Friday, January 12, 2018

Sewing on a whim: Faux Fur and leather vest McCalls 7693

Do you every make something completely on a whim? An item that is totally unnecessary - more than that, something that you think when will I even wear this? I find that is exactly what I have done, and spent far more time than reason would suggest to sew up this faux fur vest. Which like many things is difficult to photograph, keep scrolling for a better look.

M7693 faux fur vest

I mean, really? I blame Stone Mountain fabrics. In the best possible way 😊.
One day I was there to get a specific color lining - or something very practical like that and just out of the corner of my eye I spied a bin filled with all kinds of interesting furry remnants. The first thing I pulled out was this one - which is a black faux fur on one side and a shimmery black faux leather on the other side. And the piece was $ 12. Madness overtook me and I bought it. Thinking maybe to use for collars or some such details. But no, the idea of a vest entered my mind and here we are.

However the sewing was a saga. It seemed interminable!!! Perhaps because I wanted to retain that leather side, I decided to make it unlined. This seemed like a shortcut but no. More on that later. I wanted to use a simple pattern and I wanted it to have some kind of collar as my neck is always cold, so this pattern seemed like a good choice, as it was a vest and had an interesting collar. In the end I made it work but it was a long way to get there.  McCalls 7693 is the pattern I used.

M7693 pattern envelope

First up - a little pattern alteration. I realized that the collar piece is cut on the bias. But my fabric had no give at all, behaved like leather, so I had to create a rounded back neck section to do with shape what a bias pattern piece could do. I did a small adjustment on the front to lengthen, and then copied all the pattern pieces so I could cut everything at once instead of flipping or cutting two layers which with this odd remnant was not possible.  Here is the layout, I cut with the fur facing down, and still have some sizable chunks remaining for future luxurious embellishments on yet to be imagined projects.

fur vest cutting out

M7693 faux fur vest in sun

And to think I wasn't going to include pockets. Good thing I came to my senses during the construction because now they seem absolutely necessary.

Back to sewing. Here it is completed. This neat and tidy photo does not indicate the amount of fuzz that I have recently endured in my sewing space. And on whatever I'm wearing. And find in every room of the house. I finally came up with a technique which can be referred to as shake the heck out of it and let rain all those little hairs until every pattern piece had shed its fuzzy edges and was relatively safe to handle.

fur vest on form

Details of the sewing conundrum. Since I decided not to line it, then the collar needed some kind of finish on the underside. So the collar was lined and I flipped the seam to the underside of the shawl, so it is actually clean finished on the inside of the neckline and then covered by the lining under collar.  Hard to explain but if you sew this pattern it would make sense. This photo below shows the shawl collar with the lining, which is machine stitched at the outer edge, and then hand stitched to the vest where all the pins are. It gave a tidy finish and I got through a few movies while sitting and stitching.

fur vest before elastic

Note the two piece back. After I was putting it together, I was really sorry that I cut it in two pieces, because the seam did nothing for the fur look, and just made it stiff. But as always, a few hours of dress form time gave me an idea, so I flipped the bottom piece so the leather was on the outside. And to me much better. Also the pattern has no shaping, and in a fabric this might work but the stiffness of the faux fur/leather made it look like a barrel in the back. So I put elastic in the back and it gives it some nice shaping and interest. I think it makes it look more like real leather.

fur vest back view on form

M7693 faux fur vest back view

Back to hand sewing. Call me crazy but I didn't like how the seam allowances behaved once it was stitched together, so I hand stitched every one flat. And in the case of the collar I hand stitched them down before enclosing with the collar lining. Which is a scrap of charcoal grey silk charmeuse I found in my lining scrap bin. Despite all the hand sewing, the actual machine sewing was a breeze. No special treatment - no walking foot, used pins, regular 80 universal needle.

fur vest inside stitching

The armholes are also bound with the silk charmeuse.

faux fur vest armhole binding

All in all I'm very satisfied with the way the collar turned out, it feels great and has the right amount of shaping for a nice shawl collar.

