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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book Review: "Couture Sewing Techniques, Revised & Updated"

The world of haute couture is a place where only a privileged few can ever hope to reside, right? Wrong. Fashion historian Claire B. Shaeffer opened the door to this exclusive realm in her authoritative guide to the techniques that define couture sewing. And now, the industry bible, Couture Sewing Techniques, has been revised and updated throughout — with new photos and a chapter on specialty fabrics. No one can unravel couture garment construction the way Schaeffer can, from the art of hand sewing to mastering edge finishes, from classic closures to shaping a garment for a perfect fit. Readers learn all the basics — and more importantly: how to apply the techniques — on skirts and sleeves, pockets and jackets, evening gowns, and more. Gorgeous photos, clear illustrations, and concise language combine to make this the most complete couture-sewing course available.

I thought about doing a comprehensive "review" of this book. But I don't think that's necessary. We ALL know that Claire B. Shaeffer's original "Couture Sewing Techniques" book is the go to source for REAL couture sewing! Not neat RTW finishing effects, but actual couture! So this book has just been re-vamp and it is a MUST HAVE for those of us that like to keep our sewing game "stepped up".

This book is divided into two parts:
Part One - "The Basics of Couture Sewing"
  • Chapter 1 - Inside the World of Haute Couture
  • Chapter 2 - The Art of Hand Sewing
  • Chapter 3 - Shaping the Garment
  • Chapter 4 - Edge Finishes
  • Chapter 5 - Closures

Part Two - "Applying Couture Techniques"
  • Chapter 6 - Skirts & Pants
  • Chapter 7 - Blouses & Dresses
  • Chapter 8 - Sleeves
  • Chapter 9 - Pockets
  • Chapter 10 - Jackets & Coats
  • Chapter 11 - Designing with Fabric
  • Chapter 12 - Special Occasions
I also purchased her DVD:

Friday, April 29, 2011


Long live McQueen!

I think Princess Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge's dress was absolutely RESPLENDENT! It was simple, elegant and will look absolutely timeless in photographs for years to come. Her dress was designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. It has a sweetheart corseted bodice with a French Chantilly lace overlay and a full skirt. The dress is made from ivory and white satin gazar with a train measuring 2 meters and 70 centimeters. LOVELY!

The dress was obviously inspired by Princess of Monaco - Grace Kelly's iconic gown.

And you too can have one! Here is a great starting point - Vogue 2979!

What did you think of the her dress?

What did you think of the maid of honor, her sister Pippa wearing a white/ivory dress? I don't think this would happen often in the USA.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

McCall's 6326

I always notice there are key pieces that I feel are missing from my wardrobe. And this time it's cute tops. That's what my focus is going to be on for a moment. Cute tops I can just throw on!

It was really windy yesterday!

Project Details:

Pattern Sizing: 4-20, I cut the 14. I probably could have cut a 12.

Close-fitting tops.

Did it look like the pattern envelope when you were done sewing it? Exactly!

Were the instructions easy to follow? Extremely easy! Great project for a beginner.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love the style. I wanted a cute top that has the comfort of a t-shirt, but it doesn't look like one. The one thing I didn't like is that as with most Big 4 pattern companies, this pattern is drafted with A LOT of ease. For a knit top that should be close-fitting, my personal preference is that it has negative ease. I cut the 14 and I still had to take it in. Just be aware that you would probably need to go down a size or two.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made? Not a lot. I lengthened it by only an inch and like I said previously, I had to do some nipping and tucking. Also, I tacked the shoulder strap down to the bodice. IMO, having it all act as one-piece keeps everything in place. And trust, I wore this top to a park and played with the family and it stayed in place.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I wouldn't sew this view, but I may sew one of the others. And I do recommend it!

