GeckTeckTM were made in just the right shape…  You’ll see in the interview below that I tried asking how Kellie K Apparel sews it in, but they wouldn’t share many details – it’s top secret!

Sew Well - GeckTeck lining for Kellie K Apparel's Strapless Bras

See, despite the thickness, this stuff is really pliable.  I am definitely a fan, and I am more excited than ever to get my bra. I even hope that one day GeckTeckTM lining will be available for us home sewers to add into all of our garments.  Now that I’ve had a chance to see what it’s like, I’m imagining a thin strip of GeckTeckTM on bias binding.  It would make an amazing facing for daring V-necks…  One can dream, right?!

Okay, now back to the Kickstarter campaign and the successful launching of Kellie K Apparel.  I was really curious what it was like to take an idea – such as making a strapless bra with a unique lining that would stick to skin without being sticky – and turn it into a product.  As sewers, we dream up new garments almost every day.  Some of us even dream up new patterns.  But, how many of us end up producing our own line of garments for sale? Creating the patterns, sourcing the fabric…  My mind boggles at just the idea of it! Anthony Roy, the founder and CEO of Kellie K Apparel, had to not only figure out how to make a strapless bra pattern and get it produced, but he also had to create an entirely new kind of fabric in order to truly bring his idea to life.  If you’re as curious as I was as to what that was like, read on!  Oh, and by the way, if you are in the market for a strapless bra, you can get 10% off  by using the code SEWWELL10 at Kellie K Apparel. That coupon code will be good until February 1, 2015.  If you’re still not yet convinced that GeckTeckTM really works, just read their testimonials!

Okay, on to the interview!

One of the Kellie K strapless bras featured in the Kickstarter campaign. Alice was apparently confident enough in her strapless bra to jump for the camera! Source.

Hi Tony, thanks for taking the time to talk with me about your experiences creating Kellie K Apparel and its innovative line of strapless bras.  While my readers all have a common interest in sewing, they have wildly different backgrounds.  Why don’t we start the interview with you telling my readers a bit about your background. When did you decide you wanted to make a line of strapless bras?

While my wife and I were planning on going out one evening, she complained about how hard it is to find a strapless bra that stays up; so much so that it often influenced what she would wear. I knew about gecko-inspired, wall crawling robots from my graduate PhD work, and it didn’t seem like much of a leap to attach a Gecko-like material to fix the problem my wife shared with me.

I made the first Kellie K prototype for my wife and it was… rough. But even this very first iteration stayed in place and kept her 38DD bust secure. I knew I had the makings of a successful business when the next time she needed to wear a strapless bra, she grabbed the rough prototype instead of one of her expensive, but ultimately inadequate, store-bought bras.

What exactly is GeckTeckTM?

GeckTeckTM is the patent-pending silicone-based lining that is the core technology that keeps our Kellie K Apparel Strapless Bras secure. Like a gecko’s foot, the lining is softer in the normal direction and stiffer in the transverse direction. The softness allows the lining to adhere to the skin via microscopic Van Der Waals forces, while the stiffness spreads the micro-adhesion phenomenon to a macro scale. This is called anisotropic compliance, and we’ve optimized this balance for adhesion to human skin. What we have is a soft, skin-safe, residue-free lining that can be reused thousands of times and even works in moisture!

[Watch this video if you want to learn more about the science!]

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I understand that your prototype was made by refashioning one of your wife’s store-bought strapless bras. Most of my readers are familiar with refashioning, taking an old or unworn garment and making it into something new and wearable.  But, they probably also know how different refashioning can be from making a garment from scratch. Then add to that making a mass quantity of garments for sale!  When you decided to make your own line of strapless bras, what was it like planning their design and production from start to finish?

The short answer is it was hard, and required a lot of trial and error. My engineering background made the mechanical design of making an apparatus able to adequately support a load pretty easy. Making said apparatus a comfortable, durable, attractive garment, and making it in a cost efficient manner was an entirely different story! I quickly realized I needed help, and was fortunate I lived in a city that is a hub of the fashion industry. But, I soon discovered how true the saying “Good help is hard to find” really is. Many people are more than willing to take advantage of a budding entrepreneur, and I still keep the TERRIBLE first bra that was made from scratch as a reminder of this.

