This month I met up again with my trusted sewing friend, Tina, for a couple of intense but ultimately fulfilling days spent fitting garment muslins, analyzing various patterns and comparison of our respective ongoing trial and error processes. We met initially at one of Peggy Sagers’ (Silhouette Patterns) fitting workshops back in 2017 and quickly realized we were on the same page where sewing is concerned. Happily we have kept in touch ever since.
For this particular trip, our chosen destination was Santa Cruz, CA which is almost equidistant between our respective homes. An added bonus; as luck would have it, the weather was perfect.
Each of us brought several works in progress to examine and compare. We also brought books and articles to share. One of the many things things I appreciate about Tina is that she is supportive and respectful of my personal taste and inspiration. She is also honest (and kind) about telling me what is working and what isn’t. It isn’t a matter of “her way or the highway”, I trust her judgement. We are both petite in stature, but with different proportions and body shapes. I also feel I can be honest with her as well. These valued components of our relationship are what seem to make our now two sewing get-togethers successful.
When we weren’t fitting, tweaking muslins and patterns, sharing YouTube tutorials etc.. we enjoyed several tasty meals complete with long conversations about what’s going on in the world, our families and what we’re observing about this particular stage in our lives. We also made time to clear our heads by walking out on the pier, along the boardwalk or exploring the little shops in nearby Capitola where our hotel was located.
On our last day we visited Hart’s fabric store in Santa Cruz which was nothing short of WONDERFUL! From the hartsfabric.com website: “Buy fabric from people who actually sew.” This description was immediately obvious not only by the online fabric selection choices found on their website, but also the minute I set foot into the Hart’s “bricks and mortar” premises. It was my first time there and was astounded by how much beautiful fabric there was to see, touch and feel. One side of the store is devoted to upholstery, home dec and notions. The other side is organized for apparel and quilting fabric. I was amazed to discover one wall near the cutting tables featured a large selection of Liberty of London fabrics. A definite “kid in a candy store” moment for me.
Tina and I are already planning our next meet-up, this time in the Bay Area where Britex Fabrics in Union Square, San Francisco will be the main event. More posts on that trip to follow.
How is it that it’s the end of November already? With the Thanksgiving holiday happening here in the U.S. next week, I find I’m presently reflecting on things in life I feel most grateful for. The list is long, but what presently comes to mind are loving, personal connections, the gifts of creativity, a sense of purpose and joy, not only with completing projects, but also in the discovery and problem-solving process inherent in learning through trial and error.
Soon on the heels of my “More Free Motion Fun” post last May, I flew to the Midwest for a month away, teaching singing and performing in faculty recitals at the wonderful music academy I’ve had the privilege to be a part of since the summer of 2004.
Upon my arrival back home, I embroidered twelve canvas tote bags for a local non-profit here in town.
Next up was making a trial muslin for Susan Khalje Couture‘s Circle Skirt Dress pattern. But before that happened, I finally padded out my dress form to better resemble my actual body proportions. It only took three years since acquiring this new mannequin! Turns out this process is harder than it looks!
I must say, Susan Khalje’s Patterns are beautifully drafted and I look forward to exploring more of the same.
Here are the front and back of my Circle Skirt Dress muslin. I’m guessing the fit model for this particular pattern must have been somewhere around 5’8 or taller. For my 5’3 figure, I ended cutting off 4” from the hem.
After this initial attempt, I am pleased with the fit and looking forward to making my first “real” Circle Skirt Dress using a pretty Rayon print. (see below)
After the Circle Skirt Dress muslin was completed, I then entered the ClosetCore “Pietra” pant-fitting muslin vortex. Four (yes four) muslins later, I believe I’ve finally arrived at a flattering overall fit. (Photos of same to follow in a future post)
Length and circumference adjustments for this particular pant pattern were easy enough to do, but the main challenge for me was achieving the correct proportional balance with crotch-curve angles and length of same between front and back. What finally made the most difference was transferring shaping and dimensions from a well-fitting simple pant block I already had in my pattern stash. Why didn’t I do this first? I was curious to see how this pants pattern would fit right out of the gate. A “blank canvas” if you will.
