Saturday, July 19, 2014

best. sister. ever.

That's me.... BEST SISTER EVER... in case you didn't know. Why? Because I made my little sister this for her 26th birthday:

A cotton jersey, peacock feather, maxi-dress! With a racer-back!

The fabric is from This was my first experience with them. Their fabric is very affordable and the service is excellent. You can get up to four swatches free, just ask. The pattern is McCalls 6744. What's great about sewing for my sister is that I usually don't have to make any pattern adjustments. She is a perfectly proportioned for the most Big-4 patterns, and even the design height at 5'7". Despite out different heights and body shapes, we have about the same bust-waist-hip measurements, so I can make her dress right out of the envelope, try it on me and know what I'll need to adjust when I make a version for myself (navy with polka-dots maybe?). 

This dress is very easy, and you can get a maxi-dress out of just 2 yards of 60-wide fabric. The whole dress took me 3 hours, including cutting out the 4 pieces. The neck and arm holes are finished with a simple narrow hem; a breeze on stable, cotton jersey. I didn't measure, press or pin before stitching, just eye-balled it as I sewed and it came out pretty good!

My serger needs a new cutting blade, otherwise I totally would have done the side seams on it. Instead I did two lines of narrow zig-zag stitching then clipped my seam allowance close. 

I'm quite pleased and hope she is too! I suspect a cool cotton jersey maxidress will get a lot of wear when the days get hot in Philadelphia. And given the timing... would Oona approve of this make?

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Hey sewing/blogging friends! It's been a while! I wanted to let you all know that I haven't forgotten you, and to let you know what I've been up to in the last three weeks. Part of my blogging absence has been due to some sadness. Mr. Sew Rachel and I lost our very special pet Filbert to a difficult illness. He was such a little fighter! He will be very, very missed but I'm glad he doesn't have to fight it anymore. At the same time my grandfather took very ill, and the hardest part with that is the lack of answers regarding what the future holds. We are very close, so it's been tough stuff...

Filbert (grey) with his best buddy Parfait (tan) about 6 weeks ago when we first started fighting what started as a small ear infection. That wooden hidey-house in the background was his favorite hangout. 
It's been really nice to be able to sew during this time. I made my sister a neon, coral top out of the same rayon fabric I used for my 2nd Ella Tank. I used my McCalls 6751 pattern, adding about 4 inches of length to front by copying the shape from the Ella Tank hemline. Of course, it looks great on her! I also sent her some undies made from the Ohhh Lulu Grace Pattern and some awesome feather-print fabric.

She also sent me this picture the other day, rocking my first Ella Tank and the fold-over tote I made for her for Christmas! And the Grace Hipsters that you can't see :)

I have been working on a bombshell-inspired tankini, which originally I was altering a dress pattern to create. So I was pretty excited when Simplicity came out with pretty much the exact look I was trying to achieve!

I measure at size 14, which according the pattern showed the negative ease you want from a stretchy fabric, but when I stitched up the bust it was GINORMOUS! I took out about 4 inches all together from the side seams, and it's still too big. I sewed in some bust cups that I had cut out from an old bra... and still too big!

So I tried on the test garment I had started last year for modifying  Kwik Sew 3761, and found that this had more bust support without cups than the Simplicity pattern had with cups! Plus, the Kwik Sew pattern has separate bust lining pattern  (vs. just a second layer of ruched fabric the same as the main fabric) pieces which not only supply more support on their own, but are the perfect shape for sewing in swimwear cups. So I'm ditching S1374 and continuing with my original plan.

I've also been working some more on my project combining my fine-art practice and my sewing practice. I won't be fully revealing the project until early fall, but until then here's a sneak peak!



A hand-painted screen for printing, not yet dry!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

something a little different...

As some may know, I am also a working artist and print-maker, but have been hesitant to share much from that part of my life on this blog, keeping my personal creating separate from my professional creating. But today I have something I'd like to share that crosses both realms, and I would love to get some feedback from my sewing-blogging friends!

