Friday, October 22, 2010

This blog has moved.

Hi all,
I've done some restructuring. You can now find a new and improved version of this blog at
See you there,

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My morning

Wonder why am I so tired (I went to bed at 7). Decide I need to take my B-12 shot. I don’t have any clean syringes. I’ll use an old one that I put in Corey’s diabetic biohazard bin. Get syringe. Put on clean needle. Draw vitamin from vial. Stick into arm. Needle unknowingly slides out of arm fat. Inject contents which then spray all over shirt and bathroom. Stick dirty needle back into vial. Draw more vitamin. Attempt to stick into other arm. Push needle. Won’t go in. Push needle. Won’t go in. Push needle harder. Goes too far (into muscle). Ouch! Pull back out a little. Inject contents. Clean up mess and hope my shirt isn’t stained by the fluorescent pink B-12 liquid. Look guiltily at dog because now there is no time for a walk. Hope that I haven’t contaminated by B-12. Go to work.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Burda 09-2010-122

Here I am vamping it up in my new dress. It's kind of hard to see the details so I played with the contrast on this photo. Hopefully it helps.

Pattern Description:
The much talked about cover dress from the September issue.

Pattern Sizing:
This came in petite sizes, 17-22, which equal regular Burda sizes 37-42. I made the 22 but with adjustments.

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

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Surprisingly they were. The only part that was confusing was attaching the armbands, but I figured it out. The instructions said to sew the ends of the arm bands together, then clean up the edges. However, the edges of the arm bands are perfectly straight. I finally figured out that they meant to clean up the edges of the dress where they arm bands get attached. There were some extra triangular pieces that needed to be removed.

Once they were removed, you pin the arm bands to the arm holes so that the ends of the arm bands extend past the seam. When stitching and you reach the end of the arm hole, you keep stitching just the arm band. Here is a photo showing how the arm band edges extend past the seam. Then you should probably attach the extending pieces to the dress by hand with invisible stitches, but I didn't. I think it looks okay without.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I loved this dress from the moment I saw the preview. As they say on Project Runway, it's sexy without being vulgar.

I dislike that Burda made this a petite pattern.

Fabric Used:
Gorgeous teal heather wool jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics. The fabric is a bit more green than it looks in the swatch. It's more a teal than an aquamarine. It's not too stretchy and sturdy--like a double knit. It was easy to sew.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I should start by saying I made this way harder than I needed to.
Burda issued this as a petite pattern. At 5'7" I am not petite. Standard Burda patterns usually fit me perfectly. Burda says that petite patterns are three inches shorter than standard, so I set about to add the three inches back in a way that didn't disrupt the proportions of the dress. There are five seams on the front of the dress. I added a half inch at each seam, plus a half inch at the hem, making up three inches, and then added the length to the back as well.

After adding a half inch to the topmost front seam, I pinned together my traced pattern and put it onto my dressform. I then made a mark on the back pattern piece even with the topmost front seam.

Then I took the pattern off the dress form, cut the pattern at the mark I just made and added 1/2 inch to the pattern at that point.

Then I repeated this for each of the four other front seams. Here is the back to the pattern with add the additional length added.

I made up a muslin. The placement of the seams across the bust were perfect--one above and one below my...uh...rack. I saw a couple versions of this dress on Burdastyle where both seams were above or across the bust instead of, well, framing it. The waist was a bit too low on the muslin, so I brought it up an inch so the curved seams hit me where they do the model in the magazine.

Even though I usually wear Burda size 44 and this was essentially a 42, I needed to make both of the side seam allowances 1.25 inches to get the right fit, so it seems like there is some ease built in.

I also widened the arm bands from 4.75 to 5 inches and interfaced them. I didn't want them too floppy. I think they could even be stiffer.

Because there is no center back seam, I couldn't really my usual swayback adjustment so there is some fabric pooling at the back, but it's not terrible.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
This is pretty distinctive so I probably won't make it again. My advice to those other non-petite ladies who haven't made this yet because of the petite sizing - add a half inch to the seams above and below the bust and leave the rest alone. Be sure to add the length to the back side too.

