Monday, November 11, 2013

No clothes for you!

Hopefully Mr. Machine enjoyed his little rest while I  painted literally miles of walls and molding in my family room. 

See the beams over my head sporting their cute coat of primer? I sanded, primed, caulked and painted every one of those bad boys, plus the book cases, windows, trim, ceiling and walls.Then, just for kicks, white-washed the brick fireplace. The beams and ceiling were a bitch and my neck really hurts.

The pain is soon forgotten and I am very close to having a sweet, happy room to curl up in... as soon as I sew the curtains and pillows. I have 20 yards of a nice casual stripe for drapery panels, plus some fun pillow fabric waiting in the sewing room. 

Back in the day, when my children were small, I stayed home and made a little money doing custom residential sewing for decorators, furniture stores and word of mouth customers. I've recently been coaxed out of "retirement" by a friend who is redecorating her home. Everything is tailored and simple and I'm not gonna lie, it's been kind of fun!

Here's a blurry shot of the Roman Shade in her powder room. She found this fabric at a local outlet and loved the monkeys. A little of this goes a long way, so we thought a simple shade would be just right. 

I'll be spending some fun,quality time with my sewing machine over the next few weeks but there probably won't be any new clothes to show for it.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Style Arc Kate: A review

 If you have stopped by here to read about my experience with the Style Arc Kate Dress then I won't keep you waiting while I re-hash my quest for the perfect wrap dress pattern. This is IT. 

Apologies in advance for being wordy, but you have to order these Style Arc patterns from AUSTRALIA, and they are never available for $1.99, and you have to order a SPECIFIC SIZE, so if you're like me, you may want a decent level of comfort before hitting the "buy" button. They always include a bonus free pattern, which is extremely nice. 

First of all, here's me in my dress:

Never ask your husband to take your picture after cocktails with an iphone.

Here is the pattern drawing:

It has an ever so slight A line silhouette, good coverage and three tiny pleats at the waist for "camouflauge". The pattern calls for a tuck at the wrist, which I eliminated. It also has the belt tie in the back. I cut the belt much longer so it would wrap all the way around and tie in the front.

Style Arc patterns contain only one size, so it's important to view their sizing page and check your measurements with theirs. I ordered a size 8 because it was the closest to my measurements. I also ordered the Willow pants pattern, but got a 10 because of my hip measurement. 

I used a Parisian Microfiber  from Marcy Tilton. I can't say enough about this material. It is absolutely lovely, refuses to wrinkle and is really the perfect choice for this pattern. 

The instructions included with the pattern are simple and straightforward. I was not familiar with the term "vilene" which, it turns out, is simply tear away stablilizer for the neck and bodice edges. This is genius, and necessary, and highly effective. Instead of a facing, the pattern calls for swimsuit elastic to be stitched (I serged it) to the wrong side of the stablilized neck edge, then turned and top stitched. I carried on with the serging all the way down the front edges of the dress,turned in a hem, and used steam a seam to hold them in place for the final top stitching. 

There are distinct right and left front pattern pieces because only one is pleated. You could easily make two of the un-pleated pieces if you prefer. 

The instructions have you set the sleeves in after sewing the side and sleeve seams. I attached the sleeves first and then sewed the sleeve & side seams. I don't see where this caused any problem with the fit or appearance of the finished dress.

The sleeves fit my arms perfectly- not too tight, not too loose. 

With the exception of  the stabilizing and top stitching, I made this dress entirely on my serger. I took my time and tried it on ALOT, but now that I'm comfortable with it, this is a two hour dress. I'm going to need another closet!! 

Here's a shot of the back: I usually have to adjust most patterns at the center back because I am narrow,and frequently have to take in the size seams, but not on Kate! 
Not my best angle, keeping it real here.

 I can't think of a single criticism of this pattern, and can't wait to try my next Style Arc pattern, Willow. 

Shipping was $12.50 for the three patterns I ordered- Kate, Willow and the freebie of the month, Brenda, and delivery took about two weeks. Go for it!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

An "Easy" Top

I can spend a long time flipping through pattern books or browsing online, but often it's an image on Pattern Review or someone's blog that makes me feel an urgent need to make a certain look.

That's what happened a while back when I saw Vogue 8833 on Goodbye Valentino.

Sarah's original version was sleeveless, with a ruffle along the front edges. I just loved the idea of a wrap style blouse and knew immediately it was a "must sew" pattern. 

I finally got around to giving it a go last weekend. I envisioned it in gingham for fall, with 3/4 length sleeves and the collar with band. Once again, my local fabric store let me down, as every bit of the gingham fabric was mostly polyester. It was cheap as dirt though, so I bought some in orange & white.

