Finding Inspiration in Fabric and Patterns

There are as many ways to become inspired as there are things in the universe, but when I’m feeling especially directionless with my sewing, I generally gravitate towards 2 things to get my creative juices flowing:  Sewing patterns, and fabric.

The Big 4 (Vogue, Butterick, McCalls, and Simplicity) issue new patterns several times a year.  I am sure there is some sort of schedule to it…  I usually start checking daily when it seems like it’s been a while since new patterns came out, and then they are inevitably released the day I don’t check, and I have to find out from twitter or pattern review.
The independent companies aren’t quite as regular, which makes it even more of a treat when a new pattern debuts.  They usually like to tease us with twitter or blog posts leading up to it, so new pattern day is not as hard to miss!

This past round of releases hasn’t delivered many must-haves for me, but I will probably add Simplicity 1558 to my stash just for that skirt.  Simplicity 1553 is probably not something I’ll pick up, but did you see the hem of the skirt and list of notions? Battery operated micro fairy lights?  I didn’t know this was a thing, and it’s definitely got me curious.
McCalls 6891 is very interesting, and I’ve been turning it over in my head as an option for a costume if the corset  doesn’t pan out.
Then there’s Lekala.  I’m not sure how to classify this pattern company since it doesn’t really “feel” like an indie, but they aren’t like the big 4 (or their various underlings) either.  Maybe they deserve their own category.  Whatever they are, their 4282 pattern has me itching to do a matryoshka dress do-over like you wouldn’t believe.  Because I never really sold myself on that bodice I made.  Because despite pre-washing all my fabric, I got maybe 3 wears out of that dress before an unfortunate laundry accident caused the blue part to bleed all over the matryoshka part giving everything that was creme colored an off-putting and unintentional tinge of aqua.  4282 is the real reason I’m pushing onward with 4278…  Because I *need* to know if/how well this custom sizing system works before I blow another $2.18 and who knows how much time assembling another one of their blasted PDF patterns.

Which brings me to fabric:There are more online fabric stores than you can shake a stick at.  I dare you not to become inspired after spending time browsing, Mood, or Fabric Mart.  The fabrics you see made up into clothing at your favorite retailer are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s out there, and while I could tell you that I sew because I have a passion for fit, or sustainability, or to avoid supporting sweatshops- the main reason I wanted to learn, and the thing that keeps me inspired, is the fabric ~*~*~~*fabric*~*~*~ FAAAAABBBBRRRRIIIIIC!
Because I love my “hot dog dress” from modcloth, but what if I’m in the mood for a grilled cheese? And how else would I get a dress with roller skates all over it to wear to my favorite band’s show?

And sometimes you find a RTW dress where you love the fabric, but hate the design (and/or pricetag).  SEWING TO THE RESCUE!!!!

I found the fabric!  And this might be great for my matryoshka re-do (if it’s not too heavy….  that’s one of the risks with buying fabric online).
And so many others I could shop and sew forever….


On my Sewing Table: Variety is the Spice of Life

Since completing the Enterprise dress, I’ve been in a bit of a sewing funk.

I started my 2nd go-round at Simplicity 1873, which I made once before with pretty good results (Cosmo Cricket Dress).  I intended to get that done in 1 day to bring to Play on Con, but I got overwhelmed with con-prep, and didn’t finish it until after I got back.  I still need to photograph and blog it.


Then I kind of stalled out and flailed around for my next project.

I want to get started on a corset, and have Butterick 5662 and Laughing Moon Mercantile #100 cut and ready for tracing.  I just feel kind of… scared to get started on that for some reason.  I’ve never played with any boning at all, and I’m wondering if I should get my feet wet by making a dress with that requires it before jumping into a full blown corset.
I also had Lekala 4278 assembled, traced, and ready to go, but I was having a hard time getting excited about it since the pattern is so similar to the Simplicity 1873 I had just finished.  I was super curious about the fit since the Lekala patterns are custom made to the measurements you send them, so I decided to go with that.
  I raided my stash for a suitable fabric for this.  Since I’ve been making more of an effort to stay away from quilting cottons, I tried hard to figure out a grown up fabric that would work.  I really did.  Turns out, I really didn’t have anything else that was suitable.  I have quilting cotton, and I have sheer and floaty fabrics, and I don’t really have much in between.  So quilting cotton it is!
I had my eye on this print at Joann for months, and caught it in the clearance section when I was looking for fabric for Simplicity 1873.  I decided I could indulge myself by using it for a lining, but it turned out that only the bodice needed a lining, so I had plenty of leftovers to use it for Lekala 4278!
The green polka dot is a poly/cotton seersucker-ish fabric from Joann’s Children’s apparel collection, which happens to be the same stuff I used for Simplicity 1873, but a different print. 