Friday, April 22, 2011


I'm asked quite OFTEN about "what I'm wearing underneath" garments I make. So I thought I do a post to discuss my favorite underpinnings. As we know, the WRONG undergarments can ruin the look of an outfit -- no matter how well it's sewn or how much you paid for it. And looking "lumpy and bumpy" is just not how I want to present myself to the world. I'm a firm believer in investing "good" money in well-fitting undergarments. Here are some of my favorites:



Disclaimer: I NEVER attach it to my bra because that's just too much work! And it stays up just fine!

These are the greatest things ever to wear underneath pants.

I'm not saying anyone should run out and buy anything on MY list. I'm pretty anal about my underwear and bras. And these are things that I've acquired over a period of time.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


So, it seems the "hot" discussion in the sewing streets seem to be "Jumpsuits: Yea or Nay"? This is my 3rd one I've made in the last year! So it's no guessing on my stance.

A very brief review, since I made another version of this previously:

McCall's 6083, View C. I used a heather grey cotton/spandex knit that I've had for a while. Made my usual lengthening alterations (1" at the waist and 3" at the hemline).

There are varying opinions on jumpsuits. Especially regarding who *should* be wearing them.

Which brings me to the MOST clichéd sentence in the online sewing community:

"That'll only look good on someone tall and thin."

This is the go-to comment seen in blog posts, blog comments and sewing messageboards (and probably a lot of other fashion sites) for ANYTHING remotely fashionable or trendy. So if you aren't 6'0" tall and a size 00 or have hips, I suggest you relegate yourselves to wearing muumuus. But I'll be wearing a jumpsuit!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jo-Ann Fabrics and the new Vogue Patterns

As the rest of you pattern-a-holics know that April 10th through the 16th, Vogue Patterns were on sale at J0-Anns (my store is #2169) for $3.99. Of course any true pattern-a-holic mark these dates on their calendars! Well, when I get in the store bright and early on the 10th for the new releases? No patterns. BUT -- the new catalog was on the table. Are they really wanting to play with my emotions? See, I had already purchased a couple of the new patterns directly from the VP website during one of their sales because Hancock Fabrics did NOT have the new patterns in stock. But as we know, the more patterns you purchase, the more the shipping rate increases. And I just can't make myself do that when I live only a little over a mile from Jo-Anns AND Hancock! So, back to my story... Okay, I ask the ONLY Jo-Anns associate I could find, the one lady at the cutting counter if the patterns were in and they just hadn't put the out? She gave me a "BLANK" stare and said, "They could be." I'm standing there tapping my fingernails on the counter giving her the "well, are you going to find out for me" look. So she gives me her story about being the only one there and that she couldn't leave the cutting area. Fine. It's only the 10th and the sale runs through the 16th.

On the 14th, Hancocks is having their pattern sale. So I do my damage over there and run by Jo-Anns. Still no new Vogue Patterns. I inquire yet again. This time the sales associate attempts to insult my intelligent by telling me, "Well, they ARE on sale. We've probably sold out." Even though in my mind, I'm thinking BULLSHIT! But instead, I give her a tight-lipped smile and just say, "Highly doubtful. I was just in here the other day and they hadn't even been placed in the cabinets. And also, the new pattern number tabs aren't there." Again, I'm given the "we've been busy and they're probably still in the back story". I tell myself, it's ONLY patterns and it's really not that deep. So I leave Jo-Anns once again empty-handed.

On the 16th, the LAST day of the sale, I was determined to get my patterns. It's just the principle now. So I march in with determination and list in hand. I walk straight to the drawer. Sigh... no patterns. I grab the VP catalog off of the table and stalk down the first associate that was not at the cutting counter or the register. He gives me the same ol' story of the patterns probably not being there and the days they get a shipment. I tell him, "Look! You're not dealing with a novice. I know when those catalogs come in, the patterns come with them!" He flips to the back of the catalog and the date of receipt is written there. It had been in the store a week! He saw that he was dealing with a crazed woman someone that really wanted those patterns and so he tracked them down. We went through a very unorganized box of assorted McCall's, Butterick and Vogue Patterns and found each one on my list. I wish I remembered that male associate's name because he was extremely helpful!

