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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Erica, which one should I buy?" - Re-Post!

for Beginners

I get asked 2 - 3 times a week via email to offer up opinion or give advice on what machine a beginner should get. Sewing machines are very personal. It's almost like asking me what kind of bra you should buy. YOU have to decide what type of sewing you will do most. Do you want to make clothes? Home decor? Hem jeans? Heirloom sewing? Quilting? Lots of embroidery? And most of all, which machine fits your budget.

Some machines are more machine than you actually need. You can get one that does hundreds of decorative stitches. To be honest, since I primarily sew garments, I use maybe 5 stitches on my machine. My requirement on my machine was that it does nice buttonholes. IMO, buttonholes can make or break a garment. Also, I MUST HAVE a free arm (for sewing small circumferences such as cuffs). Some sewists have requirements that the machine must have good light. Well, I never even notice the light on mine because I use an Ott Lite. Others prefer a sturdy, heavy-weight machine. You have to decided whether you want a mechanical or a computerized machine. Some machines are sewing/embroidery combos... these can really be expensive. If you have no desire to do embroidery, then I would suggest not spending the extra money on a combo.

Here are my top 5 suggestions:

Bernina Activa 220

Originally published December 2007

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


What sewing technique do you find most challenging?

Mine: Welt pockets and bound buttonholes. They both make me want to pull my hair out.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Possible Prom Dress

My daughter's junior prom is in May and we've been gathering ideas for her dress. It seems like she's been changing her mine about the style and color every five minutes. The one consistent is, she knows that she doesn't want to do a strapless this time and she want's a full length gown. Great... that's still pretty vague... SIGH.

But then last night, the SAG Awards aired and there was Viola Davis (she's great in "Doubt") in this stunning one-shoulder gown and my mouth dropped! I found a picture and showed it to Amber. She immediately fell in love with this dress!

The dress is from David Meister's Spring 2009 collection.

Simplicity 2692 is a great pattern for this dress... even if it looks craptastic (is that a word) on the envelope.

She's still undecided on the color. She either wants the color of the David Meister gown or that gorgeous electric blue. We still have plenty of time decide.

A Big Thank You!

I just want to say thank you to the ladies that nominated me for this award!


Again, thanks so much ladies! I am truly honored!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Want a hat like Aretha's?

Well, you can get your version HERE! Her hat cost $179 and was made by Detroit hat-maker - Mr. Song Millinery. A lot of people had strong opinions on this hat. I'm a Southern girl that was raised "in the church". This is a typical "church lady" hat to me. I'm not that old, but I remember as a girl when ladies dressed! I remember my grandmother readying herself for service. She was ALWAYS pulled together in a fabulous suit (she hated dresses), killer shoes with the matching bag (J. Renee was her favorite brand) and topped off with a TO DIE FOR hat! I love hats too. Mr. Song Millinery has some pretty fab brims:

These are the ones I'd pick for me!

Book Review: "Cool Couture"

Cool Couture: Construction Secrets For Runway Style

Product Description:

Cool Couture is a home sewer’s guide to professional, designer-quality construction and finishing. Fashion designer Kenneth King provides step-by-step instruction in the basic, reliable techniques of classical couture.

He provides his own shortcuts, careful instruction, and advice to help home sewers of every level produce impeccable results. Each technique is presented with simple how-to drawings and detailed step-by-step instruction. Fashion-forward photographs of the designer’s own couture garments and tight shots of fabrics and construction and decorative detail show the finished effects. This book is an essential reference book of couture techniques for home sewers.

Ch1: Choosing Fabrics
Ch2: Equipment and Tools
Ch3: Edge and Seam Finishes
Ch4: Piping
Ch5: Pockets and Buttonholes
Ch6: The Tailored Shoulder
Ch7: Designer Embellishments

This is my first Kenneth D. King book (clutch the pearls!) and I have to admit that I am impressed. This is a paperback book, with great illustrations and fabulous color photos of the author's opulent designs.

I own a couple of couture books, but this one is different. He has an entire chapter on piping! Not only is this a couture sewing book, he also offers techniques on tailoring in chapter 6. He even shows you how to draft the interfacing for the jacket fronts. This information is in my "Tailoring" book, but it just seems much more concise in this one. Where was this book when I was making my coat? I'm also very interested in chapter 5. His information on pockets is great and I can't wait to try it out.