M7693 faux fur vest closeup

The last spot that I had to do a bit of improvising was at the center front sections below the waist seam. In the end I decided to finish them off with more silk and then leave the bottom end raw. The pockets are attached to the waist seam so they won't peek out below the hem edge. I really like the leather side and wish I could have figured out a way to use more of it.

fur vest inside front lapel

M7693 faux fur vest white background2

Every once in a while it's nice to sew something completely wacky, just to stretch the creative muscles. And astound your friends by declaring that you made it.

Time to dash - (can you tell I am enamored of the action shots these days, although I spared you a time)

M7693 faux fur vest 2

Happy New Year Sewing,


By the way, at Hello Stitch Studio in February we have the Copy A Garment class again so if you have a beloved item that is getting past it's prime - clone it! My next blog post should be my copied pants which I am really happy and plan to make pants in any color that strikes my fancy.

Other classes are listed on their website, and if you have a particular class. specific garment or pattern you would like to do in a class please let me know - we're open to any class ideas.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 sewing review and look ahead

Happy New Year! Thinking about what I sewed this year, and looking for some theme I realized that as usual I went where my mood and new fabric purchases took me. I am not much of a planner however I did kind of tell myself that I would try to resist the temptation to sew any new coats and jacket. To my surprise I mostly succeeded with that idea. After all I have so many already! In fact on Christmas eve I put on my tricolor coat to go to mass, and that was the first time I had worn it this season. So I'm glad to give sewing coats a rest, although I did make some for other people.

In fact - one of my best items of the year might have been one of the earliest projects, a camel colored cashmere long vest which I sewed for my friend Alice. She bought the fabric in NY at Metro Textiles the previous October. Although I always want to call it a sleeveless coat - which I suppose is a vest. Anyway - here's the post with pattern details.

Alice coat 4

I did sneak one jacket in for myself, which was this blue wool jacket sewn using a Vogue pattern that is about 16 years. Not quite vintage but not new. There are a lot of really great Vogue designer patterns published in the 90's and 2000's.

blue jacket unbuttoned

I sewed a lot of tops, knit tops, woven shirts - so many shirts! I think this is my favorite one, cotton poplin from Mood Fabrics. All my shirts are the same pattern - a very basic Simplicity pattern that I started using maybe 5 years ago and see no need to change 😊

Green paisley shirt front view

Partly because I was doing some specific construction technique posts for Craftsy, but mostly as practice in order to teach at Hello Stitch Studio which opened in May in Berkeley. It's a great space for sewing and classes, the light is beautiful and those big cutting tables are fantastic. We have all kinds of classes scheduled for January and February so if you are in the area check it out. Or even if you are from outside the area and are coming to N. Cal - plenty of airbnb's nearby if you want to make a weekend of it.

Hello Stitch studio view

We have upcoming classes in on knit t-shirts, button front shirts, and I believe we have a space open in this weekend's coat making workshop. If you have piece of wool in your stash that needs to get off the shelf and onto the cutting table to be a new winter coat or jacket here's the link.

Also I wrote a LOT of posts for the Craftsy sewing blog this year, and have created a page here on this blog with links to all of them. One pictured below is how to attach a shirt collar, two different ways. I think the most popular post I had on the Craftsy sewing blog this year is this post on how to change the neckline for knit top patterns.

Collar tutorial

As evidenced by my quick analysis of my own sewing, I made a lot of knit tops, woven tops, a few items in other categories, and a few dresses. That's another category where I have too many - but how difficult is it to resist the siren call of a cute dress pattern?

So speaking of dresses, my absolute favorite dress that I made this year has to be the embroidered denim shift dress.

flower denim dress garden square

Denim! flowers! sleeveless! all my favorite things in one dress. When I saw this fabric at Stone Mountain I jumped up and down with glee. And I wore it so much. And will do next summer and the one after that.

What about new patterns? As per usual I tend to want to sew some new patterns but then usually decide I can make just what I have in mind with a pattern I already have. However I did use more new patterns this year than I have in a while, including Waffle, Closet Case, and my European favorite, Pauline Alice Patterns.

pie chart new patterns used

Including testing Pauline's new summer pattern, the Mirambel skirt, which turned out to be the summer skirt I didn't know I needed! (worn with my sparkly chambray top, fabric for that from Stone Mountain). July was a good sewing month - 3 items sewn that are among my favorites.

Mirambel skirt on me sq

One other development in the category of patterns is that I finally subscribed to BurdaStyle Pattern magazine. And I've already made one top,  with plans to make another item from this issue. (Jacket # 118). Actually I tried it for a 3-month subscription, and even if I don't use it much I enjoy getting the issue in the mail and sitting down for a read-through. But I'll use it.

Burda cover Dec 2017

So that's 2017 - at least a few of the sewing highlights. Onward to 2018. I have so many projects started and not yet finished, which is really unlike me. I'm usually a finish one thing and move on to the other of sewer. Plus this faux fur vest is going to do me in, so much fuzz. I even gave it a once over with my vacuum attachment hoping to minimize the black fibers. Almost done though :)

faux fur vest with pattern

Thank you to everyone for all your wonderful comments throughout the year.  I say it every year, but I will always be grateful that writing this blog has given me the opportunity to get to know people from all around the world that are as crazy about sewing as I am. Socializing, trading patterns, and getting out of the sewing room to meet new sewing friends is the very best part of this blog.

Happy New Year, 


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Fit fixes and perfect V-necklines, my latest posts on the Craftsy sewing blog

It doesn't feel right (as someone who is not British) to say Happy Boxing Day since we don't have it as an official holiday here in the US. However there is something very appealing about having Dec. 26 as an actual holiday. Because after all, it is a holiday in just about everyone's mind - whether we have to go to work or not. I'm doing some serious lounging with a few bursts of tidying up. I gave the sewing room a good vacuuming, it's amazing how much dust and fuzz settles in every corner of a sewing space.

The past few days I have had a couple of new blog posts on the Craftsy sewing blog which I think might be useful to a lot of people so here are the links. Also there is a page listed above where I have links to every one of my Craftsy blog posts, subdivided into categories.

First one is my tips for sewing a smooth V-neckline, which can be really tricky in a tightly woven fabric or one that wants to stretch along the neckline. (link below image below)

Craftsy image V-neckline sewing

Next is my take on adjusting an existing dress. Sometimes you have a dress that just doesn't fit right or is not comfortable due to the fit. Check out my tips on adjusting the dresses you already have in your closet. 

Craftsy black dress with organza trim

Next up in my sewing is finishing a bunch of items that are in progress. Yet what I feel like doing is curling up on the couch and watching a movie. I think so. This is the time of year to relax and indulge. 

I'll be back soon with an year-end analysis of my sewing, which I like to do mostly for me, to see how what I sewed compares to what I actually planned to sew😉.

Happy Holidays and enjoy the leftovers - I know we are!


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Burda 12-2017-113 top in festive plaid

It's the most wonderful time of the year. At least that's what the song says. Some days are more wonderful than was some last minute shopping (the lines, the traffic, the people coughing right behind me, eek!) so after that I scurried home and decided to catch up on my blogging. I had plans to take some festive photos as I did last year near the big Christmas tree but that didn't work out, so we have some more backyard pictures. I have a lot of other projects in the works so hope to do some better photos of those soon.
Meanwhile  - I used my Burda magazine subscription. I am so proud of myself. Admittedly a very minor achievement but I've already seen several things to make in the issues that have arrived. And there are a couple of super cute jackets in this issue with interesting sleeves so maybe I will get to those before the winter ends.