Judging by the multiple customer reviews I’ve read, even though many people reported the overall rise tended to be a bit on the long side, (it is intended to be a high-waisted style) most reviewers concluded that the “Pietra” pants pattern fit them wonderfully from the get-go. I wanted to see if this applied in my case too. Well, no. The fit model for this pattern is definitely taller, has a longer torso/different crotch-curve shaping and of course, longer legs, no surprise there. (I’m 5’3 with with 28-29” inseam, depending on the style, shoes to be worn etc.) Interestingly enough, most Ready To Wear Petite pants sizes have average inseams of 27”, another example of why one size (petite RTW) doesn’t necessarily fit all.
Lastly, I wanted to write about a fun and inspiring thing I did recently; visiting a sewing friend/kindred spirit for a whirlwind couple of days spent fitting patterns and muslins, engaging in great conversations, and enjoying delicious food and drink.
My friend’s wonderfully inviting home is located a five hours drive away, up in the wine country, just North of San Francisco. She and I met in October, 2017 at one of Peggy Sagers’ (Silhouette Patterns) fitting workshops held in the San Jose area. Not only do we share a love and passion for all things sewing, we also love sailing!
As I was packing and preparing for our recent pattern fitting rendezvous, I anticipated we would get much completed, helping each other fit a variety of garments including the hardest of all, pants. While these activities eventually came to fruition, what I hadn’t fully grasped beforehand was the profound sense of personal connection, liberation from ineffective fitting results and ultimate creative renewal such an endeavor would inspire, especially after months of isolation due to our current pandemic. Additionally, it was fun to see all the quilts she’s made, especially those intended for charitable purposes. But the real treat was viewing all the garments she’s created; the bold color combinations, fabric choices, fun buttons, design modifications and her unique take on how to make patterns her own.
During our many conversations, my friend and I shared with each other the realization that while we’d managed to stay productive, making masks, quilts and garments, participating in online sewing classes and contests during this last year and a half, it was also a lonely time in our sewing spaces. We further reflected that we were not unique in this regard and thought about those individuals who lost all motivation for sewing in general. Of course, it goes without saying that many in our world have experienced much worse, personal loss, illness and heartache during this particularly trying period in history.
In light of all expressed above, I continue to remain grateful for the gifts of community, the healing benefits of creativity and personal curiosity, inspiration in unexpected places and the rejuvenating spirit of renewal.
Here’s the latest project in my free motion quilting journey. Beginning with a beautiful Renoir print fabric panel by Robert Kaufman and stunning coordinating borders from the Northcott “Stonehenge” collection, I decided to get out my Mom’s Featherweight machine to do all of the piecing. What a joy!
For this quilted throw, I let the Renoir painting inspire what free-motion patterns I would choose and proceeded from there.
For the borders, I chose a meandering wood grain pattern for the golden fabric, a meandering leaf pattern for the teal green fabric and meandering swirl pattern for the royal blue fabric. (Thanks again Angela Walters!)
After all the precise grid work I did on several of my past quilts, I was amazed to have finished this exclusively free-motioned quilted throw in about a week. So liberating!
Lastly, I had great fun creating the label for the back:
At the end of a year that has often felt like being under a cloud at times, seeing the delight in our daughter’s face (albeit via FaceTime) when she unwrapped her colorful Moraccan-inspired quilted throw on Christmas Day radiated joy in more ways than one. Her priceless reaction reminded me of the happiness and sense of daily purpose I felt during the weeks and months it took to create this particular project; through the conceptualizing stage, piecing everything together and followed by a sense of profound liberation during the free-motion quilting process, all the while imagining her future enjoyment of something I made for her; providing warmth and comfort in her home so many miles away.
With each colorful “block”, I took inspiration from the design patterns featured in the various batik fabrics. These variants would spark ideas about what to try during the free-motion quilting process. Per Angela Walters’ suggestion in her book, “Free-Motion Meandering, A Beginner’s Guide to Machine Quilting”, I began by practicing the meandering shapes with pencil and paper first. As much as I love swirls, the leaf meandering pattern ended up being my favorite.
