Saturday, November 22, 2014

Coats and other things in process

Sometimes I start writing a post and choose a title, but then have so many alternatives that could have been used.  They stick in my mind as subtitles, footnotes, sarcastic asides, admonitions to myself and all manner of other ways to describe what I am doing. This one could have been "things I have spent time sewing that I shouldn't devote time to right now" or "items I started sewing that I really don't need" or "garments that someone is waiting for and I better hurry up and finish".  So that is where my sewing is this weekend, a bit scattered but definitely some goals on the horizon.

The weather has taken a very welcome turn and we are getting rain! Time for the happy dance or just a very big thank you to the weather gods as the water situation in most of California is still quite desperate. We won't be the Golden State but instead the golden brown state if it is not a good winter, plus how will we have a chance to wear our winter creations? OK, minor point in the scheme of things but all in all the stormy weather is so welcome and a great reason to pour myself a cup of coffee and settle into the sewing room for a nice long session.

Here is what I am doing this weekend. Or in this case I should say did. Last night I whipped up this muslin version of Burda. I think it looks fantastic, even in this version on the dress form.  Note to self : do not use swedish tracing paper to make test garments of coats or jackets. It does not have the feeling or ease of fabric, even muslin is better. I think it fits but is strangely constricting for movement in the shoulders and arms. After I tried it on I compared the paper pattern pieces to those for my blue Burda coat, same size (40) and they measure near identically. I attribute it to the tracing paper which has some pluses for pattern tracing but maybe not so good for size testing on a coat. Also I had already taped together the pdf, and drawn in the seam allowances, so late last night only had to cut out the coat and stitch it up  - yet that took me about 2.5 hours. waaaay longer than a muslin usually takes. 11pm sewing after a long week, not a good idea, at least not for me.

Burda coat muslin

The pattern is this one, a BurdaStyle PDF pattern which I fell for the minute I saw it in their email. It is the Shawl Collar Coat 11/2014 # 111. Not sure if it also appeared in any of their magazines and it does have that dreaded tiny dart in the front princess bodice seam which I despise, but I decided overall it is a lovely coat and something quite different for me.
Burda coat 111 shawl collar pattern
When I actually sew up this coat I will give more details on pattern alteration and the inside scoop on the insides (interfacing etc) which is yet undecided. I will be using the fabric mentioned in this previous post. It is very soft and seems like a good match for that collar. But we shall see!
purple grey wool
One more coat fitting item to mention, I am starting to like using these Burda patterns that have no seam allowances. For flat pattern fitting they are quite good in that you can measure the pattern pieces without having to mentally subtract all the 5/8" seam allowances that are on the Vogue etc patterns (which don't get me wrong - I like having them there). But let's make lemonade from the lemon in the sense that you have to take the extra step to add them, but the benefit is that checking the finished garment measurements is easier. 

Using the finished garment measurements is the only way I can decide if something is going to fit. I don't ever depend on the pattern size, or previous experience/history. I measure every pattern......and I like to make notes right on the pattern at the appropriate spot. If I write it on one of the pattern pieces then it is there for my future reference. Here is an example of my scribble and if I made a math error never mind. Who knew that paying attention to the school lessons on fractions would be so critical in the future ? Not little 2nd grade me. Funny what things from school are so useful everyday and what things now seem so useless.  Also note that the finished Hip measure is larger than my hip measure by 5-6 inches and that is totally necessary for a coat. Could actually be a bit more for some styles but this is more of a coat-dress style.  If your finished garment Hip measurement on a coat is not at least 4 preferably 6-7 inches larger than your actual measure, I think it will always pull a bit in the front or the overlap will not close as nicely as it could.

garment measurements ex

The coat ideas are set aside for now as what I should be finishing today is this dress plus two others in various stages for one of my sewing clients. 
I recommend this Burda dress in my previous Pattern Whisperer post and now that I have sewn it up we are loving it. I recommend it even more.
Burda plus 113B

This is not the most flattering view, but this is turning out really well. And a case of making a perfect fabric choice for particular pattern (chosen by my client Heather when we shopped at Britex a couple of weeks ago). It is a wool sweater knit, quite stable, maybe they would call it a boucle? Anyway, holds its shape and presses well. Perfect for a winter dress. In the photo below not sure if you can see the side bust darts I added, not a difficult change and really helped with the fit. I will detail in another post when I finish this dress as I think it is worth some review. 

Burda dress

Here is a closer look at this fabulous fabric. Now I want some for myself :).  The dress will have long sleeves and a center back zipper. I think a fitted dress, no matter the fabric needs a back zipper for the best possible shaping. 

