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:
I’ve always marveled at the multiple outfit combinations and layering possibilities capsule wardrobe collections can potentially achieve. Deciding on a cohesive color palette when packing for travel in the past was about as far I’d come in experimenting with the capsule wardrobe concept until some proactive opportunities presented themselves in recent months.
As luck would have it, the creative team at Seamwork.com featured another of their three-week online wardrobe courses last August. The course participants were encouraged to create “mood” boards, (I made mine using Pinterest) follow along in a day-by-day, step-by-step, downloadable course workbook and draw each wardrobe item and wardrobe combinations via a fun new online drawing platform, mybodymodel.com
The mybodymodel site features printable, front and back custom “croquis” (line drawings) for each user’s unique shape, using data from multiple measurements the individual user provides. I personally found the proportion-specific custom bases to be useful tools when creating sketches of my wardrobe combination ideas, visualizing what different outfits and color combinations might look like. There are also online drawing tutorials (YouTube) available to help with achieving accurate proportional sketches when using the custom body model line drawings.
Then came the 2020 Ten-piece Wardrobe Contest featured on PatternReview.com which ran from September 15 through November 15. The contest rules stipulated making ten unique pieces (2 toppers, 2 bottoms, 2 tops, one accessory and three additional items of the participant’s choice.
Hooray! What a welcome distraction from all the distressing things happening in the news and around the world. I was finally ready to take on the capsule wardrobe challenge and began pulling everything together for this particular creative odyssey. Even though my PatternReview contest color palette differed slightly from the one I conceptualized for the Seamwork course, my creative and organizational wheels were already set in motion by the time I began.
First up, inspiration fabric:
This was a tricky print to be sure, but I liked the colors. Given the narrow color panels featured in this particular two-way stretch jersey knit fabric, finding a sewing pattern with princess seams in the design seemed a good option. Here is the one I chose for this project:
Love the “finished garment measurement” sizing chart.
Next came the cutting out process. Since pattern placement was key, I chose to cut out each piece separately.
Here is the finished result:
Since I made both of these patterns previously, aside from the aforementioned cutting and placement challenges, these first two pieces came together relatively quickly and set the tone for the remaining eight in my wardrobe collection.
If you are interested in reading a more detailed review I wrote about the above pattern, check out the following link:
It’s another sleepy “Fogust” day here on the CA Central Coast. After our smoky air quality in recent days as a result of the devastating forest fires North of us, the misty fog comes as a welcome relief this morning.
Yesterday I received a package of second hand items I ordered online including a $5. blue and white striped button down shirt from Old Navy. Even though I purchased a size that would fit me well through the upper torso, as is often the case with clothes I buy, I was prepared for it to be too tight in the hip area. Amazingly, though a bit snug, I was able to button this particular shirt all the way down. Adding a couple of four inch side slits would easily give me a bit more ease and result in a smoother drape.
Then I had another inspiration. I wondered about the possibility of an embroidered vertical spray coming up from the hem on the front side of the shirt, opposite the side with the pocket. After laying out several designs, I finally decided on a feathered, swirling pattern that was included in a Pfaff “Featherwork” Embroidery design collection I purchased a couple years ago.
Like several options included in the Pfaff design collections, this particular design stitched out beautifully. I was so pleased with the result, I decide to flip it in the opposite direction and embroider it down the center back of the shirt, just below the back yoke. Lovely! Then I thought, how about the sleeve? Fortunately I stopped myself before going a bit overboard….always a danger when something is going well. 🙂
In the final analysis, I find that I really like the juxtaposition of the swirling feather design with the vertical stripes, kind of a yin and yang effect.
Stay tuned for my next post. It will include a follow-up on my “All things bright and beautiful” entry a few months back and I am planning to share photos of my newly-finished Morrocan-inspired quilted throw.
After my foray into machine-embroidered lace described in my last post, I’ve been experimenting again, this time in an effort to camouflage some holes in the front of one of my favorite tee-shirts.
Since the holes were located in the front lower half of the tee, I originally thought it would be nice to create a paisley border design along the hem.
I chose two layers of “no-show mesh” for stabilizer and a thin, water-soluble “topper”. So far so good.
The crosshair placement lines for the second design I used yielded somewhat unpredictable results. So I decided to change my game plan from a border to an asymmetrical paisley cluster. Again, not perfect placement, but I will definitely wear this tee in future. Suffice to say, it’s now an original.
I’ve learned a lot in this process, including embracing the notion of random imperfection as a thing of potential beauty, a stretch for my perfectionist tendencies to be sure.
Final takeaway? It feels wonderful to have prolonged the life of this simple garment in a fun and creative way.
One of the things I’ve been wanting to try for some time is making my own machine-embroidered lace. Thankfully one can find a wealth of video content currently available on this inspiring topic, both on embroidery design websites and YouTube for a start. My most recent inspiration came from an online webinar I watched entitled “Camouflage with Lace” presented by representatives from the Dime Company (dzgns.com).
A reoccurring theme in my ongoing education where all things machine-embroidery is concerned includes the following: effective and appropriate stabilization is at the forefront of achieving ultimate success. Machine-embroidered lace is no exception.