Eventually, I was able to find a network of people I could trust, many of whom had their own network of people who they trust. Through this network, I was able to find help with bra design, fit, patternmaking, and manufacturing. Most importantly, I was able to learn how to communicate my needs and expectations, and know when someone wasn’t quite the right fit.

Even after finding a good team, it took several iterations to help transform the rough prototype into a bra we at Kellie K can be proud of. There really is no short cut to making a completely novel bra and it takes a willingness to make and learn from mistakes.

You were crowd funded through a Kickstarter campaign – reaching a total pledge of over $20,000! During your campaign I remember you talking about drafting patterns, sourcing fabric from the LA fashion district, and working with people who’ve been making lingerie for decades.  Let’s start with drafting patterns.  Though I haven’t yet ventured into the land of bra making, I bet many of my readers have – some from a pre-made pattern, some from a pattern they made using their favorite bra, and some from their own self-drafted pattern.  How did you go about drafting the pattern for your strapless bras?

I was able to make an original sketch of the bra based on mechanical principles. Then, one of the aforementioned team members was able to turn that into a pattern suitable for making samples. That sample pattern then evolved as the fit of the bra was improved. It was at this point that I learned an important lesson about production; Pre-made patterns meant for home use are a LOT different that patterns for mass-production! The process had to be simplified to the point to where a person with little to no sewing experience, e.g. me, could sew it. I eventually found a manufacturer who was also able to create production level patterns, but this step took a lot longer than I originally anticipated.

I could imagine there are a lot of differences in bra shaping depending on the cup size.  Do you use the same style of pattern for every bra size?

In order to lower the degree of difficulty for our first rodeo the decision was made to use the same style for every size. However, we soon realized that this decision meant we could not promise a functional bra to a key demographic of our desired customer, namely women with small waists and large breasts. One of our first priorities for future lines will be to offer various styles for various body types, which will make the best strapless bras available even better. But for now, yes, we did use the same style of pattern for every bra.

Okay, now let’s get into the fabrics.  Back when I lived near LA, I never used my sewing machine so I never made it down to the LA fashion district.  Shopping in the LA fashion district sounds fun… but it also sounds like it could be overwhelming.  What was it like for you, and how did you know when you found the right fabric?

Compared to finding the right people, finding the fabrics was easy! I knew from conversations with various women that they would want a heavier, softer fabric for the shell. And I could also use my engineering know how to find the right amount of stretch. Fortunately, I started just in time for the bi-annual LA textile show, so I just spent a few afternoons getting to know the people, their products, and eventually deciding on fabric. Finding the rest of the bra parts required a similar experience for online stores. I knew I had the right combination based on feedback about the sample bra.

The first prototype bra.  Source.

How do you work the GeckTeck TM lining into the bras?  In the prototype I remember from the Kickstarter campaign, it looked like it was sewn in to the band in stripes.  Is it sewn in like a regular fabric?

Because this is part of Kellie K Apparel’s scientific mojo, I can’t go into too much detail. What I can say is a surprising amount of work has been done so it can be sewn in like a regular fabric, and we are still working on ways to improve integration into production level bras.

Okay, now on to the people.  I really like that your bras are locally made.  How did you go about finding the right people to work with?

Honestly, it’s pretty much like dating. You talk to a lot a people and discover very quickly it won’t work with most of them. It really is just a lot of trial and error, and determining which relationships work and which ones don’t. Two tactics that proved surprisingly useful were: Makers Row Website and walking around the LA’s Fashion district.

There’s a lot of talk in the sewing blogging community about slow fashion, the idea of moving away from the mass consumption of quickly-made and quickly-degraded garments.  When it comes to scaling up production, what kind of balance did you find was right for your company between handmade and mass produced?

One thing I was surprised to find out is that even mass-produced bras are still handmade! Production garment manufacturing may use industrial cutting and sewing machines, but it’s still a human doing the work. As I mentioned before, it’s having a foolproof pattern that makes mass production feasible. Fortunately for us, the people who did our production patterns also agreed to make a medium size run of bras. It worked because they are also newer and it has been a learning experience for us both.