This book is a MUST HAVE if your goal is to take your sewing from basic to the next level.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Simplicity 2756

Project Details:

Pattern: Simplicity 2756
Fabric: Silk Broadcloth

Description: Misses blouse with neckline and sleeve variations

Pattern Sizing: 4 - 22, I cut the size 14

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing? Sure does! Looks like the one on the cover of the envelope, only I like my fabric better!

Were the instructions easy to follow? The instructions were very easy. I usually don't pay much attention when making something as simple as this blouse, but I had to refer to them for the sleeve construction.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love the sleeves! I've been a fan of bubble sleeves for a while now. Remember this blouse? It's one of my favorites.

Fabric used: This is a gorgeous silk that I found at Hancock. I had it in my stash since last Spring. I hadn't used it because it was only 45" wide and I had about 2 1/2 yds. Plus, I thought the print was so pretty and unusual that it called for something kinda simple and I'd been waiting for the right pattern.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Not a single one. It fit right out of the envelope. There was enough design ease built in that I did not have to do a FBA.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Probably not. I'm looking to sew a few basics for Spring and there are so many more tops I want to make.

Conclusion: I feel that I'm really going to enjoy this top. It's a great transitional piece that will work great in the Spring and Summer. I can see it now with white linen pants!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Jason Wu Inaugural Gown

Michelle Obama strode into the first inaugural ball of the evening wearing a beautiful one-shoulder sweeping, creamy white, crystal-studded and ruched gown by 26-year-old designer Jason Wu. She shook her head, along with a pair of striking drop earrings, when her husband, the new President of the U.S., asked the crowd “How good lookin’ is my wife?”

- The Style Insider

She's worn Jason Wu before. The design is very similar to the hand embroidered rosettes on the sheath.

So... what do you guys think?

Holy Toledo!

Michelle Obama wore Isabel Toledo today! The dress and coat are a beautiful "maize" colored, jeweled brocade. It's wonderful to see that she is loyal to all of her favorite designers.

"Obama's choice of a warm golden-yellow coat and dress ensemble that appeared to be brocade with a bejeweled collar is significant on at least two counts. First, the color. Since the Elizabethan Era, shades of yellow have symbolized renewal and hope, a platform on which Obama based his campaign. Also, President-elect Obama has been vocal about his desire to improve relations with Cuba, and some wonder if Michelle Obama's choice of Narciso Rodriguez for the "We Are One," concert -- another Cuban-born designer, and now Toledo, also of Cuban descent -- has meaning." - Newsday

Happy Inauguration Day!

"Renewing America's Promise"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Simplicity 2812

Project Details:

Pattern: Simplicity 2812
Fabric: Quilted Brown Outerwear from Joann's
Lining: Orange Peau de Soie
Notions: Six snaps

Description: Misses Lined Coat in Two Lengths with Collar Variations

Pattern Sizing: This pattern is sized from 4 - 22. I cut the size 14.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing? Yes... almost exactly except for my collar.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Hmmmm... If you've ever worked with one of the Project Runway patterns (or any pattern with lots of variations), you know how the instructions jump all over the place. Well, that was the case with this one. A complete pain in the butt! Make sure you highlight all applicable instructions before you begin. Other than that, they were fine.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Again with the Project Runway patterns, the yardage is broken down by the variation pieces. I've worked with a few of these patterns and it has been my experience that once you add everything up, it requires you to use way more fabric than needed... way more! Also, there was an excessive amount of ease at the waistline. You would *think* that with princess seams and a waist seam, you'd have more of a tailored fit. Not the case with this one. I cut my normal size 14 and it was HUGE at the waist. I had to bring in the seams about half an inch. Here's the back.

My favorite part of this jacket is the collar. It's a gathered, Peter Pan-style collar that I've been seeing on a lot of RTW and the large welt pockets. What else I love is all of the different variations this pattern included. The possibilities are endless with this!

Fabric used: Remember when I asked about this fabric? And Remember when I got it? I love this fabric! It sewed perfectly with a microtex needle. I mentioned to one of my girlfriends that I was making a jacket in brown and she suggested that the lining should be orange and I took her advice! I found this beautiful orange peau de soie that was a dream to work with.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I made my usual 1" FBA. I added 1" to the length. Even though the pattern provided an undercollar, it was to be cut in one piece, on the fold. I added a 5/8" seam allowance and cut it on the bias. You can see that here. I also added a center back pleat to the lining and bagged it. I had previously discussed those alterations and the reasoning here. For the lining, I lowered the sleeve caps by 1/2" and the front and back shoulder seams by 1/4". I added 1/2" shoulder pads and sleeve heads.