Although I’m pretty happy with the fabric choices, I’m still having a hard time getting into this one.  I think I need more variety in my sewing, and maybe I’d be better off if I had just gotten over my fears and done the corset right away.  I am about halfway through this dress, and just want to get it done so I can work on something different.

Sewaholic Cambie: The Enterprise Dress

UntitledIt’s been a month since my last completed project post, but I’ve been busy! I’ve been working away at my version of the Sewaholic Cambie dress. I decided a while back that the a-line version without the sweetheart neckline (thanks to the handy dandy tutorial on Tasia’s blog) would be perfect for my favorite fabric.

I finished the dress over a week ago- just in time to debut it at the super awesome fun time that was Play On Con. So, while I usually have tried to post my projects within a day or 2 of completion, I am doing this a little late because I had a lot of sleep to catch up on.

I love the shape of this dress. The A line has a little bit of a late 1960’s feel, but is not so obviously retro. I like that there is a little flare still in the skirt. It doesn’t feel as sultry bombshell as a straight or pencil skirt, but it’s much more tailored than a fuller gathered or pleated skirt, and I only had about 2 yards of the fabric, so I wouldn’t have had enough for that anyway. I think it’s a good balance between the two, and just right for showcasing a large scale, busy print.

The main fabric is silk, and is probably the softest, floatiest fabric I have worked with so far. I’m glad I did some test stitches on scraps because I very quickly discovered my feed dogs were hungry, and they think silk is delicious! To avoid disaster, I pinned a strip of tissue paper to the feed dog side of every seam before I sewed it. It was a pain, but it worked. I also reduced my stitch length to 1.6 (my machine default is 2.5). I thought puckers might be an issue, but that was fine. I noticed in my test scrap that the seams with a longer stitch length were pulling at the fabric, and I could see the holes where needle and thread had gone. Shortening the stitch length helped prevent this from happening, and kept the seam together and strong.

UntitledI tried to be soooo careful in laying out this pattern. I even made myself a chart of each piece of the garment, and where the enterprise would wind up- left or right, top or bottom. But I must have had the pattern piece for the skirt back wrong side up when I went to cut it because I ended up with 2 enterprises on the same side in the back. Oops! It doesn’t bother me too much- especially since I don’t look at my own back, but I was kind of annoyed when I discovered the mistake.

The back of this dress ended up being a little bit tight, but nothing some spanx couldn’t make better. I’m not exactly sure why that happened. I muslined the dress 3 times, and it seemed like it would be OK, but I wound up having to take it in at the neckline, and maybe I got a little over eager at that point. Or maybe the zipper in my muslins wasn’t placed well. Or maybe I gained 5 lbs in between starting and finishing this dress. Who knows. I really like the pattern, and I’m not too disappointed with the fit, but I will definitely be re-mulslining it if/when I make it again, and will probably add a side dart and a real FBA instead of only monkeying with the back and side seams, which is what I did here.


I lined the dress in a quilting cotton I found at Jo-Ann. I didn’t plan to line it in quilting cotton, but when I saw the print, how could I not? I wanted something breathable since I’d be wearing this at “Nerd Camp”, and while a lawn or voile would have probably been softer and more drapey, the cotton did the job of ensuring against transparency, keeping me from sweating, and providing some support to the bodice. Also- ENTERPRISE!