My camera refused to let me shoot without the flash inside but I promise the top isn't nearly as shiny as it appears in these pictures. 
Side view showing poorly fitting sleeve : (

Here's the quick 411 on my experience with Vogue 8833:

It's a "Custom Fit" pattern, meaning that multiple cup sizes are included. I LOVE this feature. I cut the size 10 with a B cup and feel like I still could have taken out a little in the upper front chest, but the princess seam needed no alteration. 

When I make this again, I will add a little width to the hip and lengthen it by several inches. It would be more flattering on me if it were longer, and it is most definitely longer on the pattern envelope model. I will also shorten the tie belt. 

Maybe I am simply terrible at sleeve installation, but my last two tops have had sleeves that were too big for the armscye. The crappy fabric on this one didn't help. I would love to know if anyone else encounters this problem and what the simplest adjustment prior to cutting would be.

The collar band was a success. Instead of the pattern directions, I used techniques from the Craftsy Jacket Class, and a few different internet tutorials. It wasn't speedy, and the collar ended up backwards, but practice makes perfect and I doubt anyone will ever inspect it closely enough to tell. 

This style really suits me, and the pattern deserves better fabric, so I'll try again. I really loved Sarah's idea for the ruffled neckline and intend to shamelessly copy it.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Lisette Jacket: Just for fun!

How's this for fun? A sweet little hot pink somethin' to liven up  just about anything. This adorable Lisette jacket pattern caught my eye when I was skimming the review gallery on Pattern Review. It was calling, no, make that screaming my name. 

I bought it, got myself some HOT PINK pique at Hancocks, and stitched this baby up in an evening. Couture, she ain't. But she can go happily to work with black slacks, and to my nephew's game with jeans, and out for drinks with khaki capris, so she's my kind of girl for Fall! 

I'm not going to list all the faults. OK, yes I am, but just this once, and then I'm going to move on and enjoy this precious little top. 

First, the good...Princess seams- Yay!! easy fitting through the bust and back. Ruffled collar- too damn cute. On seam welt pockets-  nice detail. One button loop closure- stylish, comfortable,fun.

Now the bad... Unlined- have to serge finish every seam and edge. Unlined-the fabric wrinkles at elbows and looks like it wishes it was lined. Unlined- the facing is too wide and awkward, and just generally looks sad to me. The Pockets- too small and high to be useful, I would prefer faux welts because I will never use these pockets. Sleeve heads-poorly drafted and much too high. Shame on me for squeezing them into the armscye with so much extra fullness. 

Cute button & loop. I think I trimmed by neckline
seam too much. 
Unfortunate sleeve heads

Teensy on seam pockets- but
welts look nice. 


Sometimes perfection is overrated. Sometimes all you want is immediate gratification and a little sass. Miss Lisette 2209 has got that covered. 

This isn't to say she might not come back in the future all lined and fitted and fancy.... 

Thanks for stopping by!!

Monday, September 9, 2013

An exercise in fitting: Side Zip Pants

Did any woman on tv rock the side zip ankle pant better than Laura Petrie? This is one of my favorite looks: fitted tapered pants, ballet flats or low heels and a turtleneck or knit top. I'm not willowy like Laura, but I think this simple style of pants works well on just about every figure type. In fact, another one of my favorite television women, Ina Garten, is the polar opposite of Mary Tyler Moore shapewise, but always looks stylish in her ankle pants when she's shopping for cheese or bread in the Hamptons.

Butterick 5614 has been in my pattern file for a while and I made a less than successful linen version a while ago, then blamed it on the pattern and shelved it in disgust. 

This time, I decided to give it my best shot and begin with a muslin. I referred to a few fitting articles and made minor changes, namely pinching out diagonal creases in the front crotch and vertical creases in the center back leg, from the seat to the knee. 

The biggest adjustment was what I lovingly refer to as the "big ass" adjustment, which required me to add about 2 inches to the center back seam. That's right- 2 inches! 

I like the way these fit but there's still room for refinement. I have a great fitting pair of similar RTW pants in my closet and compared them seam to seam. Next time, I will move the seams forward slightly (increase back side width and decrease front side width) and add about 1/2" to the back crotch. Hopefully that will further improve the fit at the front crotch. There's a Craftsy class on custom pants fitting, One Pattern Many Looks, that I have been eyeing, which would probably be worth the time and money. 

This is a great basic pattern and the fitted nature is probably going to require significant adjustment for most bodies. The style is so classic, that it's worth spending some time getting it right. Seriously, it's 1 1/2 yards of fabric, six seams and a zipper. As Ina would say, "How easy is that?"