Finally, I’ve seen a lot of small businesses start up in the sewing blogging community – from independent pattern makers, to fabric store owners, to seamstresses who teach and sew for others.  I always like it when they talk about what their dreams and goals are and where they want to be in five to ten years.  So, I’m curious, what’s your vision for the future of your company?  Where would you like to see it go?

I started this company because I really do want to help solve a problem a lot of women have, and I really don’t think anyone should have to choose between wearing a strapless bra and being comfortable. The first thing I’d like to do is get the word out so as many women as possible know about our truly revolutionary product. Then, I’d expand our strapless bra line to include women who are often neglected when it comes to standard sizing. After that, I see us expanding to other clothing, such as swimsuits and dresses. Most importantly, I want to accomplish all this with a level of honesty and transparency rarely seen in apparel companies.

[Watch this video if you want to learn even more about Kellie K Apparel!]

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Thank you, Tony, for such an awesome interview!  From idea to pattern to fabric to product – being able to find the right team seems like a universal truth for successful businesses.  I’m also intrigued by the differences between a home-sewing bra pattern and a mass-produced bra pattern – who knew?!  (Though, maybe some of you out there already did!) I can’t wait to see what’s next for this company, and I especially can’t wait to get my very own Kellie K Apparel bra.  For those of you out there who might want one, too, remember to take advantage of the 10% discount code SEWWELL10 between now and February 1, 2015 at Kellie K Apparel.

Kellie K Apparel sent me the small patch of GeckTechTM lining for review.  All opinions are my own. I also supported the Kellie K Apparel Kickstarter campaign of my own free will because I thought the idea was great and because I like seeing companies like this one succeed!

An Explosion of Inked Pink Flowers

November 29, 2014

I’ll be honest with you – I started this skirt in August. That’s how little sewing I’ve been able to get done around here these past few months. The next project I have planned is a quick knit top though to hopefully keep the forward momentum going. “But, wait,” you say,  “what about that wrap dress you were supposed to be making?!”  That’s been pushed back one garment since a friend of mine is going to let me borrow her copy of an actual Diane von Furstenberg Vogue wrap dress pattern!  Eeeeeeeeee!

Sew Well - A Graphic Pink Floral Pencil Skirt made with Vogue V1093 and #MoodFabrics

It’s been a crazy month for me, so I wanted a bit of a pick-me-up sewing project.  This pencil skirt was perfect.  I saw this silk and cotton graphic print at Mood Fabrics online (no longer available, but I think these silk twills from Mood might be similar) and just had to have it.  At first I was envisioning a mini skirt, something like Vogue V1247 (previously made here).  But, even though I’d swatched the fabric, I was still surprised by how big the print was when it arrived. It would have been nearly impossible to get a full flower burst into the skirt I had in mind.

Sew Well - A Graphic Pink Floral Pencil Skirt made with Vogue V1093 and #MoodFabrics

Draping the fabric on my dress form convinced me that I should keep thinking narrow skirt, but in a longer length – a pencil skirt instead of a mini skirt. My go-to pencil skirt has always been BurdaStyle’s Jenny basic skirt (previously made here and here), but this time I wanted to try something new. I started digging through my pattern stash and came up with Vogue V1093 from the Donna Karan Collection.  I liked how the slanted side seams hid little pockets in what I imagined was a much more natural position for my hands than the typical straight-up-and-down side seam pockets.

Sew Well - A Graphic Pink Floral Pencil Skirt made with Vogue V1093 and #MoodFabrics

See how the side seam starts farther forward at the top and then angles backward as it moves down?  The look was even more dramatic before I chopped off quite a few inches from the length after deciding I wanted the skirt hem to fall right below the knee, not mid-calf as per the pattern.