You can see in the final muslin/lining fit photo there’s some gaping around the neck area. I thought this might be self correcting once I attached it to the silk, and wasn’t looking at seam allowances, but no such luck. Doing the fix at that point in the project was definitely not ideal, and another reason for a new muslin next time.


I finished off the hem with piping I’d made from leftovers of the sleeve and pocket fabric, and I covered up the ugly with this sparkly blue trim. I’m a sucker for the sparkly. I look for excuses to work it in. That contrast fabric has a little bit too.
I originally thought about using the piping around the neckline, to make a clean, sharp, seam with that floaty silk, but it was suggested I understitch it instead, and that worked just fine. I’m glad I didn’t use the piping there because it does add a little bulk, and I made sure I packed my trusty iron for the con to de-wonk the hem before heading out, and that helped.

Sewing the dress was a good experience. I sewed a fabric I had never worked with before, and while it isn’t perfect, I don’t regret it. I feel like I learn something new with every project, and this was definitely no exception! I didn’t even get into the genius way the invisible zip is installed, but I know I’ll be using that technique in the future.
I really like the pattern, and I think I will definitely make it again!

This post is part of a blog share with– an awesome blog about parenting, current events, crafts, and more!

Oh LOL McCall’s

The new McCalls patterns are out, and I can’t stop laughing at the photos for M6809.

Gold lace skirt with 1 paisley and 1 fur leg warmer. Well that’s a pretty bold choice. What are my other options here?
Wait- what is that thing she’s perched on? Where is the seat? Is it some kind of fancy saw horse?

White lace bootyshorts with 1 lamb skin and 1 furry white +Pom Pom leg warmer. The poor girl has tripped on the Pom Pom! Her purse is a thing of beauty, at least.

Squatting in a miniskirt while wearing a tasseled knit leg warmer with snowflakes and some kind of fringed leg warmer with a wrap around tie. She obviously took a note from the fallen Pom Pom and decided sitting on the edge of the chair was the safest way to go with all that tassel, fringe, and wrap.

Red miniskirt with 1 leg warmer in some kind of plaid and 1 leg warmer in maybe a Native American print? Fucking hipster. She is the only one to successfully manage a walk, but it seems like a pretty clunky one. I wish she could have worn flip flops instead of the 4″ heels, because she looks really uncomfortable and unsteady, but I suppose that is a ridiculous idea.

Colette Crepe: Ice Cream Social Dress

Since my last post, I quickly found myself basically spinning my wheels on both of my fit muslins.  It seemed I would get *so* close to doing the one more thing that would make it perfect, doing that, and then realizing that didn’t solve the problem, or it did, but it drew attention to a new issue.  I was getting pretty fed up with the process, and the fact that I hadn’t made anything wearable since February, so I decided to take a break to recharge.

I decided to try the Crepe pattern by Colette Patterns.  I figured the wrap style dress would be easy to minimize fit issues, and I’ve been wanting to try it for a while anyway.  Since I feel pretty comfortable working with muslin at this point, I decided to do a quick one just to make sure it would all go well.  The muslin seemed to fit OK, but something still felt a little off- the shoulders made me look like a linebacker, and there was some excess fabric in the armpit area- not a good look.  Lady Katza suggested I try a sloped shoulder adjustment in one of my previous muslin fitting posts, and I pulled out my visual figure evaluation report from the sewing expo class, which also confirmed my shoulders are not square- they are sloped, so I decided to give it a try, and was very happy with the results.  I know my before/after pic might be hard to see, but after my adjustment, the sleeves looked to be much more in proportion.  There was still a little bit of extra fabric under the arms, but I decided it was minimal enough that it didn’t bother me.

adjusted pattern on top of original to show effect of 3/4″ sloped shoulder adjustment

I have to say, of all the bodice patterns to try your first sloped shoulder adjustment, I do not really recommend this one.  The adjustment for sloped shoulders is fairly straight forward- assuming you have a standard looking shoulder and armhole shape to your pattern AND you have a little bit of an idea about what you’re doing.  I spent a good deal of time consulting all my fitting books, tutorials on the web, and you tube videos trying to figure it out.  I think it’s the type of adjustment that’s probably easy peasy once you’ve done it once or twice, but the books and internet just didn’t have as much hand holding and tutorials as I would have liked (pssst, Lady Katza- you would be making the internet a better place if you posted one!).  Sometimes it’s good to see it done on different sleeve configurations, or even a standard looking one, but with more step by step photos, or maybe just a different “voice” telling you what to do can make all the difference.  Whatever it is, I would have liked to have had more tutorials and videos about this one!

