Saturday, July 25, 2015

Tina Givens Zelda Slipdress - Luxe in Silk


This make of Tina Givens' Zelda Slip Dress embodies slow sewing.  To begin, I'd had the fabric for over a year and a half before i cut into it. I also decided to accent the dress with some lace. I found a beautiful lace, which only came in white.  I knew from experience that the lace's rayon/cotton blend takes dye beautifully, so I used RIT dye in navy to create something more in line with the look i had in mind.  Dyeing took some time, as did stabilizing the silk crepe de chine at hem, neck and arm openings with spray starch. Cutting my own bias trim (of the same stretch denim i used for my Marcy Tilton V8876 frock coat) took more labor than buying pre-made. Hand stitching the bias binding also added minutes and hours. As did arranging all those gathers on the ruffles.



But what really pushed this one over the slow sewing edge were the changes i made after the dress was nominally complete.

The wrap blouse is NoaNoa, a gift from gorgeously generous Sheila of Ephemera <3 a="">

As soon as i finished this dress i loved wearing it. I bought the fabric at Stone Mountain and Daughter and it is simply luscious. Heavy without feeling weighed down, delicious soft soft surface, incredible drape and it turns out it is virtually fray proof. Never leave that store without going upstairs to check out the silk on sale!  The sinuous motion of the hem mesmerized me while simply walking around the house. And it's so practical for my life - i can wear it as a nightgown, then toss on a jacket or cardigan and be perfectly presentable to drop Mr. E off at the transit center for his early morning commute.

fairly swank for a 'just rolled out of bed' look if i say so meself

However, as close as this dress was to perfect, i had a couple of thoughts on how to improve it. The whole line is so dramatic, but the color was 'meh'. I wanted to see it in an equally dramatic hue, and loved the navy of the lace. That was an easy choice. Dyeing - easy, but time-consuming.

the original shorter, less ruffly, lighter version

The other thing i didn't like was the length in front. My knees felt like they were kind of poking out at center front, and that is not a spot i like my hems to hit generally. (That's why i'm wearing leggings in the pre-navy pictures.) I had a fair amount of fabric left after the first round of slip-making. When i measured this remnant i had just enough to add another ruffle at 6 1/2", behind the original 3" ruffle.

So i set to. As this silk has a fairly 'bouncey' reaction to being gathered (it poofs out instead of falling straight down) i made random hand-pleats for the added ruffle, instead of running stitches and gathering as i did for the original row of ruffles. Seeing as i was there hand pleating already, i sewed the ruffle on by hand as well. It took about an hour, but i like this length so much better than the shorter version.



How much that three and a half inch increase affected my reaction to this dress struck me. It's such a small amount compared to the height of my body, yet made all the difference - like letting out a too-long held breath. I did a bit of calculating, of which accuracy i am not certain, and it looks like three inches is just under 2% of my height (five feet six inches).

Which leads me to posit that the difference between looking good and having fabulously killer style is that last two percent. Any thoughts?



The one part of this dress i'm not so hot on is the neckline. It is fine, just not as excellent as the hem. I'm mulling over converting the bodice part to a strappy cami type of affair, which would be less obtrusive under layering garments as well as cooler and more flattering to wear on it's own. This operation could be trickier than it would seem upon first glance as Tina Givens' wonderful hemlines derive their shapes in part from the length added by the trapeze-shaped side seams.

here you can get a feel for the shape of this dress
My favorite part of this dress is the hem. It's not at all complicated, a very flat curve along the back and an upside down "U" sweep in the front. Somehow, these lines and the way they intersect constantly surprise with new shapes. I'm particularly enamored of the squareish garland-bit which hangs off the corners. Great, original looks from every angle - not a common achievement! No wonder this dress is so popular - it also flatters curvy women outrageously.