Sew Well - A Graphic Pink Floral Pencil Skirt made with Vogue V1093 and #MoodFabrics

The fabric sewed and pressed nicely.  Well, everywhere except for the seam allowances right around the pocket.  They did not want to stay pressed open.  I was about ready to cut out the pockets in the hopes that that would help when I realized the problem could be solved by just pressing all of the side seam allowances towards the back and top stitching them down.  I used my edge stitch foot in order to get an even line of stitching, and voilà!  I became the proud owner of two smooth side seams.  The pattern actually called for lots of top stitching, but I omitted it everywhere else since the little bit at the side seam is hardly even noticeable amidst all of that crazy print.

Sew Well - A Graphic Pink Floral Pencil Skirt made with Vogue V1093 and #MoodFabrics

The back closes with a perfectly-inserted-the-first-time-around invisible zipper.  I’ll admit that I usually get a weird little bubble at the bottom of my zipper after inserting it by machine, which I then go in and fix by hand.  This time I took my time and followed the instructions to a T, and I may have done a tiny little happy dance when I realized how well it came out.  It’s the small things, right?!

Sew Well - A Graphic Pink Floral Pencil Skirt made with Vogue V1093 and #MoodFabrics

There’s also a back vent.  And, even though it added a bit of hand work, I opted to line the skirt.  Since the skirt wasn’t intended to be lined, it didn’t come with any extra pattern pieces.  So, I just cut identical front and back pattern pieces out of my lining fabric (the same silk crepe de chine I used to make this top, which, by the way, I finally got unwrinkled by accidentally drying it in the clothes dryer), converted the darts to pleats and sewed the side seams at 3/8″ for a little extra wiggle room, and then hand sewed the center back seam to the main fashion fabric to keep the zipper and vent functional and the lining in place.

Sew Well - A Graphic Pink Floral Pencil Skirt made with Vogue V1093 and #MoodFabrics

I may have had a slight slip of the scissors when trimming the lining, which you can see on the right side of the left photo above, losing about a half an inch.  It’ll still do its job though, so I didn’t lose any sleep over it!

I sewed a bit of hem lace to the bottom of the skirt, turned it up, and catch stitched it into place.  Oh!  That reminds me.  When you catch stitch a hem, do you grab tiny bites of fabric from the wrong side of the hem and the wrong side of the skirt, both below the top of the hem, so the hand stitching doesn’t show from either side?  Or, do you grab tiny bites of fabric from the right side of the hem and the wrong side of the skirt, reaching up above the hem with the latter, so the hand stitching shows from the inside?  Do my descriptions even make sense?!  I do the former, but this month during the #bpsewvember Instagram challenge (which, sadly, I knew I just couldn’t keep up right now), I saw many pictures of the latter, so I figured I’d ask.  I can’t remember where I learned the method I use, so perhaps I’ve gotten it wrong?!

Sew Well - A Graphic Pink Floral Pencil Skirt made with Vogue V1093 and #MoodFabrics

I stabilized the waistband with a bit of horsehair canvas from Joann Fabrics.  Finally, to close the top of the skirt, I went for a hidden button.  I picked up the button at a fabric, patterns, and notions giveaway here in Seattle the very day I was hoping to finish up the skirt.  I wanted to put something from the giveaway to use right away, and this button seemed just the thing.  When the waistband is closed, you can’t see the button since I sewed it so it faces inside.  It’s a little secret that will always remind me of the generosity of this community.

Sew Well - A Graphic Pink Floral Pencil Skirt made with Vogue V1093 and #MoodFabrics

Here’s to many more successful pick-me-up projects!  And, happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the US!

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

Inspiration: Wrap Dress

November 16, 2014

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

These days I do more dreaming about sewing than actual sewing.  Juggling a nine-month-old cutie, a hundred house renovation projects, and an all-consuming science writing project has proven to be as much as I can handle most days.  Even my running has taken a hit! As my sewing machine collects dust, my mind still continues to wander through all the projects that I want to sew as soon as things slow down a bit.