Once I finished piecing the quilt front and back layers, I secured the batting for the quilt “sandwich” utilizing the spray-adhesive method. I then “stitched-in-the-ditch” around all the “gaslight” colored shapes. Since the curved solid blue borders were not even in width all around the gaslights, I decided to sew a couple of echo-stitch lines 3/4” apart then filled the empty spaces with free-motion designs, improvising these areas as the spirit moved me.
Once I began the quilting process, it was fun and interesting to see what the meandering shapes looked like on the back of the quilt. I used deep teal bobbin thread color which matches the paisley batik fabric backing.
Here are some examples of how I quilted the brightly colored gaslights included in this Moroccan-inspired throw:
As we remember all the brilliant lights that shined during these last twelve months and reflect on those that were extinguished too soon, may the promise of the new year bring brighter days, hope and healing on many levels for us all.
Special thanks to Walt Andrus for his beautiful photography of this special project.
For the last two of my ten coordinating wardrobe pieces, I chose solid navy blue knit fabrics to make both a top and tunic-length “cardi”.
“Patty’s Princess Top” is a relatively new pattern in the Silhouette Pattern line. I’d already made a muslin and was relatively confident the process would be “smooth sailing” getting this piece finished in time for the contest deadline.
Well, yes and no. The lightweight, navy blue rayon knit I choose for this top had a nice drape but proved a lot more stretchy than I anticipated. Fabric scraps from the border print knit used for the first top I made for this collection were added to create a contrasting flat piping detail on both the front and back princess seams. I also cut out the v-neck collar from the border print and reduced the width from one inch to 3/8”. Good thing I decided to hand-baste the princess seams in place for a final fit-check prior to stitching in the flat piping. The rayon knit turned out to be a lot stretchier than the cotton knit I made my muslin out of; so much so that I ended up taking in the seams an extra 5/8” before achieving a flattering fit.
Though a bit brighter in color, the mid-weight Ponte knit I chose for Silhouette Patterns “Hugo’s Favorite Cardigan” ties in well with the other nine pieces in this collection.
It a recent webcast, the pattern maker, Peggy Sagers, suggested adding front angled pockets set into the front side panels so I decided to add these to my version as well.
For an extra bit of pizazz, I created contrasting bindings for the interior front seams (quasi “Hong Kong Finish” style) utilizing, you guessed it, more scraps from the border print knit!
In conclusion, creating my first capsule wardrobe has been a remarkably satisfying challenge. I’ve lost count of all the various wardrobe combinations creating this ten piece wardrobe has afforded. Each piece is comfortable and esthetically pleasing and I look forward to wearing all in years to come.
A sampling of some of all the possible wardrobe combinations in this collection:
While waiting near the cutting table at one of my favorite fabric shops in the garment district of Manhattan a few years ago, one of the employees and I struck up a conversion while he was cutting the specified yardage from a bolt of fabric I was purchasing that day. As is often the case in fabric establishments, the shop employee asked me what I was planning on making. I shared that I had copied a pair of well-fitting pants from ready-to-wear and planned to make up the pattern I drafted with this particular fabric I’d chosen.
Though he did his best to conceal it, I noticed a slight cringe in his reaction. I asked him if I’d said something to offend and he replied, “sorry, I’m a designer”. (Awkward pause) Then I said something to the effect of looking forward to seeing his unique take on design and fashion and wished him the best success in the future.
Though I could empathize with the fabric shop employee/emerging designer’s reaction, I’ve heard it said from more than one professional source that there are no copyright or design licensing standards in the fashion industry, hence the existence of “knock offs” and copies of current and vintage designers within the vast realms of ready to wear and pattern makers.
When investing in well-made and beautifully-designed garments, I not only enjoy wearing them, but also find great inspiration in learning more about the structure, choice and quality of fabric used, proportion and construction methods employed. The information gleaned from the all of the above often inspires me to create my own custom-drafted pattern. As is often the case, my pattern is further altered to better address my specific figure and proportion specs.; ultimately yielding a more flattering fit when all is said and done.