Love, love, love this dress. It was actually quite easy to sew. The curved pieces go together easily. I feel like a bad-ass in it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Trouble Puppet Show (Local Austin)

I went and saw the Trouble Puppet Show's production of Frankenstein last night. As Suzy Snakeyes would say...Amazeballs! I would be sending everyone I know to see it, except that it was the closing night of the show.

The puppets were amazing, the acting outstanding, the accents realistic and the content both dark, smart and funny as hell. They will be doing The Jungle next. From what I hear, it's terribly depressing, which is a bummer (ha!). But they did comedy so very well, I'll still go see how they do tragedy, despite the fact that I don't like my entertainment depressing.

All images from Trouble Puppet.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Worst Dog in the World Learns a New Skill

The theory behind the (warranty subsidized) purchase of this refrigerator was that the freezer is down at a level that is only accessed 15% of the time. We didn’t consider that the freezer would be accessible 100% of the time by some members of the family.

We came home to learn that Roni has now learned how to open up the freezer.  This is not a good development.  We presume she did it shortly after we left for dinner on Friday.  By the time we returned about 4 hours later, the chicken breasts were almost defrosted, a good portion of the ice had melted and she had consumed a bag of frozen hamburger buns.

We aren’t expert investigators, but we believe that her attempt to ransack the counter drawer proved fruitless and she quickly moved on to a more booty-rich target.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Butterick 5455

Updated with photos of the finished dress.

I made this out of cheery red "European" linen from Not sure what the European part is. It certainly doesn't mean wrinkle-free. ;)  I cut my normal size 18 but it ended up being HUGE. The other Butterick pattern I made seemed true to size, so who knows what happened here.  I took it in about 3 inches at the back (because I'd already sewn the sides of the dress and lining, and sewn the shirt to the bodice. I was lazy and just removed 1.5" from either side of the back seam). I also shortened the straps by 2" and added an additional set of pleats to the neckline because it was gaping open. This gave it more of a sweetheart neckline, but it doesn't detract from the design. I sewed down all the pleats.

Now that it fits, I'm pretty pleased with it. It's not quite as form fitting as it is on the model. I would have needed to take in the waist another couple inches for that. It's fitted through the bodice and then there is a little more ease in the waist and hips--enough to hide sins but still show off my shape. It probably would have been better a little tighter, but if I took it in any more from the back, the side seams would have crept around to the back. After wearing it all day yesterday I like it even more. It's flattering and comfortable. If not for the wrinkles (linen--what was I thinking?!?), it would be close to being perfect. On the outside anyway.

Because I don't have anything even close to red thread for my serger, I did all the possible seams as french seams. In retrospect, the linen is a tad too bulky for that. I also used ivory seam tape for the raw edges. Next time I'll get seam binding, not seam tape for the job. It looks okay, just not a polished as it would have with binding. I also ran out, so used blue seam binding for the edges next to the zipper. So the inside of the dress is neat, but by no means professional looking. But I now see why so many people spend the time to bind their seams. But next time I will buy matching thread for my serger. I would have been happier with the insides if the edges had been serged, then bound, rather than having them french seamed because of the bulk. As my sewing gets better, I am increasingly drawn to wanting to make the insides look professional. If for no other reason than the drycleaner won't know I make my own clothes. Isn't that silly?

But anyway, I am very happy with this dress. I don't think it says becky home-ecky at all. Although when Corey first saw it he told me I should sew a sunflower on the botttom edge. WTF!?! A sunflower? Hopefully he's on crack. If this dress needs a sunflower, then I'm all wrong about the becky home-ecky. (*sigh*) He means well.

I was originally going to make the waist panel out of blue linen, but changed my mind. I thought the colorblocking would limit the longevity. I love crazy colors and wild designs when I see RTW clothes, but always play it safe when I sew something. The same is true with my upholstery fabric choices. Why is that?