All of this to say that it was utterly ridiculous for that catalog to be placed on the table if the Jo-Anns associates were too lazy busy to put the patterns in the drawers!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Simplicity 2692 - Electric Blue One-shoulder Dress

Project Details:

Pattern: Simplicity 2692 - View D

Pattern Sizing: 4-20. I cut the size 4.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? It does!

Fabric: Blue cotton/spandex jersey.

Were the instructions easy to follow? The were very easy. Since I made this dress in a knit, I serged most of it. I completed it within a couple of hours.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love that this pattern offered many versions and you could really make it your own.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: According to the flat pattern measurements, I knew all of the pieces would be a little too wide. I altered the bodice, the midriff and the skirt by removing 2 inches from the width. She's tall and narrow.

Conclusion: I made this dress for a school banquet that Mikaela was attending. This pattern was leftover from stacks of patterns I had bought Amber. Glad I have a second daughter that can use these!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Remember the film I worked on as a stylist...

back in February? You know the one, "Styling The Beautiful People"? Well... our little short film that took only 6 days of production in Baltimore has been accepted into the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival! I couldn't be PROUDER of my friend Director/Writer Monica Mingo and Executive Producer/Writer Terrell Suggs! They did a fabulous job of putting together an amazing crew and finding brand new talent which made this film amazing!

Here's my name in the credits:

Congratulations toTeam Sizzle Films!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Simplicity 2224 - White Cotton Twill Drawstring Pants

Project Detail:

Pattern: Simplicity 2224 - View C

Pattern Size: XS(6-8) - XL(22-24). I cut a M(14-16)

Description: Misses' pull on drawstring pants.

Did it look like the pattern envelope once you were done sewing it? I think they look about as close as possible to an illustration.

Fabric: Stretch Cotton Twill (97% cotton/3% lycra).

Where the instructions easy to follow? The instructions were extremely easy! A beginner could easily sew these pants.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love the easiness of the style. I wanted a pair of white pants that looked crisp, but still had a comfort and casualness about them. The problem that I had with this pattern is that it is huge! Even based on the finished measurements and the fact that my fabric has lycra, I cut the 14 instead of my usual 16 I would normally cut in pants. I still had to take the pants in on the front and back seams. I could have cut a 12. So if you decide to make these, you may want to go down a size or TWO!

Pattern alterations or design changes you made: I lengthened them by 5". They were pretty short and I new I would be wearing them with some sort of heeled sandals.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I don't know if I'll sew these again. I have about 2 more pair of pants I plan to make on this style and I may use this pattern and/or another Simplicity that's similar. Yes, I do recommend as long as you are aware they run large.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Walmart will be stocking fabric again.

Bentonville, Ark. - Walmart U.S. said it will broaden its assortment by some 8,500 skus, reintroducing some items it had cut during an earlier bout of editing - including fabrics.

In 2009, Walmart began eliminating fabric departments in many stores as part of its upscaling remodel to lure higher-income shoppers out of food and commodities into its general merchandise departments.
The fabric strategy proved a boom to competitors like Jo-Ann stores, which in December 2009 said Walmart's move was opening up greater market share for the specialty retailer.

Restored products - many of them regional food favorites - will carry "It's Back" flags.

Walmart also will step up its price match policy and is launching a national TV advertising campaign today to support it.

I think this is a great idea. But there are people that disagree:
"And once again, Walmart puts another nail in the coffin of small businesses all across America. Small locally-owned quilt shops have higher quality fabrics and notions and superior customer service, but cannot compete on price alone. And shame on those people who will buy their fabrics at Walmart and then visit their local quilt shops to get help and advice with their projects!"

What that commenter said may perhaps be true. BUT... yes, there's a BIG "BUT"... every person that has an interest in purchasing fabric is not a quilter. AND there are plenty of places that don't have independent fabric stores. A Hancock Fabrics, a Jo-Ann's AND a Walmart fabric department are the ONLY game in town.