Is going through so much fuss worth it when you end up with something so scandalously luxurious and practical? I always answer "Yes!!" which is why i remain on the slow sewing team.  Are you on team slow sewing, or would you rather watch us from the sidelines?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Cirque Dress Vogue 9112



This is my second make of this Marcy Tilton for Vogue Patterns design. I had two lengths of fabric i'd been waiting on sewing up, not having seen the perfect design. This linen digital print i'd been holding for two years. As soon as i saw the Cirque dress i hauled those lengths out as fast as i could!

I will blog about the first dress in future, i made it up with no alterations save adding three inches at the hemline (i'm 5'5 1/2" and active so i prefer a bit more coverage). However, while making up the first dress i became utterly enamored of the 'cirques' (the curved, gathered inset pieces along the hem). I also love the hem of my Hot Patterns Lantern Skirt, with it's upside down grin. Why not duplicate the big cirque on the opposite side of the dress, instead of the original droopy point (which is also fabulous), and curve the hem like the HP Lantern?



I had to see how this idea would turn out. First i sketched out my envisioned design. I used tracing paper, so i could lay my version over the original to discern the differences. Then, i traced out all the pattern pieces (from the instructions sheet) and worked thru which needed no alteration, which did, and sketch out the look of the alterations.



With a map in place, i set to drafting. Fortunately i was able to 'hinge' the alterations onto the original pattern pieces, which was less work and fewer pieces to go back in the envelope.

Front Hem
Back Hem
I had some concerns about how the hem would come out in the front. As you can see here, the back hem is symmetrical but the front came out a bit asymmetrical. I could have trimmed it to make it even, but i like the way that it echoes the uneven hem of the original. So it stayed.



I also wanted to emphasize the look of the piecing in this dress through contrasting light and dark. This required a bit of fiddling with the layout, fortunately i managed to pull it off. In the picture above you can see the shape of one cirque clearly - though usually my arms are in the way, didn't think of that beforehand!



I don't have a lot more to say about this dress, except this.I finished it last Saturday, today is Thursday, and i've already worn it three days. It also mixes quite well. The way the colors work with this little jacket of overdyed linen kind of shocked me, in a "happy shocky" way. It also looks very cool with your basic denim jean jacket.

This dress is a slam dunk if you are a fan of Marcy Tilton's V8876, with a few added bonuses (bonii?). With no closures, this dress is faster and easier to make. And it requires about a yard less fabric; combined with the lack of closure you can make it for less money as well.



I bought he fabric from Marcy Tilton's online shop, though as i bought it two years ago it is long gone. It is the same fabric used in one of the dresses on the envelope picture for V8876. I fell so hard for that fabric, but at around $50 a yard it was way out of my price range. 


Happily for me, Ms. Tilton had a little online contest which i won. The prize was a gift certificate to her fabric store - there was never any doubt about what i would buy with that prize!

In these closer photos you can see the way that the print falls apart as you approach the fabric, as well as some of the incredibly flattering and unusual colors: deep blackberry, burnt raspberry, paled-out frosted blueberry, toasted juice of lemon. Using fabrics like this one is a big reason why i love love love to sew - and why i love love love to wear what i sew.



This dress design, while it had its detractors in the beginning, is getting Big Love in the sewing community. Maresea of Biblioblog was first across the line with her soignee take (check out her perfect hair!) and Marcy showcased her neighbor Carol's bubbly LBD, elastic neckline version on her blog. Liana Hanson sketched out her plans prior to sewing up an on-trend color blocked version, and Terri makes beetles elegant in the way no one else can. Karen Kline's white eyelet version has me seriously eyeing eyelet fabrics for my own.  Edited to add: Dragonthreads made this flabbergastingly glorious Cirque dress of various asian fabrics. Draw-jopping! (hmm, think i'll leave that typo). Scroll down to the bottom of the post to view. And check out another take on how elegant and beautiful this dress makes up in a solid color at Thanks! I Made Them! Sew Can You (best sewing blog name ever).

Edited Once Again: Eagle-eyed reader Kate set me straight on a fact - glorious Bianca has the first make here at two days prior to Mary. (Who knew this post would turn into a 'breaking news - this just in' style story?) However the two of them are tied in my book for letting the classy and dare-I-say ladylike side of this design shine. Thank you Kate! Readers may want to take a look at a wardrobe of classic Tilton Sister dresses Kate made for her 2013 summer - from stash, yet! 