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cloth Napkins with Mitered Hem: A Tutorial


 We've been invited to visit some  friends at their North Carolina beach house. A hostess gift is in order, and along with a nice bottle of wine and candles, I thought some seersucker napkins might be a perfect beach house offering. 

We never use paper napkins in our house, unless we are eating crabs or ribs, in which case a roll of paper towels on the table is ok with me. I have collected several sets of four over the years, but our favorites are a big set of seersucker ones that I made at least eight years ago and are still used daily. They are soft, yet sturdy and naturally a little wrinkly, so they feel right at home with pizza or burgers, but step up just fine for Sunday's roast chicken. I even pack them in my lunch- a desk lunch feels so much more dignified with a nice big cloth napkin in your lap!  Linen, chambray, twill or gingham are also good choices.  Printed quilting cottons will work, but you will have a definite wrong side. 

Good cloth napkins can be on the pricey side, but they are so easy to make, it doesn't make sense not to sew your own. Plus, they make an awesome gift.

Now, you could just cut a big square and double turn the hem all the way around, but that can lead to lumpy, uneven corners that scream home-made. Here's an easy, fool proof way to make cloth napkins with a nice mitered hem that look pro and will wear forever. 

Materials needed: Cotton Fabric- yardage to cut out as many 20" squares as you desire
                             Water soluble fabric marker
                             Pins (optional) & thread

Begin with pre-washed cotton fabric. Cut into 20" squares.  I use a rotary cutter and self healing mat to get nice and precise. 

Press a narrow 1/4" hem around all four sides.

 Fold a corner of the fabric, right sides together, lining up the pressed edges.

Using your ruler, eyeball a nice right triangle ( two short sides are equal) using 3/4" for the measurement of the short sides. The pressed hem will be the longer side .

This will be your stitching line, so draw a line with the water soluble marker to mark it.

Sorry for the blurry picture. Repeat with the other three corners, then sew all four corner along the marked seam line, being careful to make sure the hemmed edges line up exactly. I didn't pin mine, but you certainly can if it helps. 


Trim off the corners leaving about a 1/4" seam allowance. Then turn the hem right side out.

Use a point turner if necessary and marvel at your beautiful mitered corners! Press all four sides-

Then stitch close to the pressed edge all the way around.

Voila! A quick press and you're done! 

If you have questions, please email me.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Rickshaw Kurta

Sarah from Goodbye Valentino posted about her pursuit of the perfect tunic. I can so relate.

Until I hit my mid-forties, I was a die hard tucker-inner. I didn't feel comfortable with my shirt tails hanging out, all sloppy like. I didn't even especially like wearing "blouses," preferring knit tops in the summer months and ribbed turtlenecks in winter, all neatly tucked in with a belt. Slowly but surely, as good ol' gravity began to work her magic, looser tops began to work their way into my wardrobe. 

Winter looks are still a challenge, but I have fully embraced the freedom of a nice, flowy summer top that falls just below the hip and I'm particularly enamored with the Kurta tops by Rickshaw Designs

Theirs are made of printed cotton voile, imported from India, I believe. That stuff is really hard  impossible to find. The limited selection of cotton voile that I was able to locate online was mostly pretty ugly.  I did, however, have a nice red linen in my stash, that is the same fabric I used for this dress

Here's my version of the Rickshaw Kurta:

This is an OOP pattern that I use all the time

Views C&D have exactly the "bib" design I was looking for. For the pintuck section, I just took a long rectangle of fabric and made rows and rows of 1/4" pintucks, the cut the pattern piece from it. I pressed the rows of pintucking in opposite directions from the center. 

It's hard to get a good close-up of the pintuck detail. The pattern calls for the bib section to be completely faced, but I wanted a bias binding like the Rickshaw one. I also cut the sleeves to 3/4 length and slightly gathered them with  the bias binding. 

I wear this top all the time, and probably like it better that I would the real thing. If I ever get my hands on some block printed cotton voile ala Rickshaw, I'll be whipping up another for sure.

Here's another top made from this same super-versatile pattern. This one is slimmer with narrower shoulders, bust darts and a slightly curved lower edge made from a silky poly. Inspired by a Talbots top.


It's chilly and dreary here in the coastal Mid-Atlantic and I'm thinking about getting started on this jacket next- unless my Style-Arc Kate Dress arrives in the mail first!

Thanks for stopping by. -Pam

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The holy grail

Not really the holy grail, a perfect fitting pants pattern is probably the holy grail, but when it's your intention to sew your wardrobe and you are over 25, the perfect knit wrap dress pattern is up there.

The gold standard: DVF
image via Pinterest

Iconic. Flattering. Seasonless. Classic. 