In the case of the A-line, tunic-length “hoodie” included in my capsule wardrobe contest collection, I used self-drafted pattern I created from a RTW version of the same a couple years back. Since my first attempt at making up this pattern (from a lightweight wool jersey) turned out well, the choice of palette-coordinating dusty rose, lightweight cotton knit fabric (see tank top piece from same in my last post) seemed like it might also fit the bill.
The A-line princess seam design lines and tunic length features of this particular garment are figure-forgiving when it comes to fitting someone with pear-shaped proportions. Additionally, the center front pockets one often finds in a basic “hoodie” design are also present here. As someone who loves pockets, especially interior pockets for storing wallets, phones etc.. it’s no surprise that I found myself wanting to add two deep interior pockets which I elected to set into the inside side front sections of this garment. The available yardage of the dusty rose cotton knit fabric was somewhat limited, so I made the additional interior pockets out of, you guessed it, more scraps from the knit border print. During this whole process, that border print has definitely turned out to be the fabric that keeps on giving! (Look forward to even more usage of same in future posts) I also utilized more border print scraps to create a contrasting binding, concealing the raw edges of both the neck and hood seams.
Lastly, in addressing the wardrobe contest “unique” criteria, I decided to add tone-on-tone machine-embroidered design elements to the front left sleeve and center back of this piece, making it a one-of-a-kind garment that I’ll enjoy wearing for years to come.. ** If the machine embroidery design looks familiar, it is the same Pfaff Feather collection design I used for the jean skirt in this wardrobe collection and on the front and back of the blue and white striped Old Navy shirt from a previous post. Since I seem to like it so much, this particular design is quickly becoming my signature logo. 🙂
Next up for part six, Silhouette Patterns #600 “Classic Blouse.
Since I had extra dark blue stretch denim fabric leftover after making the Silhouette Patterns #2017 “My Basic Jean Skirt” featured in part two of my previous capsule wardrobe posts, I decided use the remaining yardage to make a pair of coordinating pants using my tried-and-true, Style Arc “Margaret” stretch woven pant pattern.
I’ve had good success with the “Margaret” pant pattern in the past and was confident this pair would make up quickly, requiring minimal alteration. But then the challenge presented itself, how to make this basic solid wardrobe item “unique”? (a definitive part of the PatternReview wardrobe contest criteria) The addition of a tuxedo stripe sewn on top of the side seams, using a decorative stitch with the same color of embroidery thread I used to embroider the Sashiko design on my copper pleather biker jacket, came to mind.
I liked this particular decorative stitch so well that I decided to incorporate it as an embellishment feature along the neckline of another basic piece I made for this collection, a tank top made in a dusty pink coordinating solid lightweight cotton knit.
The tank top pattern is from the Silhouette Pattern line; #195 “Sweater Set”.
The solid dusty rose lightweight knit fabric coordinates well with the knit border print, dark blue stretch denim and copper pleather in this capsule wardrobe collection. You’ll see it used again in my next post .
Here are various outfit combinations with the other pieces described in my capsule wardrobe collection thus far:
Back in the 1950s Marlon Brando and James Dean made the motorcycle jacket the epitome of cool.
Motorcycle jackets have since made their way into menswear designer collections and more recently into women’s fashion as well. When I saw this Style Arc pattern, I knew I wanted to make it for my capsule wardrobe entry in the PatternReview 2020 Wardrobe contest.
Since this was my trial run for making the Ziggi Biker Jacket, I knew I needed to make a muslin from it first. So I made three. Yes, you read that correctly, three. Choosing the right pattern size for this particular jacket proved somewhat challenging.
A professional taylor once shared with me her philosophy for fitting; begin with the neck and shoulders first then work your way down the body, grading out or in for circumference, length and depth as required by each of her clients and their fitting preferences.