The green line is my reference armscye

I think my main issue with this adjustment, was the shape of the sleeve, and trying to figure out what parts of my pattern corresponded to the vanilla sleeves that were adjusted in all the materials I was referring to.  I decided to trace the shoulder and armscye from my fitting muslin pattern to use as a reference when doing this adjustment.  That worked very well for me, and after I did that, it was easy to see exactly what needed to be done, which lines to move, and how to redraw the sleeves (which I did fudge a little bit, but it turned out OK in the end.  The only other pattern alterations I did was to curve the darts, and I really love how that turned out!  Now I want to curve all the darts!  All the time!  I’m not sure why it’s not standard to print them curved- they aren’t any more difficult to sew, and it makes the garment follow the body’s curves much more naturally than straight darts.

I started sewing this in my real fabric about 2 weeks ago, but could not quite get it complete before I left for a vacation to Washington, DC.  Finishing it up was one of the first things I did on coming back home, and it will be nice to wear a new dress when I go back to work after a week off.

This dress turned out so sweet- when I tried it on before hemming, the first thing that came to mind was “I should be wearing this to an ice cream social at a church”.  Being a lapsed Jew, I have never been to one, but this is how I imagine you’re supposed to dress at them.  At any rate, I needed a name for the dress, and that seemed to fit.

I made this in the pink toile I picked up in New Orleans, and lined/underlined it in a creme colored Bemberg Rayon.  I couldn’t decide if I should line it or underline it- I wanted to avoid doing the neck and arm facings (line it), but the toile was so sheer, I thought the darts would work better if it were underlined.  So I kind of did a mash up of both.  I sewed and understitched the neck and arm areas first, like a lining, then I flipped it right sides out, and basted the edges as if it were underlining.  It worked out pretty well, although there were a couple of places I had to pick out those basting stitches because it restricted the give of the fabric enough that the pieces weren’t lining up correctly.

The Bemberg is a new fabric for me to work with.  I still haven’t mastered the art of pressing it, and it tends to get kind of ripply looking, which you can kind of see in the center front seam.  I think it’s a combination of heat level and steam level that is doing that…  it’s easy to turn down the heat, but I have a very hard time laying off the steam button (or maybe I need more of it?).

More pics!

The back has some extra fabric in the overlap, but not enough to really bug me. I think I can work some of it out with how I wrap it.

I like pockets!

Inside view

I french seamed wherever I reasonably could.  I never would have thought about doing a french seam to attach the bodice to the skirt, but the pattern instructions suggested it.  There was a minimal amount of hand sewing in this dress- just the top of the hem, which was easy since I just stitched it to the underlining.

Also, I am almost sure I read somewhere that Bemberg is great for breathability, but after 10 minutes outside taking pictures, I was feeling pretty sticky.  It does have a nice feel inside, in the air conditioning, but I think if I had a do-over with this dress, I’d line it in something 100% cotton instead.

Overall, I like this dress.  It was my first time making a Colette, and I thought the instructions were clear, and the dress came together easily.  The one thing I did not like about the pattern was there were so many sizes included it was sometimes difficult to find my size line.  Maybe I got on “off” print because there were parts where the size indicators were really hard to make out, and there were a few times where I just counted from the smallest size inward to get to my line.  All that aside, it turned out OK in the end!  The final dress took 8-10 hours.  The muslin process was maybe 6 if you don’t count the time I spent researching the shoulder adjustment.

It’s a pretty design, and I think I’d like to make it again in a fabric that isn’t so sweet since I think the dress is sweet enough on it’s own.

Comparing two adjustment methods in muslin

Last week, I muslined up my slash & spread method for an FBA that I shared the pattern for in my previous entry, and I was able to doctor up a few comparison pictures.