One thing that has been at the top of my dream list for awhile is a wrap dress, especially since this year is the 40th anniversary of the iconic dress.  I’ve never been convinced that I had the figure for a wrap dress.  I’ve always thought I was a bit too straight up and down for what I imagined was a curve-loving dress.  But, that hasn’t stopped me from longing for one. I’ve had my eye out for a pattern, but have you seen how much a Vogue Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress pattern can go for on eBay?!  I once found my size listed for $100, and that felt like a steal!  Crazy, right?  No, I couldn’t justify buying that pattern, but it was gone within a day, so someone else thought it was too good to pass up. My wrap-dress fever became all the worse after following the Curvy Sewing Collective’s Wrap-Along and Gorgeous Fabrics Blog’s Wrapapalooza.  After one too many of their wrap dress posts, I remember digging through all of my patterns to see if I had anything that might give me a starting point.  I thought for a second about the Sewaholic Yaletown (first made here), but I decided neither it nor anything else I had really felt right.

Enter Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress.

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

There, on page 132 was a Diane von Furstenberg-esque wrap dress pattern!  The pattern even included a waistline seam, attached belt, long sleeves, and flared skirt – the key elements I decided I had to have after reading Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics Blog’s Wrapapalooza wrap-up post.  I pulled out the bright blue silk jersey that I’ve been saving for just such a dress, and now all I need to do is find a bit of time.  I’m currently pretending like December is going to be my month to sew all the things since I hope to be done with my science paper draft by then and would like to honor the 40th anniversary of this dress.

Okay, the real reason Chronicle Books sent me this book was for a review.  They had no idea I’d been dreaming about wrap dresses for longer than I’d like to admit.  Good for me, good for them!

From the cover we learn that this book includes little black dresses made famous over the decades by their iconic wearers.  And, it promises patterns for 20 garments, so that’s brings its price to about a buck a pattern.  I counted, and the 20 patterns are made up of 16 dresses, 2 skirts, and 2 tops.  So, this book is really for the lover of the dress.

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

When you open it up, you’re greeted with the patterns in an envelope on the left and the book on the right.  The patterns are all printed on paper that seems to me to be similar to newsprint. They are not nested like Japanese sewing book or Burda magazine patterns, so if you’re a pattern cutter instead of a pattern tracer, this book is fair game.  (Though the book does instruct you to trace!)

The first section of the book is devoted to techniques, and then the entire rest of the book is devoted to pattern instructions.

The book includes ten iconic little black dresses, like this one inspired by this Kate Moss lace dress:

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

This dress makes me crave a date night with my husband.  And long, thick hair.

The book pairs each little black dress with a colorful variation, like so:

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

You can see the similarity in the dress body, but this particular variation has a new neckline, includes a hem band, and removes the sleeves.

The Diane von Furstenberg-style wrap dress is actually the colorful variation of this Liza Minnelli look:

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

The Liza wrap dress is sleeveless and includes a narrow skirt.

And, that’s only four of the 20 patterns!  The one thing I wish this book had was a visual table of contents. There’s no way to quickly glance over all of the patterns when are dreaming about sewing.  So, I made one for this review.

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

First up we have a Coco Chanel-inspired knit dress with its sleeveless variation and a Joan Crawford-inspired woven dress with its bias-cut skirt variation.  Each new icon is introduced with a bit of history and a quote.  The quote included for Joan Crawford just kills me:

I never go outside unless I look like Joan Crawford the movie star.  If you want the girl next door, go next door. -Joan Crawford

I often go to the grocery store forgetting that I’m wearing slippers.

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

The next round includes an Ava Gardner-inspired halter dress with its full-coverage, gathered-skirt variation and an Audrey Hepburn-inspired full-skirted, princess-seamed dress with its narrow-skirted variation.  Ava Gardner’s included quote also kills me:

I wish to live to 150 years old, but the day I die, I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other. -Ava Gardner

I just don’t have what it takes to be iconic!

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

The book also includes a Grace Kelly-inspired collared dress with its pencil skirt variation and a Mary Quant-inspired mini dress with its sleeveless variation.

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

Finally, we have an Angelica Houston-inspired jersey dress with its bias-cut top variation and a Princess Diana-inspired princess-seamed dress with its button-back top variation.