This is my first test-run of hand-printed fabric! I drew by hand the kale drawing onto a clear Mylar sheet, then transferred that image to a photo-sensitive silkscreen (using the sun!), and then screen-printed it on to 3 yards of green, cotton fabric (cut into 1/2 pieces to be easier to handle).

detail of the drawing on Mylar

my silkscreen after the sun-exposure, drying at the studio
My screen didn't expose as perfectly as I'd like, and you can see some areas that didn't print as well because of that, but I that's the beauty of a handmade item; it's not supposed to be machine-perfect. I'm thinking about sewing the printed fabrics into table linens, or even packaging them up as fat-quarters for others to create with. What would you make or like to see made from this fabric? What kind or images would you like to see screen-printed on fabric?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

the quest for real pants

While I've had some good success with the Elle Pants... I felt I really needed to make some real pants, with a fly and pockets. So for the last month I've been working on and off on Simplicity 1969 Amazing Fit Pants, and finally have something to show you.

I used a mid-heavyweight khaki with a fair amount of stretch that came from my mom's stash. The fit actually looks much better in these pictures then how I feel they look (and feel) in real life. I worked really hard on these and in some areas they look really nice, like the pocket construction and the "carriers" (aka belt-loops... didn't know that when I started!). I tapered the legs in even more (even though it's a "slim pant" pattern) to try and get a more modern look. The pattern is designed to be worn 1 1/2" below the waist, which I learned was too high especially on my short frame. At this point I'd already inserted the fly, and there was no way I was ripping that out again after the number of attempts I made to get it in! I was able to lower the front rise by a little over and inch when I attached the waistband. Unfortunately that wasn't enough, and I had to rip out the crotch seams to be able to take in another 3/4" from the front rise there... probably not the correct way to go about that.

backside looks good!

The rise still feels too high in the front, and the waistband ended up a little too big so they like creep... no, rapidly settle to a more natural, lower pants position on my body. All the previous pictures are with a belt to hold them up, and there still feels like a lot of extra fabric in the front. And if you take the belt off:

I don't know if you can tell... but the crotch seam of the pants is, like, 3 inches from it's anatomical counterpart. And it's uncomfortable as they move all around (and down!) with every little movement I make. And apparently I can't sit down at all:


And that picture is with the belt! After reading a pants post by notes from a mad housewife, I tried scooping out (and down) the back center curve and that seems to help a little with the extra fabric in the front. Should I have also scooped the front curve as well? Or added more crotch depth before I even started? Part of the problem with pants is than I'm not even sure how to diagnose the fit problems, so I then can address them more properly. Any thoughts or experience with this issue? Since the fabric has stretch, would it be beneficial to stitch in some firm ribbon to keep the waistband from stretching? (Even though I did use some interfacing.) 

So overall... with a belt these could be acceptable pants when business casual is required... as long as I don't sit down. If I try this pattern again I'll lower the rise even more before inserting the fly, or maybe look at the SBCC Manhattan Trousers, which is already designed for a shorter rise. Or just make more Elle Pants:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

my take on the trends: neon and lace

No, you don't need to adjust your monitor... that's actually pretty close to the real color of this top! I've been thinking about trying the neon trend in a simple tank like this. I was leaning towards a vibrant pink, but having a hard time finding the right shade that would look good on me in a nice fabric. But then while checking out Anthropologie (for the first time!) in Philadelphia I saw a gorgeous silk tank in a super-bright, vibrant coral. Perfect! Oh, did I want to buy that tank! But I didn't, and later in the trip exploring Fabric Row (very cool!) my sister found the near identical color on a crowded shop shelf! For only $6/yard! And in a lovely, drapey rayon.... I love rayon. It's not exactly a neon, but super-bright! It's almost a red, and almost a coral, and almost like the most vibrant, dark watermelon you've ever seen... yum! And probably more flattering on me than a traditional neon would be.