Instead of buttons, I used snaps. I thought I'd like them a lot more with the quilted fabric... and I do! I also added an embroidery design to the lining (aren't you guys glad I turned on the embroidery machine, LOL) and a hang chain. And here is a close up of the hems.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I don't know if I'll actually do it, but I would be willing to sew this again. With all of the variations, I could produce a completely different garment. Would I recommend it? If this style suits you, go for it!

Conclusion: Since completing this jacket, I've had it on almost everyday! I've fallen completely in love with it!

Happy MLK Jr. Day!

I am living the dream!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Vogue Patterns - Spring 09: Can We Talk?

Let me just start off by saying that I feel my expectations were set way too high on this collection. There was so much hyped up anticipation on the web that I just... well... expected more. Needless to say, I was not that impressed. There are a few that I like and wouldn't mind sewing, but nothing that I love. Let's start the show:

V1087 - Donna Karan - I like this dress. I like how it wraps across the front and is fitted in the back. I think this would make a great Little White Dress or Little Black Dress.

V1099 - Badgley Mischka - This little jacket is adorable and I'll be making this. However, they can keep the pants!

V1088 - Donna Karan - I'm a sucker for a halter dress. This is one that I would wear very casually with a pair of flat thong sandals (or heels).

V1093 - DKNY - This jacket caught my eye from first glance. Not sure if I'd do the entire ensemble. If I did, I'd definitely shorten the skirt to the knee. That's such an odd length and very hard to pull off if you don't have enough leg.

V1092 - Tracy Reese - Last, but not least... I think I do love the skirt! And if I get around to making this, I would want to do it in pinstripe as well. I'm still debating on the top.

Monday, January 05, 2009

M5766 - Finished!

Project Details:

McCall's 5766, view B
Fabric: Black & Ivory Houndstooth - 70% wool/30% polyester
Lining: Ivory Bemberg - 100% Acetate
Notions: Two 1 1/8" buttons; two large

Description: MISSES’ LINED COATS: Fitted across bust coats have empire waist, princess seams with pleated lower section, side seam pockets and sleeve variations; coats are above mid-knee length.

I cut a size 14 in the bodice and did my normal princess seam FBA. I cut a size 16 in the lower portion. I probably could have cut the 14 in that too.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, it did.

Were the instructions easy to follow? When I did refer to the instructions, they were fine. I mostly referred to my sewing and tailoring books for the construction and did things a little differently than the pattern instructions suggested.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? From the moment I saw this pattern, I fell in love with the lady-like, retro style, the dramatic collar and the swingy-ness.

Fabric Used: I used a black and ivory houndstooth, that's 70% wool and 30% polyester. This houndstooth print was a bit unusual and that's what I liked about it. If you notice this close up, you'll see that it has a digitized appearance. The weaving is square instead of the typical diagnal weaving which makes it look almost pixelated.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Instead of using the buttonhole loop, I decided to omit buttonholes altogether. I went with two 1 1/8" buttons on the front and snaps on the inside.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
No, I wouldn't sew it again. The style is very unique and a girl would only need one! Yes, I would.

Conclusion: I really enjoyed making this coat. I feel this project really helped my hone in on my tailoring skills.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

M5766 Update #3

The lining is in! I used Bemberg (100% acetate). It feels great, it was very easy to sew and it took a lot of heat from my gravity feed iron. When I was doing my research on coats, this is the fabric that I saw most often in RTW coats. I used the bagged lining technique and the sleeve lining was set by hand, using slipstitches. The lining hem can be done two ways: (1) free-hanging or (2) slipstitching the edge of the lining to the coat hem. I chose option 2.

Here is the notched lapels:
The upper collar:

And the under collar:

Whenever two or more layers of fabric are held together in a curved position, the upper layer must be slightly larger than the under layer to allow for curve, or the turn of cloth. The drafting of this pattern was perfect and did not need to be adjusted. Also, as you see, the under collar is drafted in two pieces and cut on the bias. Why on the bias? Because it controls the roll of the upper collar. Why two pieces? So that the grain will be the same in both collar points.

Here is one of my favorite details that drew me to this coat... the sleeve:

And here is the back of the lining:

As you see, the back of the lining has a center back pleat. This ensures that there is enough ease across the shoulders and allows for differences in the garment layers. I also added a hang chain.

All that's left to do now is add the buttons and snaps...

****ETA: The commenting problem has been resolved! Sorry for the inconvenience!