In the case of the Style Arc pattern line, a shoulder width measurement for jackets, dresses and tops also comes into play when choosing a pattern size. This said, even though I’ve made a few Style Arc patterns previously, a shoulder width measurement that worked well for one isn’t necessarily successful for another, hence some sizing trial and error during this process. Here is a photo of the final muslin for my version of the Ziggi Biker Jacket:
Regarding the muslin process mentioned above, even with the visual aid of my full-length mirror, altering the back of this jacket proved difficult to do on my own. Fortunately one of my neighbors and good friend of mine down the street, was willing to help. Among her many talents, my friend enjoyed a long career as a wardrobe/costume expert in the television and motion picture industry and really has a discerning eye for color, proportion and style. In light of our current pandemic circumstances, the two of us elected to meet outside the front of her home to accomplish our fit-tweaking activity and wearing our face masks for the duration. Imagine the amused looks we got by passers by, out walking their dogs etc… I’m sure it wasn’t something they saw every day.
With the border print fabric I used to make the first two pieces in my collection as my guide, I pulled out a beautiful piece of copper-toned pleather from my stash. It seemed an ideal fabric for this particular project.
In addition to the jacket design lines and multiple zippers, what really drew me to the Ziggi Biker jacket pattern was the quilted embellishment detailing in the upper sleeve caps and shoulder yokes. I could have just duplicated the diamond-patterned criss-cross lines, but since I love Sashiko Embroidery, I decided to embellish these same areas with an Art Deco-inspired pattern instead.
Here is a a photo of machine embroidery process:
The fabric-backed pleather held up well during the machine embroidery process and proved user-friendly when hand-basting the brass zippers in place, without showing needle holes upon removal of the basting thread. Unfortunately the brass zipper teeth tended to snag and tear the same later during the jacket construction process, especially after “bagging” the lining and turning everything right side out again. Yikes! I’m thinking I’ll only want to work with leather for future renditions of this jacket from this point on.
The pattern instructions were vague regarding the installation of all the zippers. Even with my years of sewing experience, the limited construction information provided with the pattern reminded me of the technical challenges featured on the popular Great British Baking show..where the contestants are provided with all the necessary ingredients but minimal recipe details. Fortunately I was able to find four separate online tutorials with excellent photos and authored by individuals who had successfully made this particular jacket. One person showed how to add an optional sleeve hem gusset which I also decided to include in my version.
I don’t have a lot of places to wear this biker jacket during our current pandemic, but when we are all more out and about in the future, I look forward to donning it for a car show or live concert perhaps. Won’t that be just the ticket?
Coming up in my next post, more wardrobe building with the Style Arc “Margaret” Pant and Silhouette Patterns tank top from the #195 “Sweater Set”.
I love a good jeans skirt! As someone blessed with a pear-shaped figure, it hasn’t been easy to buy skirts of any kind straight off the rack without the assumption that some sort of fitting alteration would most likely follow.
I did find a great maxi-length denim skirt on eBay a few years back. Even though I ended up cutting off over 20 inches in length, the fit around the waist and hip area was great. I used the finished garment hip circumference measurement from that skirt along with the altered hem length as my guide when choosing my pattern size for the following:
Then it was muslin making time. I ended up making two muslins when all was said and done, before cutting into the dark navy stretch denim I used for this particular collection. My main pattern fitting issues included shortening the waist to hip length and creating a new hip curve angle so my skirt would drape well and the hemline hang evenly.
The wardrobe contest rules stimulated creating ten “unique” pieces , so I started contemplating how to step things up a notch when it came to making up this classic staple. The addition of a machine-embroidered embellishment seemed a natural solution.
I really liked the feather work design I used to embroider the blue and white striped shirt featured in my previous blog post, so I decided to use it on the lower right front side of this skirt as well.
Even though I decided to leave off the belt loops for this version, I did elect to install copper rivets and a proper jeans button. These details proved a bit tricky to do but worth the effort in achieving a classic jeans look. I had to laugh when my husband asked me what all the banging noises coming from my sewing room were about.
Topstitching with a contrasting copper/brass thread creates a classic jeans detailed look.
Here is my finished jeans skirt paired with the knit border print top (tucked in) from my previous post: