Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wardrobe Architect--Time For Some Confessions

I have a confession. I am embarrassed to say but my wardrobe is all over the place.

I have clothes that I don't wear and never will.

I have clothes that I want to wear, but I don't have anything to wear it with.

I have clothes that I spent too much on and feel guilty not wearing, but have no desire to wear.

I have clothes that I have no where to wear it to.

Most of the clothes that I do wear, are very worn. In fact, the long sleeve tee that I am wearing right now is faded to the point of not wanting to wear it.

As a stay at home mom, I don't wear some of my clothes because because it just seems odd to be cleaning kitchens and toilets in blouses and skirts.

This is the year that I am going to take control of my wardrobe. Doing the Ready-To-Wear Fast with Sarah at has me thinking more about what is in my wardrobe. I need to be more practical about what I sew.

I have been losing weight and do not plan on gaining it back for health reasons Most likely I will lose another size and maybe two. Unfortunately, this is leaving me with jeans and pants that are falling off. Some of my tops are looking sloppy or have gaping necks or arms. I really need to be planning on some replacements or some smaller belts!

I decided to participate in the Wardrobe Architect on This is a weekly project, exercise or discussion to discover what shapes our personal style, what our personal style is, and how to create a wardrobe that reflects this style--and one that we will wear.

This is the third week and it has been very enlightening. I'm not quite ready to share yet, because I keep returning to the worksheets and exercises. I will definitely share my progress when I am ready.

How has your wardrobe come to be? Shopping sales? It fits, I'll buy it? I needed something for an event? My sister/friend/mother/daughter cleaned out her closet and dumped it on me?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Marfy 1913 Blouse Sew-a-Long, part 2

Marfy 1913, with bias neck binding
I always feel a sense of relief when I finish a project requiring extra skills. This blouse is one of those projects that used skills I don't use very often when making clothes for my boys or my husband. It also required skills I don't use for most everyday clothes.

I did want to practice some new skills I learned during Leisa's sew-a-long on I did a few things differently and have a few ideas in case I want to try this again.

One of my first decisions after completing the muslin was to decide on the fabric. Silk would have been ideal, but I hadn't decided on the fabric for the Marfy skirt and jacket. I wanted to do the sew-a-long while the sew-a-long was being done, so I looked at some fabric while I was picking up some patterns at my local Joann's. I found a couple and surprise, they were on sale for 50 or 60% off. I only needed a yard so I picked a couple that would work with most of what I have. I picke a pink, a white and a flowy sheer pink print. I decided my first attempt would by the pink print. On sale it was $3.50 for the whole thing. 

Since I decided to eliminate the colar and go with bias binding, it was quick to cut out. Only two pieces. Leisa suggested using the muslin and creating a paper pattern. If I had been wise and used her advice, much of the rest of this process would have been simpler. However, I thought I knew best.

Thread Basting

Use loose running stitches to outline
I used my original traced pattern without seam allowances. I decided that I would thread trace the seam lines. This takes some time, but I find it relaxing.

See how loose these are?
To thread trace through multiple layers, you baste around your pattern with extremely loose stitches. Make sure to extend the seamlines beyond where seams meet. This will give clear corners. Since I was going through two layers of fabric, I had to pull the pieces apart and expose the stitches inside. Then cut the threads and LEAVE THEM THERE. The thread pieces are now showing where your seam line is.
I'm always amazed that this works!
The threads are the seam lines.

Pull apart the fabric pieces
 and cut the stitches between

Back Opening

The back opening is sooooo cool. Leisa shows us how to do this. I'll just show the pictures.
The pins are showing the locations to stitch and where to clip.
Snip at the half-way mark between the stitched dart.
Cut along the center back through the first section of the dart
I hand sewed the opening picking up only a few threads on
the right side.

Hand sewing left the opening soft and the stiches are
almost invisible on the right side.

I stitched outside the seam line, which is marked with
the threads. They stay in better than one would expect.

French Seams

I had decided to use French seams since this was a light and sheer fabric. French seams allow encase the seam allowances, leaving the finished elegantly.