Yes, of course i want to make at least two more Cirque dresses. Pronto!  Don't let all the volume scare you off - choose a fabric with some drape (lightweight linen and cotton lawn or voile are both easy choices), fit through the bust and go for it! We'll all be so admiring as you exude cool chic whilst we wilt in the heat.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bruyere Blouse and Briare Slip



I have accomplished some sewing towards my 'hot days' wardrobe, which is alarmingly scanty this year.



The blouse is the Bruyere by Deer and Doe. It is the first pattern i've used by this company and the fit is quite nice on my figure. I added 1" of length to the bodice and made no other changes. I like the fit, i like the design, i like the idea of drafting to remove the waistband and trying different hems, even lengthening the whole shebang into a dress. Not to mention the possibilities of sleeves! The Bruyere very well could end up a being a TNT for me ("tried and true" pattern). 



I chose a linen/rayon fabric and embellished it using the same Alabama Chanin inspired technique which i used on the Riding Peplum. For this blouse i used the Paisley stencil.



Underneath is my first go at a Tina Givens design, the freebee Briare slip. Many ladies have commented on the voluminous drafting on Tina Givens's patterns, and some have compensated for this in various ways (such as substituting another bodice like the Sorbetto as twotoast has done here). But i wanted to try something different, thus i made this one up as drafted in a very airy cotton voile.



The neckline and armholes both are nicely modest. I really love the huge sweep of the hem, and this slip works beautifully with a lot of pieces i already have in my wardrobe which surprised me. 



I am now on the lookout for fabric i can use to make up some more of Ms. Givens' designs as they are not only fun to sew and wear but also very practical for the hot days in this area. They do require a lot of fabric so i am glad i sewed up a freebee using less expensive material on my first go. I'll feel more confident shelling out some real dough next time.



Did i say this voile was very very sheer? It is indeed! I will need to wear a slip under this slip to wear it as a dress!

This winter has been nasty with various colds and flus around here. I got a bug about three weeks ago which devolved into a sinus infection...thankfully i'm on antibiotics which are helping. I appreciated the ease of construction of the Briare slip, as my mental capacity was and is on the low end due to all this infection and it was a treat to be able to do something besides moaning around the house.

For anyone interested in these lagenlook designs, head on over to Stitcher's Guild Forum and check out the Lagelook Sewalongs which Garden Girl (Rene) is hosting. I made the Briare Slip as part of one of these sewalongs, it is great motivation and the members a tremendous source of knowledge. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bride of Frankenpattern



Frankenpattern: "To pattern using multiple styles and mis-matched pattern pieces. The end result is a combination of the garments that leaves the patternmaker horrified as to how it was put together, but usually no one else knows that from the end result. (phew!)"

Yes, dear reader, i too have fallen prey to this internet fad! Actually, i have been all about frankenpatterning since before the internet was a gleam in Jacques Vallee's sleepy French eyes. Sometimes, whilst working over a long period of time with various shapes, one is struck with inspo as to a different way to 'solve the puzzle', as it were.  Conversely, one may incur a yen for a particular garment and whilst ruminating realize that various pieces already in one's possession may combine to produce an item damn close to the desired result.



Frankly i forget which way this one came about...however from the moment i saw my beloved Beatrice dress (Marcy Tilton's best selling Vogue 8876) i knew i would love a skirt with a similar vibe. I also knew it would be difficult if not impossible to pull off, given the amount of ease at the waist. You either take out a lot of fabric and lose the line, or place a metric ton of gathers/pleats/combo of both at the waist and lose the graceful line.

Which is why the Beatrice is a dress, not a skirt.

I've also really enjoyed my version of Hot Pattern's Lantern Skirt. I made it a couple of years ago in natural linen; it is incredibly useful, comfortable, mixable and provides an awesome line with which to work while creating outfits. When i saw this gorgeous olive drab linen at Stone Mountain and Daughters i snapped some up with another lantern-type skirt in mind.