Burda blouse full length outside

The outdoor photos don't show the true nature of this fabric which is not only plaid but sparkle. I guess it a lurex thread woven it, and it doesn't show except when the light hits it in certain ways, which is kind of nice. I bought it at a sewing guild sale for a few bucks, maybe sometime in 2016 and thought this just might make a festive type of item. And promptly forgot about it until a few weeks ago when I was rummaging around for something else and came across it.  There was just enough to make the Burda top. I've been trying to sew new shapes and silhouettes so this seemed like a good one to try.

Burda sparkle top final version

Here's the magazine photo and tech drawing. It's also a dress and their view shows the elastic at the waist. More on that in a minute.

Burda photo and tech drawing sparkle blouse

I did add the elastic as the pattern intended, tried it on, and realized that it would drive me crazy. For one thing my fabric is probably a bit too stiff for that type of style, it needs a much softer fabric like a rayon woven or a silk crepe would be best. Also the bottom portion is really wide, it adds a lot of volume. Let me tell you that when I had it on the elastic gathered section landed at my waist, and the bottom part wanted to stick out like a ballet tutu. Slight exaggeration but definitely that was the resemblance. I think in a dress it would work better as the weight of the skirt would pull down that part more than a top. It looks sort of OK on the dress form but on me it was weird. Maybe I made the elastic too tight and so when I lifted up my arms the gathered part stayed up too high on the torso. And looked goofy.  But I was really happy with the color and the shimmer so I just removed the elastic thread stitching.

Burda top with elastic front view onform

Here's a look at the shoulder detail, it has oval sections that extend over the shoulders and then the sleeves, front and back are attached to those sections. And I see some neckline stay stitching there in this photo near the bias binding, which I have since removed. Sometimes when you stay stitch a neckline the stitching wobbles a bit when you attach the facing or binding, I just try to attach the binding evenly and then remove any stray bits of stay stitching after it's finished. I didn't use the pattern piece for the neck binding as I had to piece it together which whatever scraps of bias cut I could find after cutting out the larger pieces. So the tie ends are not too long but I kind of like the little bow.

Burda sparkle top shoulder view

Burda sparkle top close up view on form

Burda sparkle top back view

Just to show you how shimmery this fabric really is, an indoor photo with the flash.

Burda sparkle blouse with flash

In the photo above where the top still has the elastic, there are some green pants pinned to the dress form, which I just sewed and will get their own blog post as I have lots to say. I made my own jeans pattern, yay! And sewed them up in this stretchy ponte which was kind of a random purchase but I think I need them in other colors now.

Green jeans1

I made a pattern from an existing pair I have in order to practice for my class last month (Pattern Drafting - Copying Ready to Wear February session) and they came out better than I could have imagined. Lots of details to come on those. Also that class is scheduled again at Hello Stitch for February so if you have wanted to try that sign up on the link.

Lots of classes coming up in Jan and Feb at Hello Stitch Studio in Berkeley, and we're trying to do a variety of classes that are suited for  those that have been sewing a while and want to learn some more tips and techniques, as well as those just starting with garment sewing

Jacket Essentials  (2-day workshop Jan 7 & 14)
Sew with Knits, Basic T-shirt (Jan 13 & 20)
Button Front Shirt (Jan 13 & 20)

Basics - Tunic Style Shirt or Dress (Jan 16 & 23)
Basics - Garment Sewing, Skirt (Feb 11)
Pattern Basics - How to Read a Sewing Pattern (Jan 6)    If you are just starting or getting back into sewing check out this class. I will cover choosing your size, picking the right fabric for a successful garment, explain all the info on the pattern pieces, and we will go over how to cut out without stress and how to mark your pattern pieces. All the steps before you sew a stitch :)

That's it for my sparkly holiday blouse, which I will be wearing this weekend to hang out with family and friends. After all the baking, cooking, wrapping etc. is completed. And then we open a nice bottle of wine and have our Dungeness crab (Christmas eve traditional meal).