Trim the seam allowance. It will be encased inside.
To create a French seam, put the wrong sides together and sew outside the seam allowances. I used the width of my presser foot. Then iron, trim and turn wrong side out. 

Because I was finding that my fabric was disintegrating each time I touched it, I left almost a quarter inch when I trimmed the seam allowance. Unfortunately, this left me with a wider encasement than I would have wanted. But my seams were done and no one else would really notice or care.

This is the inside. I used the thread tracing as my guide
to stitch. I plucked them out after my seam was finished.

Bias Binding

To make bias strips, but 45 degrees
from the grain
To finish the armholes, I used bias binding. I used 1 inch, but I wish I had used wider and had a larger seam allowance. This fabric was fraying almost as fast as I could sew. In fact, there are a couple of places that will probably start showing without many wearings.

I first attached the open binding by machine. Then, I sewed almost invisibly by hand.I picked up the fewest threads on the right side as possible. Unfortunately, the threads didn't always like that and would show pulls for inches or simply break.

I also used bias binding on the neckline. Unfortunately, I tortured it more than I should have and have fraying. It isn't visible on the right side, but I know it won't be a blouse I will wear for many years.

What I learned from this project:

I really enjoyed the process of this project. However, I did begin to get burned out when the fabric was fraying. I kind of put me into a simmering panic. I also learned that a little more seam allowance would have been very helpful. 

Marfy 1913 Finished Front

Marfy 1913 Finished back

If I make this again:

  •  I will give myself larger seam allowances.
  • I will possibly use the machine to do more stitching instead of so much hand stitching.
  • I will cut larger bias strips.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Marfy 1913 Blouse Sew-A-Long, Part 1--The Muslin

Four pieces of fabric for a blouse.
As usual, I am juggling a couple projects. I put the Little White Dress aside to work on and attempt to catch up with the Free Marfy Pattern sew-a-long with Leisa on A Challenging Sew. January is the blouse, Marfy 1913.

The pattern is downloadable and FREE. There are only four pattern pieces--front, back, collar and undercollar. It is a sleeveless high neck that closes in the back. As much as I loved Leisa's many versions, this pattern really isn't for me, but I really want to participate and try the cool new techniques Leisa is teaching us.

Front before adjustments
Unless I make some minor adaptations. I really don't look very good with a high collar. I am willing to do a higher neckline, but not adding an inch or so collar band.

I made the muslin--simply a front and back, by using wax transfer paper to trace the seam lines from the pattern. Marfy patterns do not have seam allowances. I had to remind myself. Then I used my sewing machine to trace seam lines with stiches. Finally, I stiched the shoulder seams and side seams. put them on Dorothy the Dress form.

Not very exciting.

At this point it is hard to believe this will turn into anything. I tend to think of it as a sack.
Back view before adjustments 

I turn everything in at the machine thread traced seam lines and pin them inside. It begins to take some shape.

There aren't any openings decided on yet. So the back looks even worse than the front.

Leisa has a number of ways to take in the excess in the front. I think I want pleats and try it. It is looking more like a lumpy gathering. I actually like the way it is looking.
Front pleat/gather

Now for the back. On the sew-a-long, Leisa is showing an opening used by Susan Khalje--I am in awe of Susan Khalje and wish to someday be able to afford an in person class with her.

The opening has a very delicate and clean look to it. I had to try it. I planned to take a bunch of pictures of it, but I must have forgotten. I cannot do justice to the explanations given by Leisa, so here is her post on this opening. I can only show you how it looks on the muslin now.

The main idea of the opening is to measure it like a dart. Mine is a 10 inch dart down the center from the neckline with one inch out from center on each side.

This is the only picture of the back in
the muslin. I did it inside out, but
it is still soooooo cool!
 The dart itself is sewn only from six inches to ten inch marks. Above six inches is not sewn. The "dart" is then sliced open from the neckline to the eight inch mark. This means that two inches of the sewn part is stitched.

The sides are then turned and sewn like a narrow hem. It was amazing to see that it actually worked.

Next time, I will show you how it works in my fashion fabric. I will also show how to

  • thread trace to mark the seam lines
  • hand sew the back neck opening
  • make French seams
  • gather the front
  • finish the neck, arm holes and hem
I'm excited to finish. 

