Monday, September 8, 2014

That 70's Skirt

This weekend I set out to do something unheard of - sew something simple!  I am also on a serious fabric buying diet right now, so stash diving it was.  I started by getting out my little big box of vintage patterns (I am a pattern addict too) and started on the search for a vintage design.  I found this  70's Marie Osmond wrap skirt and fell in love.

I went stash diving and found this lovely bottom weight Hawaiian print cotton blend. It has some stretch in it so there must by some nylon in it.  It is a sateen for sure though.  I have a ton of this stuff so I will be making a matching crop top soon. 

The pattern was already cut to a medium, which should have been my size, but it turned out too big.  I ended up removing 4" from the sides and bottom for a perfect overlap.  I left out the pocket since I felt it broke up the print too much.  I used simple black cotton bias binding all around.  The skirt is supposed to tie, but I hate ties so I used a hook and eye and snap for a closure.  A little vintage wood button from my stash finished off the waistband.


I had a lot of fun making this.  I think it took about three hours with little people interruptions and tea breaks.  I will for sure be making more versions of this pattern.  Up next is a leather mini version.

What do you think?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Teaching Practice: Mini iPad Carrier

My two sons, one 7 and one 5, have now become interested in sewing after watching me giving some sewing lessons last week. My oldest, Connor, has not wanted to really follow through except to request more made to order items and go fabric shopping for his stuff.  My youngest, Aidan, pretty much begged me to teach him about the basics of sewing.

I thought for a while about what project to give him where he would not lose interest and could help at the sewing machine.  My boys both received iPad mini's for Christmas and have the most amazing foam cases that are very protective but also very large.  So I thought an over the shoulder carry case might make traveling with his iPad nicer.

I had some errands to run and we stopped at Hancock Fabrics armed with coupons and Aidan selected all of his own fabrics, a faux fur for the interior and a polar fleece for the exterior.  He also selected some wide polyester webbing in a fantastic rainbow color scheme.  He is a very outgoing child and I honestly could not influence him on his choices.  We actually had a little tisk at the store because he found an organza print he wanted very badly but I had to explain it would be a poor choice for a case and he finally caved in and agreed to look at heavier weight fabrics.  He also selected some happy face buttons to add as trim.

To make the case, we measured the iPad in its case and added 2 inches to width and length to account for the depth of the case and to make it easier for him to insert and remove the iPad.  Using the fold of the fabric as the bottom, I cut a rectangle piece in both fabrics.  The faux fur became the interior lining while the polar fleece became the exterior.

After cutting the pieces, I pinned them right sides together and sat my son at the machine.  Using a half inch seam allowance, I held the fabric and his hands and he pushed the pedal very slowly.  He was so excited that he was actually using the machine!  We had a lot of fun sewing the four straight seams.

After we had two fully sewn pouches, I took over on the sewing and Aidan helped do some pinning.  First, I measured the webbing length and tacked to the right side of the lining.  Since we needed to use his button somehow, I used the last of the webbing as a flip closure.  We worked on attaching the lining to the exterior, I did the sewing on that one.  We flipped it right side out and top stitched the opening all around for extra security.  Aidan helped to hand sew the buttons and the case was complete.

Aidan has been using his new carry case for a week now and it is holding up nicely.  He proudly tells people, whether they wanted to know or not, that it was his design and he helped to make.  It makes me very proud and happy to his face when people complement him on his good work.

Friday, January 10, 2014

My Definition of Couture

Couture.  Words that bring to mind incredible fashion houses such as Chanel and Dior. Most people associate this word with expensive and seemingly unattainable garments and jewelry, but what does it all really mean?  How can I create something couture?

Let's start with some definitions that Google has been so generous as to provide.

Couture - defined as the design and manufacture of fashionable clothes to a client's specific requirements and measurements.

So according to this definition, most of us sewists pretty much are couture sewists.  We make clothing specifically to fit one client, either another or ourselves, to certain requirements and measurements.  But there is more to this story than just sewing to order.  Let's look at an industry many people can relate to, food.

In restaurants we have many types of chefs and many types of food.  The chef making food in the back at Applebee's is a chef, they make food to order and make changes per a customer request (e.x.: no onions on that salad).  But is that chef really making something spectacular.  What methods of cooking does the chef use? Is there frozen sauces just being warmed up and things mixed together?

Now move up to a local chef making their own recipes at their own restaurant using traditional or special techniques.  Truly creating something new and delicious.  Paying strict detail to how everything tastes and each and every plate that leaves that kitchen.  That chef may not be Michelin award winning or even well known, but if they make spectacular food created with love and attention to detail.  A chef that chops fresh vegetables every morning by hand and makes everything from scratch.  That is my alteration of couture.

Couture is the finest of sewing.  To me couture is about accuracy, technique, attention to detail, and effort.  It is about getting the perfect fit and always striving for perfection in my garment.  It is not using the serger or other special machines, but creating everything possible with the highest of accuracy using my own two hands for the ultimate in perfection, or as close as I can get.

For me couture is alive inside of me.  When I decide to create a couture garment, it means I start with careful planning.  I will cut the pattern on the seamlines and make a muslin designed to be altered and keep working it for the perfect fit.  I will then select fabric, sometimes many layers of fabric.  I will have at lease an outer fashion fabric, an underlining, and a lining.  I spend as much money as I can budget for the best materials - I love silk and wool.  This is a garment I will be touching a lot, so I want to enjoy the experience of hand stitching it.

After I have the perfect fit and cut my fabrics, I will hand baste everything.  I will check the fit over and over at each step, making minute adjustments during the entire process.  Once the basted pieces are perfect, I will sew the seams using a straight stitch and press out as I go.  The edges will be hand overcast when needed and all seams that will not be lined will be finished for beauty both inside and out of the garment.