Update 9/17. I still need to wash and press and take a photo of the red linen dress. While you are waiting, here is a piece of eye candy. I have always been drawn to red and blue, which is why I was going to put a blue waist panel into the red dress. Red and blue plaids are even better. I love, love, love this dress. It's from Claire McCardell via the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1956.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Organizing and some new toys

I did some cleaning and reorganizing in my sewing room. Getting a Kindle (birthday present from Corey) has really helped me let go of some books. This made room for the fabric and sewing supplies that been draped all over the floor, chairs, etc. Here are some before and after photos. The lucite chairs are a future upholstery project. I just need to finish the other two half-completed chairs before I start anymore. ;)



Here is Roni enjoying the fact that there is actually visible floor space now.

Tack-it Pattern Marker

After reading about the tack-it pattern marker in an article about "the magic of vintage sewing tools" on the blog Casey's Musings, I went out and found one on ebay for $7. I just have to say Best. Invention. Ever. I HATE marking all the notches, dots, triangles and circles on fabric. And trying to get the second layer exactly in the same spot as the first layer is hard. Half the time chalk won't wont work on the fabric and I've had NO luck with tailor's tacks. Well, the Tack-It marks both layers at the same time. It saves time and a bunch of heartache. I lurve it!

I bought a pack of multicolored tracing paper. Just put the tracing paper under the bottom layer, on top of the top layer but below the pattern and push down on the handle. It marks both layers with a smalll circle, and it is actually visible. Apologies for the blurry photo.

Zippers Galore

My local JoAnn never seems to have zippers in colors I need so I have been following some great zipper auctions on ebay. Unfortunately they keep going up to more than I want to pay (over $100 in one case. But it was for 200 22" zippers, all colors). I lucked out and was able to get this lot of 100 new zippers for $9 last week. Lot of colors and sized. No invisible zips but really for pennies apiece, who cares.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Kwik Sew 3299

This was at attempt to find a TNT pattern for t-shirts for Corey. The pattern reviews were promising. One person said that the neck was way too big, but they used a rayon jersey material so I assumed the problem was with the material. Corey wanted to pick the fabric and wanted to see the choices in person, so we went to JoAnn rather than buying a discounted fabric on line. He decided on a rib knit, rather than a thin cotton jersey. His choice was quite a bit thicker than regular t-shirt material, but I kept on, regardless. I made the large according to his measurements, rather than the x-large, his RTW size.

On the first attempt the neck stretched out about 3 inches and did not shrink back even when washed. It was also about an inch too wide through the sleeves and the chest/waist and a couple inches too long. I had enough fabric, so I recut the whole thing adding 1.5 inches to the pattern at the front and back of the neck and removing the inch in width and two inches in length. After serging the ribbing to the neckline, I double needle stitched the serged seam allowance to the shirt because the thickness of the fabric was keeping it from laying flat.

This time, the front of the neck was good, but there was too much fabric at the back, causing it to stick up and out in an unflattering way. I ripped out the stitching on the back neck edge only, removed about an inch of the 1.5 inches I had added to the pattern at the back neck edge, then re-stiched, serged and double needle stitched it back down. This seems to have solved the problem.

However, even though I was careful when I turned and double needle stitched the sleeve hems, they stretched out a bit and ended up looking like Corey was wearing bells on his arms. I am not hopeful that they will shrink back down when washed because the huge neck didn't on the first attempt.

I could taper the edge of the sleeves in on the pattern, but I think all this stretching is because of the rib knit. I am hopeful that when I make it out of cotton jersey all will be well. I just hope that the other pattern changes I've made will still work with the cotton jersey. Man, I thought this t-shirt business was going to be easy.

Update 9/10. Corey still hasn't washed the shirt to see if the bell sleeves went back to normal size. I'll post pictures as soon as he does.

Here are the photos. The sleeves aren't bells anymore but all the seams puckered causing a not very masculine lettuce edge effect. Corey is happy with the (slim) fit though. I'll try this again in cotton jersey and see what happens.