The Bride of Frankenpattern skirt combines three patterns from three different designers. Starting from the top: Waistband and pockets by Mari Miller of Seamster Designs Honeydew Skirt; skirt front and back pieces by Trudy of Hot Pattern's HP1178 Weekender Chameleon Dress; hem bands by Marcy Tilton of Vogue Patterns V8876 "The Beatrice Dress". In the process of making this skirt i altered each of these pattern pieces ( the skirt pieces pretty significantly), but they provided a great starting point. 



I'm especially taken with the 'magic lantern' shape i made at the back of the skirt, it's kind of squarish with the corners rounded off which adds a nice dimensionality to the skirt as seen from the side. Next version of this idea will exaggerate this effect. I'll also lessen the hi-lo differential from front to back. And stabilize the side seams where the pockets insert - i skipped this step and they bag out like crazy!



I'll take this occasion to announce i've acquired another scarf! Always a banner day in my closet, as i wear scarves just about every day of the year yet am chronically short of them. This beauty is china silk with a black/inky blue/inky violet design over cream, found at A Verb For Keeping Warm. Mr. E put his hand on this roll of fabric, there was one and one quarter yards left - a perfect square. I took it home, washed it in hot water and olive oil castille, trimmed the selvedges and along the straight of grain, starched the hell out of the edges and stitched two lines in from the edges. Scarf!

Anyone anywhere near the SF Bay Area should drop into a verb.  The space is generous and gorgeous, massive gobs of natural light pour in from the west facing windows. There's a really nice sized work/class space with plenty of classes offered in knitting, dyeing and garment construction. The highlight for me is the huge selection of natural fiber garment-useful yardage from all over the world. Handwoven African cottons, Liberty of London lawn, more Japanese cottons than i have seen in many online shops - all there for ogling and hugging! Notions from London and France (though i didn't see any underpants). Paper patterns from all corners of the USA, France, London, their own house line, and more!

This shop is stellar, i could not be more excited about this new(ish) player on the fibre scene. They even have movie nights! What cold be more fun? 

I have to laugh at myself, though. I never could make sense of the name, and happened to mention my conundrum to an online penpal. He immediately wrote back: "Making clothes is what you do to keep warm." Okaaaaay - well, put it that way it's utterly obvious! Sometimes when we get too close to things we lose our perspective. 

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Rose Strewn Riding Peplum


As soon as i became aware of Natalie Chanin's wonderful stencil and applique technique, i knew how i wanted to use it in my own wardrobe. I saw low contrast, neutral-toned stencils and stitching on single layer linen.

I'd say the droopy eyes are due to lack of coffee - but i'm a tea drinker!


Here is my first attempt. I loved the Riding Peplum's strong, sweeping lines. At the same time, the pattern pieces are big and simple, a great canvas for showcasing fabric embellishment.

I used Alabama Chanin's Rose Placement Stencil (which i had used previously on a tee) and acrylic fabric paint and medium to create the roses (the stencil can be downloaded from this page - scroll down). Then i started stitching. I stitched about half of the roses right at the edge of the paint, the others i eyeballed a margin of around a quarter inch between the stitching and the paint.



I used those triangular makeup sponges you get at the drugstore to do the stenciling. I like the crumpled effect you get from the edges of the sponges. The project took awhile, but was not onerous.

I really love the way it turned out! As you know, i constantly complain about not being able to find fascinating, low-contrast detailed fabrics. Traditional Alabama Chanin style fabric embellishment, with two layers of cotton jersey, is overly warm for a large part of the year around here. Using this technique i can get the look without having to take salt pills ;)



Yesterday I purchased Deer and Doe's Bruyere Chemise after seeing Seamstress Erin's beautiful chambray version while eating breakfast. I have a length of white linen which i will make up first, and an Alabama Chanin paisley stencil which i cut out months ago but which has yet to be used (link here, scroll down again). I am thrilled to start on such a useful and stunning garment - white linen blouses have been more and more in play in my recent outfits.