Burda dress fabric

So that is what I am working on today, and probably quite a bit over the Thanksgiving holiday as well. After I recover from Pumpkin Pie Overload. (I love the Thanksgiving meal but oh, the leftovers are always the best - turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce and all the pumpkin pie that the rest of the family doesn't like as much as apple :)
OK, off to the gym now in preparation for the aforementioned PPO (pumpkin pie overload). Then it's back to the sewing machines.

Happy pre-Thanksgiving sewing, Beth

and a garden photo for fall. I plant more violas every year, some get eaten by gophers but for the most part they are quite hardy plus self-seed so they pop up in unexpected places - like cracks in the front walkway. They are a reliable cheerful bit of color when the weather turns grey. 

yellow pansy

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pattern Repeat -Simplicity 1916 top and Vogue 1170 Skirt

Here are some separates that have languished in my closet since July. Both unblogged and unworn. Strange, huh? as I love this Simplicity knit top pattern so it is strange that I sewed it up and then didn't wear it. Not for lack of trying. I even put it on a few times but then decided to change into something else. Maybe it's the color, a bit saturated and very purple. Perhaps too much even for me. But I have decided that what is bugging me are the sleeves.

purple top black skirt copy

I really like flutter sleeves, or at least the idea of them. They always seem so pretty. But perhaps not on this top, or maybe just not on me. In any case, I have decided that flutter sleeves probably look best in a light and floaty silk and this top is a cotton lycra knit. Which is just right for the body of the top but not so great for the sleeves. So having a lot of fabric remaining, I am planning to take off these sleeves and put long sleeves on. Then I am sure I will wear it. 
You can tell I took this photo way back in July - as I am color-coordinating with the hydrangea in the background which is now just a few dry blooms and stalks. 
So what is the excuse for the skirt? Actually when I made it I realized it was not really a good summer item. The fabric is really weird - something I found at a garage sale (is that refrain starting to sound like a broken record?) It must have some wool in it as it just has the weight and drape of a woven wool, and presses like one. But it has these raised white dots similar to a dotted swiss. Very odd, but quite right for this skirt which has a flouncy shape at the back. 

black dot skirt back

The skirt pattern is Vogue 1170, a Rachel Comey pattern (she of my beloved Vogue 1247 which I have now made 3 times with a fourth in the works). I did make this 1170 previously, in St. Patrick's day green corduroy.

Vogue 1170 skirt and top

black dot skirt front
With both these Vogue skirt patterns, on the second version I have modified my skirt to have no waistband. I just find them to fit me better, and be more comfortable. The one trick to making a no- waistband skirt is to stabilize that waist edge so that it holds the shape and does not stretch out. I either use a stable interfacing or silk organza depending on the skirt fabric. 
I didn't do it on this one but both times when I have made the skirt I felt like it should have pockets in those diagonal seams you see in the front. That would be a perfect pocket spot  - with the caveat that the pattern pieces would need lots of stabilization there as that seam is at an angle. OK, next time I make this I will try it. 
A view of the inside. With my two-tone lining in green and black. I really wanted to use Bemberg rayon lining and this small skirt is a bit of a fabric hog. So I cobbled enough lining from scraps to make this two tone lining which hopefully will never be seen :). And a regular zipper which I think looks good on a skirt - as opposed to a dress where I prefer an invisible zip.

skirt inside zip

Here is a look at the top - this is a very accurate depiction of the color. Vibrant, right? Although I love to wear purple so I really should buckle down and do my above mentioned sleeve modification. 

purple top  only

Here is this Simplicity pattern 1916, and today's purple one is my third version, first one here and I made another one for a friend.

My only quibble with this pattern is that it comes out a bit long on me so I have to cut off a bit at the bottom when I hem, which loses a bit of the triangular bit at the side. But not enough to make it worthwhile to shorten it anywhere else. 

So that is just about the end of my summer pattern repeats - hopefully I will wear this skirt soon with boots and tights if we every get a bit of chilly weather. 

This weekend I am doing battle with some sleeves - hopefully to come out triumphant. It is a pickle of my own making, as I am working with a pattern that I altered quite a bit and consequently the armhole is nothing like designed. So more head-scratching but I will persevere. Failure not an option!

Happy sewing, Beth

How about a something also lingering in my photo queue from July...this penstemon finally bloomed after a year in the ground and very worth the wait.

penstemon pink

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Bootstrap Fashion - a new custom sizing pattern company

The calendar says November, but wow, it still feels like summer here. I went outside for a workout the last few days in a tank top and shorts. OK, you know I love summer but it's getting a bit weird - and we SO need some rain here in sunny California. That means a new coat is off the table for the time being, it just seems silly to make another coat that won't get much wear.
Instead I will think about spring, Ha Ha! like I need encouragement for that one. And I still have some summer stuff remaining to write about.
A few months ago I had the opportunity to try a few patterns from a new pattern company that offers custom-sized patterns called Bootstrap Fashion.

turquoise dress front

It was very intriguing once I took a look around their website and I did have a lot of questions which I will discuss further down in this post - but to get to the important stuff - yes, it fit with minimal alterations.  An important caveat - I fully acknowledge that in general I fit into the middle sizes of most current patterns, so I might not be a super difficult person to fit. However - I very often have complaints about things like armhole depth, or excessively wide necklines and I was so very pleasantly surprised that the neckline and armholes of this pattern fit me perfectly. It is a very rare instance that I don't have to shorten at the shoulder, or perhaps take in at the upper back. So no neckline gaposis - at least not for me. 
The one change I had to make was to add a bit of bodice length in the front, very similar to the adjustment I made on this pattern. I could have gotten away with not doing it but I could tell that the front waist would be just a teeny bit high without. Because of the design with radiating star dart/pleats in the center front it would have been a pain to add at the bottom of the bodice. The horizontal slice was easy since those aforementioned darts could be avoided.
Here is the tech drawing of the pattern I made.

Bootstrap tech drawing
One change that I made was to swap out the skirt on the pattern to a different pleated skirt. This design with the cartridge style pleating in the skirt is cute but I thought it would get lost in my print fabric. I used the skirt portion from an old New Look pattern. By the way this fabric is something I bought at a rummage sale, for about $ 2. It is a really nice cotton, not a quilting cotton but an apparel weight, and a slightly slubby linen-like texture, just right for a dress. Another score! 

turquoise dress back

So Bootstrap patterns are kind of interesting. The first thing I noticed was the similarity to Lekala so I asked about that. They told me that they have purchased the same design software so that is why many of the styles are similar or the same. The difference is in their website which is much more elaborate. Their patterns are available to use for apparel manufacturers so they seem to be targeting that market as well as the home sewer. There are additional fit adjustments options seen on the second tab below which I have only played around with a bit. I did fill in all the numbers on the Customize tab, and no seam allowance. I suggest no seam allowance as you will get a printable PDF, so you will probably be tracing and then adding whatever seam allowance you like to use. It is easier to flat-pattern measure the pieces for a double check if you have no seam allowances. 

Bootstrap adjustment choices

What I think might be their standout feature is "Belly protuberance" which is a very matter of fact term for something that is exactly that. They have 6 choices which range from super flat abs to 7 months pregnant.  OK maybe not quite but I don't know how else to describe it. However it's described it is darn clever if it works. And so far I think it does. I ordered patterns for two other people I sew for and chose from the various selections, then made muslins to test. So far I did not have to make any sort of adjustment in the tummy area so I give that feature a thumbs up! As for size range, you can see that the circumference measurements have a very broad range so anyone from a petite to plus size can customize these patterns.

On the second Fit Adjustments Tab they have some more adjustments that have to do with proportion, such as Torso length and arm length which could be very useful. I clicked on the Shoulder Width so you can see the options they are giving, which are Narrow, Balanced or Wide. These are all pretty subjective but if you know you always have too much fabric in the upper back then giving Back width a "narrow" adjustment couldn't hurt. I will note that I have to do that adjustment on most Vogue patterns but on this one I didn't - perhaps because they are creating a custom proportioned pattern based on bust and underbust. I think that underbust is a very useful measurement because it indicates how big someone's ribcage or torso is and I kind of wish more pattern companies would have that measure. I may be grasping at straws but I use that underbust measure as an intuitive part of my overall fit assessment when I measure someone - just to get an impression on their body frame. The arm measurements could be quite helpful too, a lot of people mentioned wanting sleeves in my Pattern whisperer posts and if you have a full bicep it would be nice to let someone else do the pattern modifications.

Bootstrap adjustment 2nd tab
What else? Their PDF are reasonable, not an excessive number of pages, nothing is nested so you could tape together and cut out the pieces. There is a layout page so I use that to figure out how to print out, and also to find the page which has that square which you print and then measure to make sure it is printing out on the right size. Does anyone else have an issue with their printer? I have to print that page, measure the square and often have to change the settings on my printer, as my printer seems to always want to print PDFs at some other % scale. Anyway - so worth it to test with that print square page and get the setting right before printing 30 pages or whatever.
The other pattern I have in the works is this one for a sewing client, who happens to have a very full bust and the princess seams fit very well - I would say about 80% there (if I could give a ratio of how close the proper fit was). So some minor adjustments but nothing like I would have had to do with a standard pattern. And the bust was in the right place! hurrah! that alone is a testimonial.