This last picture taken while chasing him to the next room because he heard cheering from the football game on the tele. Don't tell him there's a picture of his butt on the internet. ;)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

McCalls 6069

Pattern Description:
Pullover, above mid-knee, semi-fitted straight dresses A, B, C have elastic waist casing, stitched hem and bodice variations; dress A is sleeveless; dress B has three-quarter sleeves; dress C is sleeveless with self sash; dresses A, B, C have optional back strap; optional purchased belt. I made view A. I'm wearing it with "optional purchased belt."

Pattern Sizing:
14-20, I made the 18.

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

Were the instructions easy to follow?
A lot of reviewers have said they are easy to follow. I am a beginning knit sewer. (In fact this is my fourth attempt to sew an ITY knit. The other three were wadders.) I found the instructions somewhat confusing and incomplete. I ended up making the bodice twice. Below are the numbered instructions I felt needed extra description. Normal text is the original. The bolded text is what I added after lessons learned on the first attempt at the bodice.

1. To make pleats in bodice front, on outside, crease along lines of small circles. Bring creases to lines of large circles; baste. Baste across upper edge. Press.
The pleated areas become the shoulder straps. Be very careful that pleats are identically sized or else the shoulder straps will be different widths.

2. Finish unnotched edge of bodice front self facing. Turn in bodice front self facing along fold line; baste.
Finish armhole edges. It's next to impossible to do it when the shoulders and sides have already been sewn together.

3. (Reinforce bodice back pivoting at triangle, as shown. Clip to triangle.) Finish unnotched edge of bodice back self facing. Skip first part of step 3 until after step 7.

4.To make pleats in bodice back, on outside, crease along lines of small circles. Bring creases to lines of large circles; baste. Baste across upper edge. Press.
Do NOT Turn in bodice back self facing along fold line or baste like you did after making the pleats on the bodice front.

7. Rotate the pleated areas which stick out to the sides into position as shoulder straps. Pin back strap to bodice back self facing, matching triangle as shown. Be careful that back strap is perpendicular to shoulder strap. When stitching, be careful to hold back out of the way and only stitch strap to the facing. Stitch. Stitch again 1/4" away.

Now do first part of step 3. Reinforce bodice back pivoting at triangle, as shown. Clip to triangle. If you do this before attaching the strap, it's really hard to be positive you are reinforcing the area directly next o the back strap, where it needs to be reinforced.

8. With right sides together, pin bodice back to bodice front at shoulders; baste. Be sure to keep back facing out of the way.

9. Turn bodice back self facing in along foldline, bringing shoulder edges together. Stitch. Stitch again 1/4" away in seam allowance. Trim close to stitching. Press seam allowance flat. Don't serge shoulders together. It's too bulky (4 layers of fabric).

The rest of the instructions are fine, but if you are new to ITY knits like me, be sure to use a walking foot. ITY knits are slippery! Also, be sure to baste your seams before serging if you have a serger. I just wish there was a walking foot for the serger!

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
It's sexy and comfortable.

It stretched out so that the back strap was a but long and the armholes a bit big (see side view). I'm sure that was just my fabric though. I've heard it said to let knits hang before cutting. I guess there is something in that. ;)

I put pockets in mine and it did add some bulk to the hip area. If you are concerned about that, I'd leave off the pockets.

Fabric Used:
ITY knit from Michael Levine's in LA. I really miss living in LA just for the garment district if nothing else. I was there for my HS reunion and convinced my husband (he must love me or something) to spend the one free hour of time we had driving to and from downtown in traffic just so I could spend 20 minutes in the 60,000 sq ft heaven that is Michael Levine's. If only I had more time. I bought 4 ITY knits and a rib knit (3 yards each) and got out of there for $42. So this dress cost me about $6 plus thread and elastic that I already had.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I did a double needle stitch on the armholes and the hem with one back thread, one red. I just hemmed it about 5/8". With my fabric stretched out, it ended up the perfect length, but it would have been above the knees if it hadn't stretched. Above the knee seems so scandalous now. How funny. Remember when we were all wearing our skirts Ally McBeal short?