I'll be back with more blog posts before the end of the year, including a sewing year in review.

Merry Christmas to all, and I hope everyone has a safe and Happy Holiday,


Burda top with greetings

Friday, December 8, 2017

Latest sewing in progress

Why yes, I have been sewing lately. A lot! The typical time crunch of December is upon us and I have so many things to sew - and so many other things that I want to do as well. So instead of a blog post on just one thing that is finished I figured you might be interested in seeing what I'm working on. Some interesting stuff so if boring knit tops are not your thing keep scrolling :)

Which means a few finished things like this trio of knit tops. All made using patterns that I think are just perfection.

First up this Vogue pattern 9205 which I made previously in a stripe knit. This is a very soft rayon knit found in the upstairs section at Stone Mountain (where else, right?).

blue dart top

And now, why have it not made a turtleneck before?  Maybe because I have a bunch of them and don't really need another but I had a big piece of this blue stripe (Stone Mountain again) and had always wanted to try the turtleneck variation on my go-to Raglan Sleeve pattern, which is Burda 6990. I have made the crew neck version many times (actually there is no crew neck with a band version, that is my own modification so slight pattern hack there. Also if you are interested in t-shirt neckline changes I did a post on the Craftsy sewing blog on that.)

blue stripe t-neck

And every time I do a knit top class at Hello Stitch Studio I seem to make a knit top for demonstration purposes plus I use up the scraps of various knits I have stashed around. So one more version of the Burda raglan.

raglan tee

Ok now for the more interesting things. Green jeans.

Green jeans in progress

yes, green jeans but they are far more interesting than might appear. And as you can see not finished. A theme right now, lots of unfinished stuff. However these jeans are the result of using a pair of my jeans that fit perfectly and making a pattern from the jeans. I just taught that class so prior to that I was in a frenzy of copying, with jeans being the ultimate prize, so to speak, in the pattern copy sweepstakes. I have cracked the code on these and one tip is to use as close to the original fabric to ge the same fit.  Lots more details and photos once I get these finished.

A Hemisferic Coat from Pauline Alice Patterns. Oh you didn't think I was going to let that one pass by, did you?  You know how I love her designs. This is actually going to be for my friend Heather's daughter, and Saturday we are off to find the perfect wool. Thinking merlot color or something like that. Also I am changing it from zipper front to a hidden buttonhole placket. I just don't like zipper front coats, to me they seem too casual.

hemisferic coat muslin

And something for Heather, as she has a party in early 2018 so I am giving myself plenty of time to get this one going. The moment I saw this pattern on the Burda website I wanted to sew it. It is Burda 07/2017 # 124A and I haven't seen any reviews but I think it is gorgeous. I probably will add some sleeves, either cap sleeves or maybe 3/4 sleeves. We will see how it goes. But that seaming, gorgeous!

Burda dress

For myself I have two projects in the works and I really want to get to both of them but I have no idea when I will do so.  The first is this silk crepe de chine blouse I started before Thanksgiving, with the idea of making it before I did the wool jacket. And here it is, waiting for me to get back to it. It is going to be a longish shirt, and then the jacket will be kind of cropped, but use both sides of the wool which is on the hanger behind it (note tiny squares on one side and bigger squares on the other). I bought this at Mood last October and I really want to sew it up for this winter.  Soon! Also I have just enough silk to make a long tie bow which will be separate so I can wear it with or without.

blue silk with wool

Well that's the latest around here - so much stuff in progress and a lot of wishing for more time to finish.

They have posted some of Hello Stitch Studio classes for January and February classes on the website so if you are in the area check it out. We have the Knit T-shirt and Button Front shirt classes again, plus some new ones including Pattern Basics - How to Read Sewing Patterns. I think that one will be really useful for a lot of people whether you are a beginner or as a refresher returning to sewing. And everyone will bring a couple of patterns so we can discuss specific examples.