And then finish my Little White Dress without starting any new projects.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Free Downloadable Tool to Tame the Stash

I'd like to to believe that I am not the only sewist who has more fabric than could be sewn in one's lifetime. 

Who can pass up a great buy, the perfect fabric for the pattern we haven't found yet? 

Or, "Oh, I need that, I have the perfect pattern!"

Or, I'm going to make (fill in the blank), as soon as I get a chance. 

So the fabric stacks up. Waiting. Waiting. Until it gets buried under the new finds and must haves. Until we forget what we have and how much. So using the stash becomes difficult. So, we buy more.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who needs to find a way to organize and know what is in those piles. I may have found it.

I first discovered it when Jennifer from My Sewing Suite shared that she was using it. It is available from Quilting Daily, but you do need to register on their site.

I like that it can be used either as a standard 3-ring binder or as a portable keyring binder with a loose binder clip.

I am dating myself, but I remember using the clips to organize index cards when writing papers. Oh, the days when organizing your notes and paper across the living room floor. My kids look at me like I’m nuts when I explain it to them. Sometimes, I think it was easier than trying to piece it on the computer and then accidentally deleting something.

My goal is to do as I am now doing with patterns and document as it come into the house. I just snap a photo of the front and back of my patterns and sync it to my Google+. Then I can see my patterns and information from any place on my phone or computer.

Back to the stash organizing.

I started by printing 10 pages of both onto white card stock. I figured white would be best to show the colors best. I then started cutting swatches from fabric as I measured, refolded and reorganized. I also filled out the information that I still had or knew. I just wish I could decide which will work best for me.

I’m adding some to the keyrings and some to binders based on what needs to be matched and what doesn’t. I think I’ll keep the keyring in a Ziplock with the Joann’s mailer in my going shopping purse so I don’t leave them at home. Don’t you hate it when you run to Joann’s for something and forget your coupons?????

I wish I could add some type of locator device to help me remember where I stash my stash. It’s hard to remember if it is in this set of drawers, or that set, or that trunk, or that trunk, or that box, or that closet or that bin… or...or….

I think it is time to use some of my stash.

Ok. I admitted it. I am a fabric stasher.

What’s the next step?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mr. Toad's New Shirt--Jalie 2111

Mr. Toad's New Shirt--Jalie 2111
It’s done. It’s finally done. Mr. Toad has a new shirt. He has a new plaid flannel shirt.

Did I mention that it is a large asymmetrical plaid? With a skewed grain?

Did I mention that almost every step had to be ripped out and resewn? ugh.

Normally, I like to sew plaids. I know. I’m weird. I get a sense of accomplishment when I match the plaids. I also think there are amazingly easy to line up the grain. Normally.

This flannel skewed. I washed it. I ironed it. I pulled it. And pulled it. I probably should have abandoned it. This is a Joann’s fabric and I have had problems with their plaids skewing before, but this was a hot  mess.
Yoke placed on the diagonal

I have to say that I did not choose this one. I'll blame it on Middle Son. I let him choose the fabric.

 He thought it looked like something Mr. Toad would like. It was supposed to be a Christmas gift, but time was getting in the way. I did get it started before Christmas. Does that count for something?

I have been working on this shirt off and on since mid-December. I put it aside because I didn’t want to rush it. But it became one of those projects that was antagonizing and mocking me.

First, I made 2 front pockets instead of 1 and added flaps. No real problems, but matching the plaid that didn’t want to stay straight was just frustrating.

Then, I used the yoke for my 12 year old’s pattern instead of the one for Mr. Toad. I was really baffled that the front pieces wouldn’t match up with the yoke. So, I ripped that out.

Then I put one of the sleeves on inside out. Oh, I also didn’t put the plackets on before attaching the sleeves. But that worked out because I had to shorten the sleeve, and needed to recut the plackets because the plaid wouldn’t line up. But I needed to recut the plackets anyways because our dog, Bugg, stole one and used it as a chew toy. So, it worked out. 