I spent a little bit of time over the weekend making adjustments to both of them, and I feel like I’m getting pretty close with the slash/spread.  I took in the shoulder seams by about 1/4″ in both front and back, and I widened the base of the waist dart, so now the full area of the muslin matches the full area of me pretty well without all that extra baggy fabric.  It’s still generally too tight in the back, and a little too tight at the front waist.  I played a little with different seam allowances at the zipper to fix that, but it just made the front get too baggy again.  I’m going to try adjusting at the side seams and the zipper.  Maybe that will give me a little more breathing room without compromising the shape of the front as much.


There’s a light….

It’s probably no surprise that I have been feeling some ambivalence about my sewing so far in 2013.  A couple of projects I haven’t been totally impressed with due to my own lack of skills has had me, at times, wonder if my successful makes last year were just an amazing streak of beginner’s luck.

I’ve been slowly slowly working on my fit “issues” with Lynda Maynard’s craftsy course, and it has been a beast, but also extremely helpful.  I’d much rather work on wearable things, but at the same time I’ve been too gun-shy about fabric ruining, I’ve had a hard time getting excited about planning future projects.

But I feel like I’m making good progress with fit.  I really have learned a lot- not only about fit, but the whole muslin/test garment practice, and I feel a lot more confident about trying things out in muslin and then altering the pattern to reflect the changes.

I recently finished my 3rd bodice muslin with the pattern altered to incorporate changes from the previous muslin.  The results weren’t really what I expected or hoped for, and I’ve spent some time trying to figure out different solutions.  Lynda has also been great about giving feedback on photos I’ve posted.

Slash & Spread on the left, Lynda Maynard method on the right

While I wait for the next round of Lynda’s suggestions, I decided to try my hand at your standard slash and spread FBA to see how that alteration measures up to what I’ve done in the craftsy class.  I’ve looked at tutorials, and have several books that go over different FBA methods, but this is the first time I’ve really tried it.  I think I just needed to build up my confidence in making pattern adjustments, and the craftsy class provided just enough hand holding to get me started.

For my slash & spread FBA, I folded the original pattern piece to the petite line, which I didn’t do with the Lynda Maynard method, but I quickly determined that since I’m fitting myself, it’s a whole lot easier to add length than to tuck it up and take it away.

I also noticed, when flipping through the fitting books, that I might benefit from a square shoulder adjustment.  The key indicator of that is gaping at the upper back, so I am trying that out on the S&S pattern as well- I slid the outer edge of the shoulder up about 3/8″.  I couldn’t find clear direction on how much to move it, but I figured that would give me an idea as to how the adjustment plays out in fabric, and I can tweak it later if it looks like the right thing to do.

I’m a little surprised by how similar the patterns turned out- especially since the S&S alteration started with a petite shortened pattern.  The largest difference is the length of the center front fold edge- the S&S is about 2″ shorter.  The side seam edge is about 1″ longer on the S&S pattern, but the side dart is about 1/2″ to 1″ wider.  The lower edge of the S&S pattern is about 1/” to 1″ wider, but the front dart is about 1″ narrower.  The front dart is also about 1″ closer to the center front fold in the S&S pattern.  I intentionally made the front dart point about 1″ shorter because I read somewhere the fuller your bust, the farther the dart points should be from the apex, and the original pattern and Lynda Maynard adjusted pattern seemed a little too close.  The side dart lengths from tip to edge are about the same.

I’m going to sew up a muslin of the S&S adjusted pattern tonight.  I’m pretty excited to see how that fit compares to the Lynda Maynard adjusted pattern.

So I’m definitely seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, and know I’m getting closer to wearable.  I even woke up at 4am the other day because my brain had to let me know RIGHTTHISMINUTE that I need to use my pink toile from New Orleans for a Colette Crepe dress (non-sweetheart version).  And later that same day, it suddenly became obvious that my Enterprise fabric needs to be an A-line, non-sweetheart, Sewaholic Cambie, and I’m thinking over a couple of ideas for that.  It’s definitely nice to start having ideas and getting excited about sewing projects again.