I never thought I would, but I miss my Walmart fabric department. Every so often, I would find some gems. So I say the more fabric retail options the better.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Marking White Fabric

When you're working with white fabric, what do YOU use to make markings?

Do you take a chance and use colored chalks, the purple disappearing pens, thread tracing or tailor's tacks?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Vogue 1249 - Mark & James by Badgley Mischka Strapless Jumpsuit

Project Details:

Pattern: Vogue 1249 - Mark & James by Badgley Mischka

Pattern Sizing: 6-20, I cut the size 16.

Description: Close-fittting (through bustline), partially interfaced, lined jumpsuit has back invisible zipper.

Did it look like the pattern envelope once you were done sewing it? I think it's identical!

Fabric: Matte Jersey

Lining: Stretch mesh

Where the instructions easy to follow? The instructions were pretty average. If you have experience boning a strapless bodice and making pants, then you'll breeze right through the construction.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love that this was a great strapless jumpsuit. I've been loving jumpsuits for a couple of years now, so I'm glad Vogue released this pattern. Also, I'm a fan of Badgley Mischka! Here's the RTW version:

Pattern alterations or design changes you made: I lengthened the bodice pieces by 1". I made a 1/2" FBA. And I added 3" to the pants length. I also added grosgrain as a facing.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I may sew this again in the future in black and probably without the ruffle. I know jumpsuits can be somewhat "controversial", but if you have enough panache to wear one then this is a great pattern that produces a "couture-like" jumpsuit.

***My Personal fabric recommendation - I think this jumpsuit would only be comfortable to wear in a fabric with stretch. If you decide to make this in a woven, just make sure it's one with stretch.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Fabric Trend: Plissé

is one of the hottest fabric trends of the moment. It was seen all over the runways for Spring/Summer 2011. For those of you that are unfamiliar:
  • plis·sé/plēˈsā/ -
    A fabric with a puckered or pleated effect resulting from printing the fabric with caustic soda. The printed part of the fabric shrinks, causing the unprinted part to pucker.
Some of my favorite looks are from Lanvin - Spring 2011.

Lanvin Plisse One Shoulder Top - $1,255 & Plisse Pencil Skirt - $1,620 - Neiman Marcus

Red pleated crepe de chine - $4.95/yd., Denver Fabrics

Lanvin Plisse Kimono Gown - $2,115, Neiman Marcus

Dark periwinkle pleated crepe de chine - $4.95/yd., Denver Fabrics

As you can see, it drapes BEAUTIFULLY. The pleats run from selvage to selvage. The fabric is 60" wide and it can be cut cross grain if you want your pleats to run vertically and the selvage can be used in lieu of a hem. I'm still deciding what I'm going to make with my fabric, but I'll be using it SOON!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

McCall's 6204 - Silk Chiffon Caftan

Project Details:

Pattern: McCall's 6204, View A

Pattern Sizing:
8-24W. I cut the 16.

Loose fitting, pullover tunics A, B have extended shoulders and stitched hems; tunic A has short sleeves on right side, left side drapes, angled hem, optional purchased jewel appliques, wrong side of fabric shows; tunic B has shirt tail hem, purchased jewel stones.

Did it look like the pattern envelope when you were done sewing it? I think it does.

Fabric: Silk Chiffon (100% silk) that has been in my stash for some time. I think it was purchased at Hancock Fabrics.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, they were!

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love the style. I've been seeing silk kaftans/tunics everywhere with pretty big price tags that make me glad I can sew!

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made? Not a lot. I added 2 inches to the hem. I wanted to make sure that it was still long enough when/if I belted it. Since I was sewing with lightweight fabric, I made French seams and of course narrow hems.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I might. If I find another great silk chiffon print that I love... I just may. I do recommend this as a quick and easy project.