Redone and matched sleeve plackets
Then, I put the plackets on inside out. I didn’t find out until after I clipped the corners all the way to the stitches. Did I mention that I managed to get the best matching thread? 

These are the major issues. I did silly things like managing to catch loose fabric in the stitches, letting the buttonhole guide slide off the fabric, twice. I ripped the stitches out twice. 
One of my Christmas gifts--A buttonhole cutter--Awesome!

This is already cut
After all of the problems, it did work out. I was excited to finish the buttonholes so that I could use my new Clover Button Hole Cutter that I got for Christmas. What beautifully cut buttonholes! No more fear of slipping with the scissors or seam ripper.
Buttonhole tool made a super clean cut!

Now that I am done I can appreciate how well this has come out. After all of the frustration and reworking, the plaids mostly lined up. The inside and outside of both the collar and collar bands are lined up together. The yoke was centered diagonally. The collar and collar band lined up with the pleat in the center back.

Collar and collar band matched
Sleeve placket
I was able to match the plaids around the front and back, as well as the sleeves. The plackets, look lined up, even though they are really on the wrong sleeves. I also was able to use the new buttonhole cutter. I know, I'm a sewing geek.

I really like Jalie 2111. It is now out of print. I actually emailed them when they were removing it and a pair of mens/boys pants that I have used. They responded that they were planning to replace them with a more current style. How many men wear current styles?

Collar, collar band and back matched
I am thinking of retiring this for Mr. Toad and switch to a slimmer cut style. He is thin and tall and I think the relaxed fit isn't working so well. It is good as a work shirt and he seems to like it.
Pocket flaps added and placed diagonally

To accommodate his height, I make his size based on his chest measurement and lengthen two inches in the torso and an inch in the sleeve.

I don't follow the Jalie patterns. Instead, I follow the directions that David Coffin uses in his book Shirtmaking: Developing Skills For Fine Sewing. This means that all of all of the seams are flat-felled and the collar and cuffs are put on a little different than most pattern descriptions. Since reading this book, I have always used his assembly directions.

Add caption

The shirt looks better in person. He really doesn't like posing for pictures, but knows that is the cost of a new shirt.

Tomorrow, I get back to the little white dress and the hopefully muslin the blouse for the free Marfy pattern sew-a-long.

Read the review on

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Finished Muslin of the Little White Dress

It feels great to have finished my muslin!
V8648 Front raised about 1 inc

I am using Susan Khalje's directions from her class, The Couture Dress on Craftsy. I plan to do a full review of this class when I finish the dress. So far, I love the class. I have watched it all the way through, but I am now rewatching as I am actually sewing.

I really love the way this dress feels and looks. This is Vogue V8648 view E. I did some modifications for my taste and for fit. I am a bit modest and since this is for the Little White Dress Contest on, the rules specify that the dress be classic and can be dressed up or down.

The front was raised 1 inch. I really like the square neck, but I really felt that it was borderline for me. The corners showed the bra that I intend to wear. I was also concerned that if I lost more weight, it would no longer be acceptable. I also don't like to feel self-conscious about leaning forward, which I think I would have. I have also decided to go without sleeves. I am making this dress with the expectation that I will continue to lose weight and feel that the sleeves will make that more difficult.

V8648 Muslin Back Raised

I also raised the back. I usually have trouble with keeping the shoulders in place when both the front and back are low. This was happening before the back was raised. It was interesting trying to adjust the back by myself.

I extended the back muslin piece before sewing. I pinned it in place on my dress form, Dorothy. Since this was a muslin that I was still making design changes to, and I was fitting myself, I sewed the back all the way up and used the left side open to attempt to pin myself into.

V8648 Side view muslin
I had to take the dress on and off several times to adjust the back bodice piece, but I finally did it. And with only one pin stick!

As exciting as it was to have a completed muslin, I was also saddened that I had to rip it apart. I did label each piece with all relevant information, including left or right. It is now all pressed and waiting to be used as a pattern for my underlining. Maybe I will get to do that today!