So many of these patterns remind me of my favorite patterns or patterns I never bought but felt like I was missing out on. I’ve made a bunch of pencil skirts like the Grace Kelly variation in the past (here, here, and here) and have even had one half sewn since August. My Paco Peralta cowl-necked top reminds me of the Angelica Houston variation.  I love my princess-seamed Sewaholic Pendrell shell and think one with buttons down the back like the Princess Diana variation would be awfully cute. As for the patterns I missed…  I started blogging back in the day when the Colette Pattern’s macaroon pattern was popular.  I remember always wanting to try it but never having the courage since I was new to sewing and wasn’t yet ready to conquer the small-bust adjustment.  I think the Mary Quant variation could satisfy that long ago craving.  I also missed out on the Lady Skater craze, and I’m curious whether the Coco-inspired dress would fit the bill.

I’m eager to get back into a rhythm where sewing fits into most of my days.  When I do, I plan to pull out this book and try out a few of these patterns.  That wrap dress will be first!  How about you?  What kind of dresses have you been dreaming about?

Chronicle Books sent me Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress 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.  Neither the free book nor those pennies are enough to bias my opinion.  (Maybe if someone wanted to pay for my kitchen renovation… Ha!)

A Black Kitten for Halloween

November 1, 2014

Did you see Liza Jane’s daughter as a darling kitten earlier this week? She went all out!  My little girl was also a kitten for Halloween this year, but in more of an abstract because-she-has-a-tail way.  If you didn’t catch the post on MSN yesterday, here is my now nine-month-old daughter playing dress up for her first Halloween!

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

Happy Halloween everyone! When I was prioritizing my sewing plans for this month (so many plans, so little time!), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make baby girl a costume for her very first Halloween.  She just loves cats, and I thought it would be pretty easy to make her a cat costume.  Well, more like a kitten costume!

First, I needed a little fabric.  I chose Mood Fabric’s black wool crepe (first used in these pants) because of course she had to be a black cat.  It is Halloween after all!  Next, I needed a cute pattern.  I dug through my stash and came up with the Oliver + S Bubble Dress (first made here).  The bubble skirt just kills me every time.  After that, all that was left was planning the extra cat details, like a crafty tail and ears.  Ideally, she’d also have a little painted-on nose and whiskers, but I don’t trust her to keep face paint on for more than five seconds!

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

When I started to cut out the pieces from the wool crepe, I actually had second thoughts about making an all-black dress for a little girl.  There was something a bit too morbid about it, even for this lover of all things Halloween.  So, I decided to make the skirt from Mood’s black and gray striped wool jersey instead (first used in this swing dress and in this Drape Drape 2 top).

It was really easy to add a tail.  I just sewed a curvy tube of wool crepe, flipped it right-side out, stuffed it with a bit of polyfil, and pinned it into the center back seam when I was sewing the dress together.  The ears are made of fabric glued to cardboard and sewn to fold-over elastic.  They were a good idea in theory, but poor in practice.  Sadly, most of the time they’re drooped forward like so:

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

Sad ears, but, hey, look!  A tail!

The skirt features some of my best stripe matching yet.  Take a look at those stripes above! Also, it turns out wool + crawling on the floor + two cats + a house that’s not cleaned as often as it should be = an extra realistic cat costume covered in actual cat fur!  Would you believe I rolled all the lint off this costume before putting it on her?  It doesn’t take long though for a little girl to find all the best dust bunnies, especially when playing peek-a-boo in the curtains!

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

Since it’s a little hard to see the dress on a little girl who won’t stop moving, here it is on a hanger:

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

The dress closes in the back with three buttons:

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

The bodice is lined with a bit of Mood’s purple silk crepe de chine (first used in these pants, this skirt, and this dress), and the skirt is self lined:

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

Following the pattern and instructions led to a garment with really neat insides.  The lining of the bodice is machine sewn to the bodice in such a way as to enclose both the neckline and armholes, the lining of the skirt is machine sewn to the skirt in such a way as to form the bubble hem, and the lining of the bodice is then hand sewn to the skirt in such a way as to enclose the waist seam.  The only downside is that you can only machine under stitch a few inches of the neckline the way the garment is constructed.  I ended up hand under stitching around both the neckline and the armholes in order to keep the lining from peeking out.  Next time I will cut the lining a wee bit smaller than the outer bodice to help keep it tucked inside better. Finally, I followed the instructions and topstitched the opening in the skirt below the button placket, but in hindsight it would have been just as easy to invisibly hand stitch it closed since I was already doing so much hand stitching on the inside.