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I would definitely recommend it. But if you are a beginning knit sewer, ignore the one hour promise on the cover. Not counting my bodice do-over, I'd say this took me about 6 hours. But I have a great dress. Finally - an ITY success.

It's definitely not a wadder! I love my dress!

Friday, August 06, 2010

back to the seam ripper and stash explosion

Burda 8155

I was so sure this skirt was going to go together smoothly and easily. I've made it twice before and I got it 80% done in just three hours--everything but the trim and the waistband. But oh, not so, not so.

Well the trim went on fine, but the waistband is a mess. The left side of the top of the zipper tape is a bit too far from center. It wasn't noticeable until I sewed on the waist band, but now I can see that it pulls a bit creating a little gap above where the zipper teeth meet and the waist band starts. Also, when I sewed on the piping, I used the 3/8" allowance attached to the piping instead of the pattern recommended 5/8". This means the waistband is 1/4 higher than it should be, enlarging said gap above where the zipper teeth meet. I can't have a peek-a-boo of flesh showing, so I am going to have to remove the whole waistband and start over.

But I'm not done with the waistband woes yet. This is the first time I used piping. It went on quite smoothly but I didn't leave enough to wrap to the other side. Instead I cut it even with the edge of the skirt so the unfinished white interior was showing. I tried fray stop, a black sharpie and stitching the ends closed. Still looks like ass.

And next, instead of top stitching all the way around the waistband, I just stitched in the ditch to attach the inside of the waistband to the body of the skirt. I thought the top stitching would compete with the piping. Well I managed not to catch about 80% of the inside band. That's not going to be fun to remove those stitches.

When I've made this skirt before, I had to add 2" to the length of the waistband because I couldn't ease the body of the skirt to fit it. Well, this time the two inches made the waistband way to big and it flares out when on my body.

So basically it's a total waistband do-over. About 3 hours of wasted time. More when you add the time it's going to take me to rip out all the stitching. Rats!



All done now. I cut the waistband length down to the pattern size and it now fits the way it should. I fixed the zipper tape and redid the piping in the correct location. I looked at the piping section in the Kenneth King Cool Couture book but it didn't give instructions on how to finish the edges. I just did what we do in upholstery class--opened up the stitching and cut the interior cord flush with the edge of the skirt, then wrapped the now flat cover fabric to the inside of the skirt and stitched it down. It's almost hidden by the waistband but not quite. There has to be a better way. I'll google it.

This time I followed the instructions and topstitched all the way around the waistband. It doesn't compete with the piping too bad and at least it lays flat and the interior side looks clean. However, fresh off my excellent edge-stitching job I did attaching the ribbon to the hem, I didn't draw a line to follow while top/edge-stitching the waistband. I should have. The stitches are not straight or an even distance from the edge. But you'd have to be standing quite close to me to notice.
I now have three versions of this skirt. I think I'm done.


While in L.A. last weekend for my 20th high school reunion, I somehow convinced Corey to drive in traffic, out of the way, to go downtown so I could spend 20 minutes in Michael Levine's 60,000 sq foot fabric store. If only I had more time. I bought 4 ITY knits and a rib knit (3 yards each) and got out of there for $42. I got home to see the linen and crepe fabrics I purchased from had arrived too. Although the blue crepe doesn't feel or look like any crepe I've ever seen. I'm pretty sure it's a stretch broadcloth labeled as crepe.

With the red linen, I plan to make this:

The waistband will be the blue linen. Either that or it will all be red, but piped in blue.

And this with one of the ITY knits:

The pink with sheer stripe knit will become a pair of leggings for winter:

I planned to use the blue crepe for this:

But I think it's too stiff. Hopefully once I get my first Burda issue (B-day present from my mother-in-lay) there will be something I can use the crepe, I mean broadcloth for.