Now for an introduction to Dorothy, my dress form. I've had her for a couple of years and she has spent some time in the corner because I was sewing for others. Once she was out of the corner, I spent about half an hour attempting to adjust Dorothy. I lost some weight and she reaped the benefits of losing some inches too. Our measurements didn't completely match up after I finished. I did take some very awkward pictures with me wearing the muslin, but it with pins threatening to poke me and the twisting involved with lining myself up in a mirror while the holding a camera....Dorothy's pictures will have to do.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Little White Dress (LWD) Contest Starts today!

Vogue 8648

Today is the first day for the Little White Dress Contest on I spent time preparing the fabric, preparing the pattern, and starting my muslin yesterday.

I am using white handkerchief linen for the fashion fabric with white silk organza and white china silk/habotai for the lining. I bought all from Dharma Trading Company. To make Vogue 8648. I'm still not sure if  want short sleeves, no sleeves or cap sleeves. I'm also trying to decide about raising the back or leaving it as is.

I'm thinking this one, but raising the back

The linen and china silk I washed in hot water. I then dried the linen on hot and repeated two more times. I want to relax the linen fibers and soften the fabric to help it drape better. I ironed the china silk right out of the washer until it was dry. The linen is loosely piled in a basket waiting to be ironed before joining the china silk in the closet on its own hanger waiting to be cut.

I am treating the silk organza only by ironing with steam.
This is another option that I haven't ruled out.

While the fabric was in the washer I cut the pattern, ironed it with a dry iron and marked the stitching lines. Since this is one of the Big 4, the seam lines are 5/8 inch, except for the hem. The lines don't show well in the photo. I used green Sharpie so that the marks wouldn't run off.
Seam line added to pattern by measuring in 5/8 inch


I ran out of time/energy and that was all I finished for the LWD. I also prepared the pattern for the Free Marfy sew-a-long with I will write about that later.

muslin pieces with traced seam lines, grain lines and notches--notches are now long lines

Today I started muslin-ing the dress. Of course, Murphy seems to live in the house. I pulled my bolt of muslin and there wasn't even enough for the bodice, let alone the rest of the dress. So I had to run off to Joann's with a 50% off coupon and grabbed a full bolt. Why do we always run out of what we need right as we are trying to get started?

Once back I ironed the muslin and laid it out with the pattern pieces. I left room to extend the seam allowance to an inch or more. Then I marked each piece using wax marking paper. I marked the stitching lines, notches (which are now lines) grain line, and any other important information. I then removed the pattern pieces and marked the reverse.

After all of the lines were marked, I traced each stitch line with the sewing machine with a regular stitch line. I ironed all the pieces after stitch tracing.  I used some old thread that was marked as 20 cents. It's nice to get the old thread out of here and I also need a color that is visible on both sides of the fabric.

I've put together the bodice, midriff and the skirt--but those three sections are still separate. Tomorrow, I will finish the muslin and try to fit it. I'll try to have some pictures too. I forgot to take pictures of putting it together.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Update on New Look Pencil Skirt--New Look 0914 is now New Look 6228

If you look carefully, you can see 0914 in the Upper Right.
I was getting ready to write my review of the New Look pencil skirt on and I couldn't find New Look 0914 anywhere. I Googled it. I checked's extensive listing of patterns. I checked is the where New Look is listed. It didn't seem to exist. I checked the pattern.

The pattern envelope very clearly says 0914.

I decided to look at all the New Look skirts.

  There it was.

It had a different number!  

New Look 0914 is now New Look 6228. I just need to make sure that I note that on the envelope.

New Look 6228. My envelope says 0914
This skirt has really given me some trouble. However, it is an easy skirt to make and quick...if you don't make silly mistakes. For more about my fiascos: part one and part two

This isn't the first time I have found this. The last time the envelope had one number and the instructions another. I was very confused when I was trying to find the instructions while looking at the envelope.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Surfing for a Sew-A-Long leads to free Marfy patterns

Surfing the internet on a quest for a sew-a-long for inspiration and a challenge, I found a blog that I somehow hadn't visited in for a few months.

I had to stop visiting It made me want to sew gorgeous fabrics into beautiful clothing. I had Christmas sewing and I was on a budget. The blog was just too inspiring.