This is another version of the Ella Tank I recently pattern tested for Liola Patterns. This time I cut a size small and shortened it about 1.5" at the waistline. I also decided to take advantage of the yoke design feature to play with another trend: lace! Lace on neon coral? Ummm... yes!

I always have a hard time with this style of finishing the arm and neck openings; making a bias strip that is turned under and sewn to conceal the raw edge, almost like a very thin facing. I can never get it to lay flat when worn, or end up pressing little wrinkles along the neckline to make it lie flat (any tips would be totally appreciated!). I wish I had bound it similar to my fishy tank or Lemon Drop Top where the bias binding is exposed on both sides, like you would bind a quilt. It would be especially nice with this lovely, light rayon! I also made a few wrinkles on one section of my narrow hem:

When altering the pattern I did not take any length out above the bust or from the straps, and decided that a low neckline would be ok with this kind of drapey, summer top. But, once constructed I discovered that the bust points were also way too low. How did I not notice that the last time I made it? So I had to take up the straps after I'd already bound the neck and arm openings, tacking them down so it doesn't show too bad:

So now the side seam doesn't hang straight, but oh well. Still a very cool, comfortable almost-perfect summer top. I'll make sure to lower the straps and arm opening evenly on both the front and back pattern pieces before I cut out my fabric next time I make this top. Then the fit should be just perfect!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

an indie love affair with sbcc, bhl and tilly!

I wish I had been able to make more for Sewing Indie Month, as I would have loved to make another By Hand London Georgia Dress or tried something from DIY Dixie, but I guess travel and Me-Made-May got in the way a little. But don't be too disappointed! I do have something fun to show you to end Sewing Indie Month; playing with patterns and tutorials by Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick, By Hand London, and Tilly and the Buttons!

By Hand London Circle Skirt action shot! And in the background is my pretty fabric closet curtain. 

After my success with SBCC's Lemon Drop Top earlier this month, some folks suggested I try their Tonic T-shirt. And I thought, "how about pair it with a circle skirt? I've wanted to try the By Hand London Circle Skirt App! I could combine them to make a sleeveless red dress!" Well... that didn't work so well. The waistline would not lay right, and my added pleats to try to fix it only made it worse. 

It may look nice here on the hanger... but it's lying to you!

I was able to salvage the skirt using the waistband pattern piece from my Elle Pants, and learned that the Tonic T-shirt has a great fit, so I sewed a straight-up Tonic T-shirt in lovely black rayon jersey. I love this t-shirt pattern! But now my outfit needed something else..... a matching Brigitte Scarf from Tilly and the Buttons! I was going to wear it as a cute headband, but once I added the shoes with this outfit I felt a ponytail bow was the perfect finishing touch! It has this fun 50's vibe! 

... or is it a little bit Drizella/Anastasia from Cinderella? :)

image souce:

Monday, June 2, 2014

pattern testing the ella top for liola patterns

I was super excited to have the opportunity to pattern test for and indie pattern company, especially since the Ella Top by Liola Patterns is exactly the kind of top I am looking for in my wardrobe! I couldn't describe it any better than she does:
image source:

I used that horrible-feeling-yet-beautiful synthetic fabric that I had used to test my silk maxidress pattern, but made the binding for the neck and arm opening from a light cotton/poly blend instead. I took advantage of the back yoke detail to play with the border print of my fabric. 

oops! bra hanging on the doorknob!

I think this top has a great shape, and was very easy to put together. My measurements fall in-between a medium and a large, and being so petite I opted for the medium and then made no pattern alterations. Even so, I think next time I will cut a small instead and make some other adjustments to shorten at the straps and the length overall, and possibly narrow the scoop neckline. It was just too big overall for my frame, so I gave it to sister. Looks great on her! And I'll have to make myself another. Maybe in crisp white cotton, or neon pink rayon, or blue with little flowers.... and how about buttons? So many possibilities!