I cannot help but play with hemlines. The hems of the Riding Peplum and the jacket balance each other out by moving in two opposite directions, so even though there's a lot going on it's not jarring. The low contrast between the two low-saturation garments keeps things from being too crazy as well. I always enjoy echoing the lantern shape of this hat by wearing a similarly shaped peplum or skirt. As these jeans approach the end of their useful life, i am happy to report that Uniqlo's $40 jeans are a good fit on me. I just need to get my hiney motivated to buy a pair!



I experienced an interesting synchronicity whilst working on this garment, centered around roses. Curious readers can find the story here. Even without reading the synchronicity, it's obvious that i adore roses in clothing and jewelry. Do any of you have similar talismans?

p.s. i don't want to say anything about posting more coming up in case i jinx it! Please help me by pretending you never read this "p.s." - & have a wonderful day!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I Been Busy! V8876, Cake Pavlova, J. Peterman ReFashion



It's a Dashing Eccentric post jam-packed with fresh weirdness!

Or, rather, all new clothes.



I'll start with the star, my newest version of the Beatrice, Marcy Tilton's nationwide best seller Vogue Pattern 8876. For my third version of this gorgeous and useful design, i added sleeves and left off the hem bands to make a species of frock coat in stretch denim. It came together easily (after all that practice it should) and I love wearing it. I purchased the stretch cotton denim from Stone Mountain and Daughter, it's terrifically comfortable and is wearing well. Marcy Tilton has some very similar denims in beautiful prints for sale right now; i've been mulling over the Havilland for a while now. This frock coat is so easy to wear and so fun i may have to pull the trigger - a duster in the vein of Ivey Abitz would be devastatingly chic.


 As it happens, i'd been eyeing the light colorway of this fabric on Marcy Tilton's website for a couple of weeks when i saw the darker colorway for sale at Stone Mountain almost a year ago. I liked the darker version better for winter/fall so i snapped it up. As much as the internet has cut into brick and mortar sales, this is the third or fourth length of fabric i've purchased at Stone Mountain after seeing a similar style online and having time to gauge it's usefulness in my wardrobe. I do my best to apportion my fabric budget between the various stores which i want to stay in business.



I chose a separating zipper in an antique bronze hard plastic for the closure. I added a large hook and eye just under the bust for another closure option. Not much to say that hasn't been said already about this great design (much of it by me), though here you can see a mind-bogglingly sweet endorsement of this piece if you click through. I'm still seeing sparkles!



I made the polka dot top using Cake's Pavlova Wrap Top pattern. This is my first version of this pattern. What an easy, rewarding, useful make! And this draft works wonderfully for a bigger bust. I cut the rayon/lycra ITY fabric out in size 35 with no alterations, stitched it up (by hand, still sans machine), and bob's your uncle. All the pluses of a wrap top - sleek fit, adapts to changing sizes - with no downside of gaping at the bust. You can wrap this top over or under the bust; here i'm wearing it under and still no gaping. There's plenty of  room to wrap over the bust as well, with even less likelihood of gaping.  I cut the  longer sleeve option at just past the elbow, my fave length. Pavlova offers a shorter sleeve length as well.

I was delighted to see a lengthen/shorten line clearly marked on the pattern. This is a major plus, as figuring out where/how to lengthen this design would be tricky. I have two more lengths of fabric who've been looking for their best pattern and now find themselves in the pipeline to become Pavlovas (one is the rest of the digital print i used for these leggings) .  You can wear the Pavlova alone, over a tank or long sleeved tee. Sweet! I am very happy to have a new TNT for winter wear. Thank you Cake!!

Original MaxiDress
Underneath it all i'm wearing a black silk slipdress - oohlala! It started out as a maxi dress from J. Peterman, via my fairy godmother (next door neighbor who volunteers at a charity consignment shop and sends goodies my way). The bottom 3-4" at the back hem were kind of chewed up, so i knew i wanted to hem that away. I also wanted to change the fit through the torso. The original looks okay from the front, but from the side view all that shockingly abrupt ballooning around the bazooms did not create the elegant line i covet. I removed the band, took a couple of small darts under the bust, and gathered in the skirts to the bodice. This created a bit of shaping without too much trouble and allowed me to keep the pockets (yay).