A Challenging Sew is leading a series of three sew-a-longs using the three free Marfy sewing patterns, available from Marfy.

The first is a blouse, Marfy 1913, that begins on Monday, January 13. That is just a few is just a few days ahead!

The second is begins on February, a classic French style jacket, Marfy 1757. Finally in March, a skirt Marfy 0757.

For those not familiar with Marfy,it is an Italian pattern company that creates patterns for experienced or advanced sewists.  My understanding is that there is one size and just a pattern when it arrives in your mailbox. No extras, no frills, no instructions.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Look 0914 (or New Look 6228), part 2. Or Making Two Skirts in 4 Hours

This is part two of the New Look 0914 skirt
After I decided to rip out the seams of the upside back ( or was it front?), I turned on a recorded episode of Castle and started gently ripping out stitches. After a few inches, I went to some brighter light and verified what I was suspecting. The fabric was ripping from the tension on the thread. I guess the beautiful stretch stitches that my Husqvarna Viking Topaz makes did  it again. I have never been successful ripping out its stretch stitches.
New Look 0914 or New Look 6228 and the fabric for black skirt

Notice the T for top and H for Hem? 
I made a quick decision to run and grabbed some black Ponte I had planned to use with this same pattern. Again, I set the stopwatch.

Since the earlier one was so loose, I decided to go down a size(yippee!).

I decided to double check that all of the notches were marked and did the assembly. Earlier I used just the sewing machine, but this time I pulled out the serger. In addition to the  notches, I also used my chalk pen to label the top and the hem. I also marked the stitch line.

It went together quickly and I tried it on before attaching the waist. It was a little snug, but it wasn't stressing the seams and the side seams were staying vertical and straight.

I decided to serge the grey skirt. I used the same black thread and zipped through. Of course, I checked and double checked that it was together correctly by measuring the top and bottom of the panels. They weren't the same as the pattern any more and the hem tapered in slightly after fixing the messenger up.

I tried this skirt on pre-waistband....and it fit!. A little snug, but I have if I lose weigh it will still fit. Or, will Murphy stop my weight loss?

Now it was time to add the waist band. It was also snug, so I decided not to use elastic on either skirt. I tried them on again. No problem. I was pretty happy.

I sat back down to pin thee hems and continue with Castle. It was getting pretty interesting, a fire had a couple of the detectives stuck in the basement while one of the wives was onsite in an ambulance in labor.

I pinned both hems and changed the needle to a double stretch needle, changed thread, wound a bobbin and started my hem. My thread broke. Luckily, I was able to rip out these stitches without a problem. It happened again, but I was almost done. Finally, I made it all the way.

Skipped stitches.

I was ready to cry.

My one hour, two tops was way over hours ago.

I decided I could deal with skipped stitches for now. I changed threads again and finished the grey skirt.

Skipped stitches again.

I have decided the right needle of my double needle has gone bad. I'll need to buy another next time I'm at Joann's.

Total time for both skirts was just under four hours. This includes the time to deal with my huge mistake with the skirt, setting up and threading the serger, reading some emails, sending some texts and dealing with kids returning from school. Oh, and a phone call from a friend while serging. I stopped sewing for a few minutes because all she could hear was the serger. I thought my new phone was supposed to suppress background noises?

Next time, an hour. I've worked out the issues.

All in all, I love this pattern. Maybe my next one is in brown, or tan  I also have a purple in a different fabric. Hmmm.

Love the look of the untucked shirt! 

Update:  The skirts are snug, but that works for how I plan to wear them. In these photos I am wear cotton cable tights that are too big and a camisole tucked into the skirt. Definitely not a good look with these skirts.

I tried them on with nylon/lycra tights and the skirts are not as tight and there are no lumpy bumpy effect. I wish Mr. Toad would have had the camera to redo the pictures.

After a day of wearing the grey skirt, I would not recommend leaving out the elastic.  Each step seemed to slide the skirt down little by little. It made my afternoon a little anxious with having to constantly check that I wasn't sagging. I might be opening a seam to add it. I'm so glad I used the serger. The serger seams are much more forgiving and much easier to rip out.