I hope baby girl enjoys her very first Halloween.  We plan to walk in the neighborhood parade with her cousin, and then she’ll probably have to call it an early night – she is only nine-months old after all!

Sew Well - Halloween Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics

Trick or treat!

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

Friday Finds for Sewing Well

October 24, 2014

Hi friends!  It’s been busy around here to say the least.  I carved out a bit of time this evening to dust the cobwebs off this blog, but then it’s back to the grindstone again tomorrow.  The end of at least a large chunk of the crazy-busy is in sight though, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to glimpse light at the end of the tunnel.  Hooray for patience and perseverance!  Anyway, this week I finally have some Friday Finds to share.  These are mostly relevant to those reading in the Seattle area, but even if you’re half way around the world, at least take a look at the first one.

  • Seattle’s very own Helena of Gray All Day released her first indie pattern, the Sandpoint Top.  It’s a knit top with cute little cap sleeves and a fun cowl in the back.  And, through this weekend it’s 20% off over at her new site GrayDay Patterns using the coupon code “first week”.  Helena was actually the winner of the Project Indie Contest over at The Monthly Stitch, so this pattern is actually coming at you with lots of business experience behind it.  I’m eager to make up the Sandpoint myself, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for GrayDay!
  • If you’ve been to the Sewing in Seattle page on my blog recently, you might have noticed that I’ve started adding head shots along with the names and blog addresses of the local sewing bloggers I know.  I was hoping that it might help to make connections, both locally and virtually.  Maybe you’ll recognize a face, either from your local fabric store or from virtual sewing communities like Pattern Review, BurdaStyle, or Kollabora? I have fifteen photos of fifteen lovely sewing bloggers so far, and I’d love to keep filling in the list, so if you see your name here without a photo, leave me a comment or send me an email.  Also, if you live in the Seattle area and have a blog about sewing that isn’t listed yet, let me know as well!
Denise of The Stitcherie Erin of Seamstress Erin gMarie of gMarie Sews Gwen of Calm Under Tension
Amy of Sew Well Denise of The Stitcherie Erin of Seamstress Erin gMarie of G Marie Sews Gwen of Calm Under Tension
Helena at Gray All Day Jennifer of My Sewing Suite Leah of Away I Sew MaLora of Bird and Bicycle Maris of Sew Maris
Helena of Gray All Day Jennifer of My Sewing Suite Leah of Away I Sew! MaLora of Bird and Bicycle Maris of Sew Maris
Profile_Meris_square Missy of Missy's Craft Journal Patricia of Okan Arts Rebecca of Cup + Penny Sanae of Sanae Ishida
Meris of The Fabric Alchemist Missy of Missy’s Craft Journal Patricia of Okan Arts Rebecca of Cup + Penny Sanae of Sanae Ishida
  • Meris of The Fabric Alchemist will be leading a two-hour workshop on costume research and fabric choices on November 16th at Zeita Studios, a clothing and custom sewing business her friends opened this year. The focus will be on the upcoming cosplay season, but the workshop will be of interest for anyone who enjoys costume creation.  It sounds like there will also be two more classes in the series, a workshop on construction techniques and a fitting session.  You can read more about it on Meris’s blog and then sign up on the Zeita Studios’ workshop page.
  • Speaking of costumes, the Evergreen City Ballet is in search of some seamstresses who would enjoy working on costumes. They have a couple productions each year where they need help.  Let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll get you in touch with the right people.  Once my crazy officially ends, I think I’d enjoy trying my hand at a costume or two!  Especially after taking Meris’s class!
  • Finally, I’m thinking of hosting another gathering this fall, maybe even with another bunch of fabrics to give away.  If you don’t think I have your email but are interested in joining in on the fun, let me know in the comments.
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