And spendy. Silk jersey is gorgeous and costly, and once I get it perfect I plan to invest in some, but we aren't there quite yet.  Enter Vogue 8379.

117 sewers made and reviewed this pattern on Pattern Review and it was an excellent place to start. With some $5/yard poly knit from the bargain bin at Hancocks, I began my quest. 
Most of the reviewers found the skirt much too full and removed various amounts of width. I took their advice and folded  a good 18 inches out of my skirt pattern pieces. 

I cut out the smallest size, adjusted for my small bust, per usual, and pinched a tiny bit from the shoulder seams.Since this was a "test dress" I stabilized the neck edge with clear elastic and folded it over instead of using the facing pieces. This was a fairly quick project and I mostly used my serger for construction.

The finished skirt turned out to be still too full for my taste. I tapered the side seams some more, and messed around with the front edges, which turned out to be a mistake. Instead of hanging straight from the waist, they angle in a little bit.  

Here's where I ended up.

As you can see, my belt is WAY to short. The fabric had a border print running down each edge that I had to remove, so I ran short, literally. The top part is great, perfect really, but I'm just not loving the skirt.  It's not a wadder by any means and I'll be wearing it, but the search for a better pattern will go on.  The DVF inspiration dress is straight, which I think  is more flattering but it doesn't have any bodice pleats, which is a feature I do love about Vogue 8379. I'll always take a little boost in the bust.

Hmmm.... What about this?

The Style Arc Kate dress. Straight-ish skirt with no waist- check. Bust pleats- check. Surely the collar and cuff pieces that I love from the Vogue pattern can be made to work with this one.

 I haven't tried any Style Arc patterns yet, but have read many glowing reviews about their fit. It might be time to finally place an order. If you have any experience or advice to share regarding Style Arc, I would love to hear it. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Jacket Love.

"I'm in love, I'm in love and I don't care who knows it!" - Will Ferrell in "Elf"

So somehow during a surfing session, I clicked on a link, which led to the amazing Craftsy site, which led to creating an account, which led to an inbox message, which led to the impulsive purchase of the online course Sew Better Sew Faster. I have been wanting to make a red canvas jacket forever, there it was, sitting in my email, a better, faster one. Proceed to check out. 

The course included a "free" paper pattern for Jacket Express which comes via mail, and 8 online lessons with the lovely Janet Pray and promised to reveal sewing industry secrets for streamlined construction methods and eliminating pins. 

I definitely came away with a few new tricks, but primarily I came away with a bad case of equipment envy because Janet has one tricked out sewing room. Starting with a fabulous straight stitch machine with a large flat bed. And I believe she could bend wood with her iron. 

Janet recommended a jacket weight cotton, and most of her samples appeared to be made out of duck. Janet herself used 8 oz. denim to teach the class. My canvas, prewashed and dried, was super heavy and stiff, and required a size 18 needle. 

The pattern has a million pieces, which is why the finished product looks so professional. Janet calmly leads you through the unconventional steps that have you breaking the different jobs like sewing, serging and top stitching into batches to save time. My poor serger is an aging diva and flat out refused to deal with more than two layers of the canvas and forced me to bind some of my seams and edges. 


I'm not gonna lie, this jacket took me over a week, working in chunks of 1-3 hours in the evening and a goodly number of swear words were uttered. This had nothing to do with the pattern or Janet's skillful instruction, and everything to do with my determination to make this jacket out of such a heavy material. In the end, I can say unequivocally that it was worth it. This is a garment that I will wear and enjoy for years. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013


The ribbon skirt is finished!

click on the picture to see a close up

I am over the moon with this project. Now, in my mind, a ribbon skirt is one of those southern belle, "ladies who lunch" sort of items that while just so darn adorable, is more special occasion  than wardrobe workhorse. An anniversary dinner is on the horizon- possibly in St. Michaels (?) and you can bet that I will be sporting my new skirt!

See how nicely the side seams match up? 

Click on the picture to see a close up

I'm wearing it here with a plain tank top, but it looks a little dressier with the halter top that I made last month.

I'm anxious to see the others from the sew- along at Goodbye Valentino. Mine isn't all that pencil-y, as far as the design goes.  This is one of my favorite skirt patterns and the rows of ribbon don't have any give, so I am happy with a little more room at the bottom.

The ribbon choice, which is 180 degrees from my original plan, turned out to be so much fun. Certainly no one would suspect that it is $1/yd ribbon from Hobby Lobby. I think this technique would be spectacular on a wedding dress with ivory silk grosgrain. 

My sincere thanks to Sarah and Julie for the sew-along. Sewing is so much more fun when you have like-minds to share the experience.