Bootstrap # 58739

I do notice their website is a bit busy - lots of moving parts and you have to scroll through a bit to find things. If you are open to choosing patterns just by the tech drawings then it will be perfect for you. I go by the drawings so that is great for me, I tend to ignore all styling on any pattern company - other than to notice a lack of pressing or hideous fabric choices. Prices are $ 7.00 per pattern with discounts if you order more than one. 

Some more details on my dress. Those star burst pleats really get lost in this fabric but reminds me of this dress pattern which I love. Although this pleats are at the neckline, but the effect is similar. You can actually see it better in the lining. 

                 turquoise dress darts Bootstrap fashion patternturquoise dress lining Bootstrap fashion pattern
I like to have a belt for these fit and flare style dresses so I made one and reused an old covered buckle from a previous dress - which is long gone but I kept the belt with an idea to reuse someday. The color is not an exact match but close enough.

turquoise dress w/ belt Bootstrap fashion pattern

turquoise dress belt Bootstrap fashion pattern

I even used the old belting that was inside the previous belting. I sewed a fabric tube and then hand stitched it on. Nothing fancy, and finally used one of the fancy (read: utilitarian) stitches on my modern Singer machine to make the holes. Remember to use a denim needle when sewing through the belting which is kind of thick.

One more look at this one in action. My photographer was making me crack up here. 

Turquoise dress on vacay

Thanks for all the great feedback on my Pattern Whisperer posts and I will be picking that up again soon with some ideas for jackets and coats. You can be in cute outerwear even if I am not due to our excessive sunshine  - yeah, boo hoo for us here in NorCal, right?

Happy November sewing, Beth

Friday, October 31, 2014

Pattern Whisperer selects: daytime or business dresses

My first Pattern Whisperer selection seems to have been a resounding success based on the lovely email message I received from Rachel plus all the great comments left on that post. By the way she loved the choice of the DKNY pattern so I can’t wait to see that sewn up.
I do feel I hit it out of the park on that selection (oh yeah, baseball metaphor – and a lot of cheers – San Francisco Giants Baseball World Series Champs once again. No sewing Wednesday night, just nail-biting until the final exciting catch).

For you non-baseball fans, let’s get back to sewing. I am a little worried that the first whisperer post was so well received that any subsequent ones will be a bit of a letdown.

So I am going to do multiple posts with some pattern picks in lots of different categories. From the comments left I think it will be helpful to both choose patterns and go into some details on why the pattern is a good one – style options, works with a variety of fabrics, and perhaps most importantly where I see options for pattern adjustment to get a good fit. I think that is the mark of a successful pattern, if you can get a good fit and choose a fabric you are happy with then it will be a success.

Today I will show some good very basic dress patterns, things that work on a variety of figures and can work with a lot of common adjustments. If this post seems a bit dull – stay tuned for a following post with some more – ahem – interesting suggestions for a variety of specific commenters with distinctive requests.

What I have noticed and I should not be surprised AT ALL, as I say it all the time – but there are a LOT of very similar patterns. Like exactly. Even from the same company. (how many DVF wrap dress clones are there ???) So sometimes the key is really scrutinizing the style lines to pick the best pattern for your body shape or the alterations you generally need.

The subtitle of this post could have been something like “OOP, where have you gone?” because a few of the patterns that I had in mind are discontinued. I am glad to say that BurdaStyle seems to buck that trend and issue patterns that previously appeared in the magazine as PDF downloads which is great.

Here is my first pick, Vogue 8787.  This is a really pretty dress, a bit distinctive and offers good opportunities for adjustment or color blocking, and it comes in wide range of sizes. I have made the cowl neck version for a sewing client, using the size 20 as a starting point. I used a light color rayon jersey which was a mostly white, and added a full lining in a compatible knit. Soon I will be making a winter version so perhaps I should show some of the pattern adjustments when I do. The straight skirt version has darts - think about converting those to pleats and maybe even adding another pleat there to create a tiny bit of fullness. It won't change the look of the dress front very much and I think those front darts on the tummy are among the most difficult to sew - they often seem to point right to a spot you don't want to call attention. On this color-block dress I did the dart to pleat change if you want to see how it
looks. On a small busted person the asymmetrical option or the cowl would work well. Plus this pattern has options for various sleeves. This pattern works in any jersey as well as the fabrics they specify. The slim version in wool crepe would be very good.