Among many things I’ve learned about machine-embroidered lace so far is that there are different design characteristics to consider. First, “free-standing” lace designs have a built-in, overall structure (hence the “stand alone” description) and are sewn directly onto water-soluble stabilizer which is later soaked away. Another type of lace design requires stitching onto a sheer foundation such as organza, tulle or “no-show” mesh. A third option is sewing a lace design directly onto fashion fabric, (as opposed to attaching on top) and using either a cut-away or tear-away stabilizer underneath. Depending on the fabric, some sort of “topper” layer of stabilization might be used as well.
The cautionary tale here is that in the absence of a built-in design structure or appropriate foundation, your lace will (even if sewn on water-soluble stabilizer) most likely disintegrate or in the case of a knit, shrink and pucker before your eyes.
With fresh inspiration gleaned from the recent webinar and armed with a new roll of high-quality water-soluble stabilizer, I decided to dive into lace-making at long last.
My project involved altering a secondhand, Coldwater Creek tee I acquired via Thredup com. I really loved the colors in the print and hadn’t seen anything like it in my recent fabric shopping efforts. As is often the case with my pear-shaped figure, the neck and shoulders of the tee fit reasonably well but I needed a couple more inches of circumference at the hem. Lightbulb moment=side lace inserts!
I found this variegated teal thread in my stash so I used this when stitched out my first design:
Next I tried some free-standing lace in a gray rayon thread. (I ran out of one thread and replaced with a similar color…)
Ultimately I decided to order some matching teal rayon thread and chose a third design which is meant to be stitched on tulle or similar. In this case I chose a navy organza. Within minutes of stitching out this design I knew it was a keeper.
In conclusion, creative inspiration is everywhere around us. Research, ongoing education, the process of trial and error, solving puzzles and not worrying about the outcome of any given project continue to motivate me with each passing day. My ultimate take away? One’s efforts do not need to result in being masterpieces to be worth time well spent. Until the next adventure…
In the midst of all our global current Pandemic challenges, the month of May has included some rewarding and time-filling activities including discovering the healing power of working with a bright color palette. As it happens, our daughter loves a broad spectrum of bold hues (think “Fiestaware”) and has expressed a desire to have a Moroccan-inspired quilted throw for her living room. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to make one for her. This particular project will replace a relatively tired High School Musical Theater Tee-shirt single-size quilt I made for her circa 2004 which has served as a picnic blanket, college dorm bedspread among other things) The fabrics for the new throw are now collected and cut. The piecing process has also begun in earnest with a projected completion target date sometime before Christmas.
With a Moroccan theme as my inspiration, I finally landed on two block designs that are new to me, Jessica Van Denburgh’s “Gaslight” from sewmanycreationsny.com which is a clever variation of a traditional “drunkard’s path” block and reminds me of some shapes I’ve seen in various tile designs and “Moraccan Star” from Shelley Cavanna of Corasquilts.com which features a handy sew-cut-flip-press piecing method for all the little triangles included in each block. (Soooo much easier!) Both blocks require precision cutting and piecing followed by careful trimming to achieve the desired size and consistent effect. It’s been a slow process, but what I’m discovering is that working with all the beautiful and bright colors brightens my mood and gives me an abundance of joy on a daily basis.
After my initial blocks started to come together, it was exciting to see how each color combination would emerge and be brought to life with each passing day.
I’m already thinking ahead about how I want to quilt this bold little throw. Unlike my last two quilts, which include straight line grids and lots of “stitch-in-the-ditch” quilting detail, for this project, I plan to employ “free-motion” quilting throughout. I’m still on the fence regarding whether or not to change thread colors to match each gaslight fabric color. Using one uniform thread color such as matching the royal blue background fabric, might be faster to quilt, but I don’t want to risk defusing the striking brilliance these bright pops of color afford. While it’s ultimately more time-consuming to change thread colors as I go, I’m thinking it might be fun to employ free-motion elements inspired by the fabric. For example, free-motion “pebbles” for the teal and royal blue fabric with all the little circles within the print or a sunburst pattern for the orange batik with a similar motif. As for the thread itself, I’m venturing into new territory, exploring the “So Fine” 50 weight 100% poly thread by Superiorthreads.com. Free motion quilting maven and author, Angela Walters swears by it along with Aurifil for a 100% cotton thread option.
As much as my back and shoulders would love my bringing this project to someone with a long arm quilting machine, the creative design challenges described above inspire me to do the whole process on my own.
Speaking of my back and shoulders, I’ve started taking more frequent breaks as I sew and cut out fabric, both to stretch my body and to engage in deep, relaxation breathing. This practice has proven a real game-changer where my overall stamina is concerned. Not only do I have more physical energy as a result, but my mind and ability to concentrate are fresher when I return to the task at hand. Admittedly it is always hard to stop what I’m doing in the middle of an inspiring project, but implementing this brief, periodic gift to myself yields such positive and lasting benefits. I expect this habit will remain a regular part of my creative process moving forward.
The next installment in this current current odyssey is soon to follow.