The linings will be attached by hand so they are just exactly as I want them.  Each and every stitch made by hand will add to beauty and experience of creating the garment.

In my family, the women have been seamstresses for generations, out of necessity and the love of sewing.  My grandma taught me to sew and told me stories of her childhood dresses my great grandma created for her, often with only a sloper to work from, with exquisite finishes like French seams and fashion fabric bindings from the leftover bits of the outside garment.  

In so many ways, couture for me reminds me of the way people created garments many years ago - with fine craftsmanship and love.  I believe all sewists can become couture sewists.  

I do admit, I do not sew couture all of time.  We all have times we just want to make something fast and feel the rush of a completed piece.  But next time you have something special to create, think about using couture techniques.  I will be making tutorials on cutting, sewing and other couture techniques as the year moves forward.

So, what is your definition of couture?  I would love to hear your thoughts on the much debated topic.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Inspirational Blog: OMG That Dress

I am always looking for new inspiration and often times turn to the wonderful world of fashion history.  I follow many blogs on historical fashion, but my favorite by far is the Tumblr blog OMG That Dress.  Here you will find hours (yes, have some time as you will get addicted) of amazing fashion from many eras.  Posts go up hourly on many days, so add it to your Bloglovin or your Tumblr for sure.

Visit OMG That Dress

Pleated Skirt Inspiration

Proenza Schouler Mini
So snooping around the blogs I read I came across this lovely skirt from Proenza Schouler.

I have been watching the runways and seeing a ton of these lovely short pleated skirts.  I got to thinking that I could easily draft a pattern for a skirt like this for me.  I have a lot of fabric I could use in my stash following the inspiration here.

The Proenza skirt is made from silk georgette.  It is not my first gut reaction to use georgette for a pleated skirt, but then I began to imagine how the fabric would drape and move as I walk,  How luxe and pretty it would be to pair this with a simple black blouse and some black tights with my fave black booties.  Or how about an ivory sweater?  I could really play this look up or down.  It would be a nice transition piece too as it could be worn with or without tights to take it into spring.  Now, to find the time, haha.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Emergency Project: Cold Weather Waterproof Mittens (Part 2)

So last weekend I finished up the cold weather mittens just in time for the craziest weather we have seen in years.  The mittens are usable and soft, but not exactly the couture work I prefer to produce.  All in all, the wearers are happy and warm so it all ended well.  But some notes on the journey there.

I printed and cut out all of the patterns from my previous post (Emergency Project: Cold Weather Waterproof Mittens Part 1).  I looked them all over and ended up using the pattern from

I had originally wanted to make these mittens waterproof but the weather came upon me faster than I had planned and a trip to the fabric store was not panning out.  I ended up pulling out the stash fabrics.  I usually sew for adult women so I did not have much fabric that was honestly appropriate for the cause. Thanks to a spree of pajama pant making in the fall, I did have small stash of polar fleece fabric.

I am not too fond of this stuff, but it makes good for items for the little ones and my husband that will need to withstand many trips through the wash and still stay warm.  Honestly for my husbands mitts I wish I would have had some boiled wool.  I could have gotten out the wool fiber and felted the proper fabric by hand, but spending hours laying out wool and then felting it in the middle of a snow storm was just not appealing.

Onto some shop talk.  I started out wanting to make these mittens extra warm, so I cut the outer layer from polar fleece and the lining from cotton flannel. I had a "bright" idea to use some fusible fleece batting on the lining fabric to increase the warmth.  I was also very "smart" and cut and fused both of the child sized gloves before really testing this idea out.

After assembly line rotary cutting the pieces and fusing the fleece I started sewing the mittens up.  There are good instructions on the site, but the seam allowance of 1/2 inch for both the lining and outer fabric did not work out so well.  I did the first glove using and trimmed it as best I could, but the thumb became way too small with the lining.  Additionally, my youngest boy did not like the stiffness of the fused flannel in the glove.  So for speed and sanity, on the kids gloves I skipped the lining.

To get the elastic in, I used some ribbon to create a casing inside the glove and 1/4 inch elastic to hold the glove on.  I just did quick rolled hem on the edge and voila, a mitten.  My older son soon decided he needed his gloves EXACTLY the same as his brother.  (My boys are 17 months apart, so they are more like twins.  They are also 5 and 7).  So in the same manner, mitten set number two was produced.

Now, on to my husband's mittens.  After my mistakes with the mittens for my kids, I decided to try a few changes.  I fused fleece to the large back hand piece but not to thumb lining pieces.  I was hoping this would add some wind resistance.  I also used 1/2" seam allowance on the lining pieces and a 1/4" seam allowance to the outer pieces to account for the bulk created by the two seams touching and the extra thickness in the fabrics.  I also decided to bind the edges rather than turn them.  I was lazy and sometimes I just don't want to turn pieces through a small hole when they are odd shaped.

It turns out I was correct and my hubby tested the mittens out a lot over the past few days.  The temps have been below zero here and he said his mittens kept his hands quite warm.  The kids love their gloves too.  They may not have turned out waterproof or quite the seamstress mastery I like to create, but my customers are happy and hands are warm so I can feel happy with a job well done.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A New Take on the Classic Tee

Retro Top 07/2013 #130 from (Pattern)

So in my email pops this update from BurdaStyle featuring this classic retro top.  At first glance, I thought it was pretty boring.  Then I stared at it a while and thought that maybe it might be perfect to make in organza.  Maybe some sparkly trim, black on black.  It would be a fun way to take a close fitting tank and make it just a little cooler and more evening or wear it with jeans.  It would also be a great practice for French Seams on sleeves, something I feel I need to practice more.

Oh, too many projects and not enough time.