Vogue 8787

New Look 6067 is a pattern that looks fantastic on a lot of different body shapes. It has interesting, flattering details and options for sleeves and neckline. Kyle sewed it two years ago, and Sewmanju made a great version for the Tessuti contest. You could frankenpattern this one, and put a full skirt on, or use the skirt portion with a different bodice. I also think it would be nice with a lower neckline, how about changing it to a low v-neck front and back for a more summer or evening dress.

NL 6067 pattern rec

Now its time to complain a little about the OOP patterns.
Here is a great one that I have used for a variety of bodice ideas. OOP McCalls 5297. Super easy to sew and minimal pattern pieces.

McCalls 5927 pattern envJPGMcCalls 5927 drawing

This pattern is one with the various front bodice pattern pieces for cup sizes, plus it has pockets! and a tiny pleat in the front. Which may sound odd but it gives room to put your hand in the pocket - and keeps the front from straining across the tummy, if that makes sense. I used this as the basis for the color block dress I mentioned above. I have changed the neckline on this one but that is easy to do.

Now if you are a committed Franken-patterner (like I am) these two are also OOP but man, I am so annoyed at Simplicity when I just noticed that 2648 there on the left is OOP. Whaaaaaa!. Not that this pattern is the ultimate in patterns but it was so useful. Cup sizes, neckline options, princess seaming in the skirt front, choice of darts in the back....very useful. So if you have it in your stash maybe time for a second look. Even with all the valid complaining on the Simplicity excessive ease  - if you do the work to fit this pattern then you can morph it into a LOT of other things or use as a fitting sloper. The 2217 looks very blah and sad bridesmaid on the envelope but I have used this also as a starting point. Also if you have any tummy an empire waist is actually very nice if you choose one that has some soft pleating. I used to watch What Not to Wear and they frequently told people that the narrowest part is above the waist at the ribcage so it works to emphasize that. Also if you are short you may be surprised to see that an empire waist dress can actually be elongating, if the fit is right.
Simplicity Amazing fit patterns
The Amazing fit patterns can look really basic but hidden in the many many pattern pieces in each envelope is good chance of sewing success. The Simplicity website is just dreadful which is a shame but the patterns are really useful. Here is a look at the result when I sent one of these patterns to my friend Karen in London in 2013. That one is probably OOP as well. Thank goodness for Ebay and Etsy!

Last in the OOP category is this New Look 6097, another one that looks good on a lot of people. The skirt is slightly gathered at the waist seam, the wrap sews up really well (not too low), pockets again, and it has that chic wrap dress look but in a slimmer silhouette and no wrap flap lifting in the breeze.
NL 6097 pattern rec

Everyone needs or can wear a shirtdress and this one has a lot of options.  McCalls 6696
McCalls shirtdress
I like this pattern because it has the cup size options, the straight skirt version has cute slant pockets, sleeve options, and the waistband gives it a bit of polish. As with all patterns that have a sewn on waistband, if this one is a single piece - I would chop that thing up at the side seams and sew the whole front of the dress, and the whole back together and then sew up the side seams last - SO much easier to get a nice fit that way. And easier to cut out the smaller waistband pieces, sew on the skirts that way, etc. This has the bias cut slip included in the pattern which is a nice addition. Also the back has the gathering which you could convert to a pleat for a different look or if your fabric was a bit more crisp.

Here is Vogue 8786 which might seem kind of simple, but I think would sew up quickly and offers a lot of fitting opportunities with the princess seaming. Also kind of clever how the sleeves are done, another reason it is easy to sew. Great color-blocking opportunity as well. You can tell I am all about color blocking but a dark color on the panels and then a bright or light on top would look very sharp and be great for directing the eye upward.
Vogue 8786

Here is one that is a bit out of my usual selection - a Style Arc pattern. They have some nice dress patterns for knits but this one is for a woven. Those two piece sleeves intrigue me and this would be a really sharp dress for office wear. Also tucks in the skirt front, and a square neckline which I like a lot.
Style Arc Catherine dress
Now for a couple of Burda patterns.
Burda pleated V-neck dress
 Look how different the skirt hangs in different type of fabrics, possible a silk duppioni or other firm fabric on the left, and softer on the right in lace. I would not have thought of this pattern for lace but it looks really pretty. It appears to have a 2-piece sleeve which is slightly unusual for a dress but gives a nice fit. I would probably make a sleeveless version and do my usual change of carving in that outer edge of the shoulder seam to narrow the shoulder to fit my frame better.