The following picture shows the hand stitching better than this one does
The original dress bodice had wide facings with an acetate lining. I prefer the feel and drape of silk, so i removed the lining and hand stitched the facings through to the right side of the dress using contrasting topstitching thread. Luxurious to wear and a great look.

Hand stitching nicely captured
I originally changed the hem to get the effect of an Ivey Abitz frock, but the overall silhouette wasn't working. I would need more fitting through the torso to balance out all that weight and commotion, and it would be a huge amount of work to change the silhouette if it were even possible. I knew i would like to be able to wear this piece as a slip, so i just hemmed the dress to echo the shape of the V8876/Beatrice dress i made in black and white linen, just an inch or so longer, and loved the result.

Whew! the needles have been flying! I've not got much done the last couple of weeks, as DH and i got down to brass tacks and bought a new car. We've had our Scion XA for ten years now so it was time. Our new car is an automatic transmission and driving it is so much easier on my leg!

The weather has turned cool as well, so i am busy re-making a distressed cashmere cardigan into elbow length fingerless gloves. Over at Acorn Cottage Indigo Tiger is tackling an entire 6PAC designed to keep a girl warm - scrumptious!  Is your wardrobe ready for winter?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Make Your Own Three Tier Skirt



I received some interest from Shelley regarding how to make this skirt. I made it without using a pattern, but it's super easy. So i wrote up some notes and made a video. I hope it's useful enough for any interested parties with some sewing experience under their belt to whip up one of these skirts on their own.






To recap on the general construction steps: I first would cut out the inner skirt/tube and the tiers. Then i would mark the placement of the two top tiers while the inner skirt is still flat. (The bottom tier is placed right along the hem so no marking is needed.) Next sew up the center back seam, and finish the hem and the waistband.

ON EDIT: i realized i haven't addressed the issue of 'how big around do you want the inner skirt to be". In the end it depends on how much ease you want. If you're using an elastic waistband, you need the skirt to go over the widest part of your hips. You will also need ease for when you sit and move - more for a woven fabric and less for stretch. If you're using a stretch with 5% or more lycra you may want your finished circumference to just be the same as the widest part of your hips plus an inch or two.

For woven, non-stretch fabrics you will need more. My hips measure around 37", the finished circumference of this inner skirt is 43" at the hem (the darts at the waist take out a couple of inches). That is 6" ease. If you are a lot smaller around you may want less ease, much bigger or taller and you may want more. My ease of 6" is 16% of my hip measurement of 37" so try starting out with adding 15% of your hip measurement as ease. Baste up a tube of that circumference in your fabric and try it on to see how you like it. Be sure to try sitting down in your mock-up as some of our hips spread out more than you might expect when we sit. END EDIT

 For the tiers: Sew any seams needed to form the tiers into tubes. Finish the upper edges and finish the hems/apply trim (I used a narrow machine hem of 1/2").  Make your gathering stitches along the upper edges (i find that two lines of stitches about 1/4" are easier to work with. I also recommend that you divide your stitches into at least two halves - so you would have gathering stitches run all along the half of the tier going on the front of the skirt and having thread tails at the beginning and end of that sections. Then start another set of gathering stitches with thread tails beginning and end for the back half instead of trying to adjust your gathers all around the entire skirt in one go. Here's a nice video on the basics of gathering fabric.) Lastly, adjust your gathers and sew on your tiers.

You're done.

A few more bits of information. This skirt hits me below the knee and a bit above mid-calf and i'm five foot five and a half inches - this may help you with your own dimensions. I forgot to mention that i have an overlap between the top of the two bottom tiers and the hem of the tier above - about 3/4". I believe i was shooting for a 1" overlap but my calculations got away from me. I think as long as there isn't a gap you will be okay.

Most importantly - please let me know if you have any questions! And have fun sewing, whatever you make.