Here is a dress that is office-friendly but kind of a knockout. I just muslined this for a sewing client and wow it looks great. I actually added another bust dart in the bodice which was quite easy and made the front fit a bit better but otherwise it was a good fit.. Also shoulder darts which give a nice shape to the upper bodice. Now I am looking for the right fabric, maybe a scuba knit would be perfect.
Burda plus 113B

Interestingly I have noticed that the best selection and variety in dresses in the plus size range is in Burda. They have so many great choices so worth taking a look. It is my first choice lately if I am searching for a pattern in that size range.

OK - those are some options for good dress basics. Google search or look at Pattern Review to see lots of versions of those first few patterns, on all shapes and different fabrics. I think it is invaluable to find some other women who have a similar shape and evaluate what has worked out on them. I have another post in the works for maxi dresses, possibly a few summer sundresses for you lucky ones in the southern hemisphere and some specific picks for people who commented. Plus a post on jacket and coat recommendations.

I am not much of a Pinterest user but collecting all these pattern ideas was kind of a chore until I realized I could pin them and be able to review en masse.  I also like a minimalist style of blog but just like my closets the stuff keeps piling up. So I made a widget and you can see all the patterns I have pinned and will use that going forward. 

I almost forgot - did you notice my blog button? Made for me by the lovely Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn. What a great surprise to wake up and find that in my email! And I actually have that exact dress in my wardrobe. I will have to find a hat and then model in the spring. 
So if you are whispered by me and sew up something please let me know so you can have a blog button (if you would like.) And Carolyn wants a whisper too - that is quite a challenge, after all what hasn't she made? So madly thinking on that one.

pattern whisperer 300pixels

What are you doing with your extra hour this weekend? I'm going to Britex tomorrow although that isn't my extra hour - that will probably be catching up on sleep!

Happy It's Really Fall here sewing,

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pattern Whisperer Selects: Party dress

That last post offering my services as a Pattern Whisperer was a bit of a lark, but whew! The response was quite a surprise. So many of you (including plenty who sew and blog and choose all kinds of good patterns) wanted a little pattern counseling. And after all, for many of us sewing is a solitary sport so to have a friend giving that virtual "dressing room" advice is definitely fun and worthwhile.

I have been collecting all kinds of ideas in the categories of dresses and jackets for casual and work wear but first up is the party dress selection.

So let's turn our attention to the comment from Rachel who blogs at Here is her comment:

OMG! you've answered my prayers. I was just thinking about writing a blog post searching for      inspiration for a very special party dress for my next birthday (a BIG one with a 0 on the end!) I have mainly sewn with Indie patterns except for the        (blank here in her comment)
I am in need of a pattern for:
  1. A party dress with wow factor. Something slinky and figure-enhancing.
  2. I am an intermediate sewist.
  3. I tend to have to add an FBA, and usually go up a size at the waist. 
  4. I love designs that flatter a more hourglass figure. I have found that dresses that accentuate a waistline and are fairly fitted on the bodice look best. I would probably go quite short too. It is my birthday, after all...!

Now who could resist that plea? Not me.  Hopefully she won't regret asking :)
So I took a look at her blog, and thought about shape and style. And thought some more. Then I revisited her comment, (note the word slinky) paired that up in my mind with her shape in this dress - scroll down to see the solid red version - and came up with this. 

Vogue 1342 Donna Karan knit dress.  But please not in that color ! I think in a deep rose or wine color, or maybe a very dark amethyst purple.  OK, it does say advanced pattern, but as you all may know, these Donna Karan patterns are genius. It is the lining that does all the work.  As regards fitting: Hopefully they have the finished garment measurements on the pattern tissue. So far all Vogue patterns do, even these form fitting twisty knit ones. So go by your measurements to choose the pattern size and use the multi size pattern to help with fitting. I also think the straps will allows some shortening at the back which is a nice feature. I think I would keep this one at knee length. It is certainly figure enhancing and the length of the skirt adds to the drama. I know you said you are an intermediate level sewist but I think jumping to the advanced level with a knit dress is a good way to go.  Our pattern requester (willing victim) Rachel has a great figure and could wear the heck out of this dress - so be brave!

Vogue 1342 dress

Vogue 1342 drawing

OK, now that I have shocked you with my first recommendation, how about another one?
Up next is Simplicity 1778 which is one of those pattern envelopes that suffer a bit from either hideous fabric choice or prints that obscure the details. If you don't think this one can be a WOW then check out this version I found.

Simplicity 1778 dress pattern env
I am including the line drawing so you can the seaming. this dress has A LOT of fitting opportunities.
what am I talking about?  Princess seams - front and back, perfect. Under bust seaming - very useful for lengthening or shortening. Clever pleating across the front - adds to the slinky and still leaves space for some drinks and nibbles. Love that.  I am a fan of the square neckline, I just think it is really pretty but some people don't like it. Also allows you to easily raise up the neckline if it is a bit too low which you can't as easily do the the sweetheart wrap neckline. My choice, I would make the square neckline, sleeveless version, in a good quality ponte or other knit. Whatever choice, an quick  muslin in a similar weight and/or stretch fabric would really help you to get the fit just right. I am not always a fan of the super tight dress - but as shown in that link in the previous paragraph, when fitting right they look hot!

S1778 tech drawing

Rachel, here are two more suggestions that may be closer to items that you have previously sewn. And slightly less va-voom.  But who wants that for the special birthday...not you, right?
This New Look 6123 pattern has a standard bodice and attached skirt, so if you have made a dress with a bodice with bust and waist darts you can compare for fit. I like the V-neckline version - sleeveless or the cap sleeves, and the draped skirt. In a solid color it would be smashing,

New Look 6123

And one more suggestion, this one may be a bit random but how about Lekala 4078. This is quite an easy dress to sew, I would leave off the sleeves and narrow the width of the shoulder portion a bit - my favorite adjustment for portion - always looks more elegant. If you leave off the sleeves you may need to raise the bottom of the armhole. Or with sleeves - great for winter. You are in the UK and this would be a very quick and economical option  - pricing for us here in the US is around $ 3. They send the PDF quite fast (it has always been in less than an hour for me) and since you put in your measurements you probably won't have to do an FBA. 

Lekala 4078 pattern and drawing

So those are my suggestions for a WOW dress for you, Rachel. I will be so interested to hear what everyone thinks. And if you go in a different direction that is OK too - find something that will be fun to sew, don't stress over it and my biggest suggestion is to pick a color that you LOVE to wear and you will shine. other piece of advice for party dress sewing. Treat it a little bit like a costume. It doesn't have to be perfect on the inside. You are going to wear it a few times, styles will change or fabrics will go out of favor. It's not a coat you will keep for many years or a pair of jeans that get every weekend wear. A party dress is almost like a party itself, a bit ephemeral - something to enjoy, remember and on to the next thing.

I hope you have a wonderful birthday!

Happy sewing, Beth

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Pattern Whisperer is taking your requests

Edit on 10/21/14:  The Pattern Whisperer request line is now closed. I am currently reviewing all the comments and working on my choices. I will be choosing some specific requests to address with suggestions. But I will also make some general recommendations in the various categories which can apply to a lot of you so that more stitchers can get some ideas on patterns.

My head is spinning! But I can say that it is really fun to look at patterns with a different perspective other than how it might work out for me. 
First up will be the request from SewSouthLondon. If you scroll down to her comment she is looking for a special party dress and I have some ideas she may find surprising. Hopefully in a good way. 
Stay tuned!

The Pattern Whisperer is waiting for your questions! I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in one of my posts about patterns that I secretly love picking out patterns for other people. It is really fun to look at someone's shape, lifestyle, event, sewing ability or even fabric and choose a pattern that might be just right for them.

Note that I have kind of fixed ideas on how things should fit, and what looks good on various figures. Anyone can look great and have a garment that flatters but sometimes you have to choose very carefully or focus on one fashion detail and skip some others to get the look you are going for.

So with those caveats - who is interested?  I figured since we are heading into holiday and winter sewing - particularly for the organized among us - I should do this now.

This is just for fun and hopefully will get us all thinking about what makes a good pattern. Is there a universally great pattern? Are there patterns that have no envelope appeal but sew up well and look great on many people?  It will be interesting to see.

photo of pattern bin Another note - I will be choosing from Simplicity, New Look, Butterick, McCalls, Vogue, BurdaStyle PDF, or Burda envelope patterns. Those are the ones I am familiar with and can easily scan through the websites looking at. Although remember my other favorite saying "there are no new patterns!" Even if you can't obtain one of these, it is quite likely there is something similar in a different pattern line that will work.

If you would like me to recommend a pattern please leave the following details in the comments. 

Let's limit it to 4 categories.  I will pick one or two from each category and give a few options as to patterns I think might look good, sew up well, and hopefully be adjusted for fit without too much trouble.

  1. Day or work dress
  2. Holiday or party dress
  3. Jacket  
  4. Coat  

Please include the following information in your comment:

  • What you want to make (details such as a dress for holiday party, a winter coat which will be a wardrobe basic, a casual jacket to wear with jeans and a t-shirt)
  • sewing skill level (and what you feel comfortable either sewing or a new thing you want to try)
  • your most significant fitting issue(s)
  • A special detail. Kind of a do's and don'ts, such as: must have full skirt, or can't be sleeveless. Needs classic shape to last for several years (coats). Needs to be in a particular size range. Love or Hate certain necklines. Want to accentuate a small bust, hide a tummy, fit on broad shoulders, etc..... we all have variations and sewing lets us adjust for fit and look good doing it.  
  • Optional - Fabric.  if you have a particular fabric that you can't quite figure out which pattern to use include that as well.
If you have a blog or a profile on Pattern Review or ButdaStyle where I can take a look at photos of your previous makes that would be great, so let me know that as well.

Not asking for an essay here :)  just a few lines with your sewing wishes, fit issues and garment choice.

OK, remember this is all for fun. No one is going to check up on you and see if you sewed up your Pattern Whisperer pick. But maybe we will all get some ideas on what works for different people.

Happy Sewing, Beth

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Random Threads #9

today's topics: coat desires, a fitting guide and how many patterns is too many?

Today it is almost coat weather here. Well just barely, this morning I was out and about in jeans, a short-sleeve top and sneakers. So no need for a jacket but there is a tiny hint of autumn in the air. There are supposedly some rainclouds blowing by and we are all hoping for a storm. Because we really, really need it!
Which means I have been thinking about making a coat. For no good reason, by my count I have at least 3 that are currently wearable - meaning style, fit, color are nice. (I have several more that are buried in the depths of the closet which I just can't part with but never wear lately). And as I have said before, the weather which is temperate and my not so fancy lifestyle conspire to make a wardrobe of coats not really necessary. But......I am still thinking about a new one. Here are two coats I have recently seen online and they both give me a thrill.

This one I saw in the New York Times Style magazine and had to track it down. It is a Louis Vuitton coat from their Fall 2014 collection. Wool with leather insets on the collar and pockets. They show it with a separate belt belt, theirs of course.
LV Coat

This one is from LK Bennet, a UK brand. This line started with shoes but now also have clothes.  I love the simple shape of this one and the way the neckline goes up in the back. It does look great in this red shade but I have a coat in this color.

LK Bennet coat

Last year mid-winter I bought this fabric at Stone Mountain for who knows what reason. I rarely buy something with no idea and now that I have it I fear it is a bit dull. Quite soft and it does have lots of flecks of different shades of grey, mauve, purple, red. 

purple grey wool

So I like the red LK Bennet coat shape more but the Vuitton coat shape would be so nice for this wool with some coordinating leather for the trim. Perhaps I should go look at the leather options and then decide. 

As for patterns, the Vuitton is a fairly straight forward style, I could find a pattern and adapt. The LK Bennet is a princess style with the interesting neckline, I was thinking I could adapt this jacket into a coat pattern. 

I had a new post on the Craftsy Sewing blog this weekend which I completely forgot about. But if you are interested in pattern fitting you might want to take a look. And this morning I was completely gratified to read that someone got something out of one my posts, Sewing Tidbits adjusted her Archer shirt pattern to great success. Thanks for the acknowledgement :)  and a great blog too, interesting observations, lots of pretty creations and tropical backgrounds - just my cup of tea.
Craftsy post measureing
Link to the Craftsy Post

How many patterns is too many?  This past weekend I went to the Bay Area Sewist's Meetup, always fun to see friends and meet people who are new to sewing. This one was a pattern swap, so I brought some that I will never use and was determined to leave with fewer. However....someone (not sure of her name) brought an amazing haul of Vogue designer patterns, completely unused. So I did avail myself of a few.  The one on the left looks very simple, almost nondescript but the line drawings are fantastic and 3 completely different dresses. For the one on the right, I blame LauraMae as she is quite the pattern enabler - to the point where she dragged me over to the table and said "you have to take this one, it is a great pattern that looks good on everyone"!  OK, I am not going to say no to that endorsement. 
Dk patterns

I have kind of mini-obsession over Donna Karan Vogue patterns and want to collect them all. (and Michael Kors patterns although he seems to have dropped the partnership). I give DK all the credit in the world for continuing for so long with Vogue and giving people like me a chance to sew these up. One little note is that in the last 2 Vogue releases I was completely blah about the DK patterns, however if time is any proof I will be scooping them up down the road. Confession I do really like V1408 but a self imposed moratorium means no adding of unnecessary sleeveless dresses to my wardrobe. I will hold out until spring!

Update on my potential fabric fail - that jacket is looking even worse than anticipated. With a distinctly 70's safari suit vibe that I was not intending (like who would?)  But I am powering through and finishing, so I will show all soon.  And then onward to fall not fail for real.

has autumn arrived where you are?  
Happy Sewing, Beth

And a lingering bloom in the garden, a red nicotiana.

red nicotiana
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