Happy Holiday Sewing,

Here's today's garden photo. Despite the chilly weather we haven't had frost so my impatiens are still blooming. And this burgundy color plant with lots of little seeds has thrived. I can't remember the name, it is a type of grain but this is an ornamental version. I hope it reseeds for next year.

sunflowers etc

Saturday, November 25, 2017

An almost free shirt: Simplicity 2339 in Buffalo Check

One of these days I might have to try out a new shirt pattern. Or at least do something to preserve the one I am currently using. After all, a button front shirt is such a basic item, and my feeling is that if it fits well, has the shaping I like, and offers opportunity to change it up with other details then there is absolutely no need to try a new shirt pattern just for the sake of newness. So I guess I've talked myself into preserving this one in a more long-lasting way. I should copy it onto Swedish tracing paper which would be ideal. Resolution for January! I like to use the Swedish tracing paper (which is really more like fabric) as it is easy to pin onto the fabric unlike stiff paper. And since I like to use pins and not pattern weights that will be the way to go.

The post title is "an almost free shirt." Almost free, because I think I paid maybe $ 2 for the fabric at a rummage sale. It said "shirt" the minute I saw it and then upon closer inspection it revealed that oh so nice feature - a touch of lycra! So a stretch woven cotton in bright fuchsia pink/black combo. Had to come home with me. With the use of my tattered Simplicity 2339 pattern which I probably paid 99 cents for originally and now have used at least 15 times I call that a good value for money. The button probably cost more than the rest of it and they were not exactly pricey either 😊.

plaid shirt at garden store

Some things I sew and just wear once in a while, other things are for special occasions, and then some get worn immediately and constantly until I'm just tired of them. I think this shirt will go into the 3rd category, a wear-it-all-the-time shirt at home just about anywhere.

Check things are a bit easier to match than actual plaids, but maybe possible they are more likely to show where things don't line up properly.

check shirt on form front view

I'm super happy with this one, the front/sides/sleeves lined up very well. My top tip for button front shirts in plaid or check - Firstly - cut it out properly, perhaps even single layer and flip the first front over to cut out a mirror image for the 2nd front. But the actual tip is to carefully line it up when you sew on the buttons, and then do the hem AFTER the buttons are sewn on. So that you can align the front, have the buttons secure the crossways lines, and then have the hem not poke out at the bottom from the shirt side with the buttons. If it needs to be a bit shorter on that side then that is OK. No one will see it and it will look far better than having the underneath part sticking out when it is buttoned up.

check shirt on form back view

I always put the yoke and cuffs on the bias because it just adds a little more visual interest.

Let's talk about perfection. And perfectionism. It has been fascinating to me to see what people in my classes obsess over and will not be satisfied with, and conversely what they say is just fine or good enough. And their judgements might not agree with how I would see something, but that is another good thing about making things by hand, you get to decide how you want things to be. However - like the hem edge I mentioned above, with some knowledge you can overcome a lot of these small issues that can detract from the overall effect. But it's also good to know where to pick your battles. Which brings me to my next photo.

check shirt cuffs

Spot the difference? Note the placket on the cuff opening. I am showing you this as I receive so many  wonderful comments and compliments on my sewing - but sometimes, as we all do,  I make a mistake and then I just have to decide how to deal with it. I put one of the plackets on backwards, so it was going to end up on the inside of the shirt and rather than unpick the whole thing I just reversed the sides, resulting in a stumpy little placket on one side. But the amount of time and eyestrain to remove it just wasn't worth it to me. And I doubt it's visible when I wear the shirt. This is what I mean by pick your battles. If I had messed up the collar band, which is front and center on the shirt then I would likely remove it and start again. Something like a sleeve placket which can be adapted, is on the side of the garment and not really even seen - I can live with a shrunken and slightly lumpy placket.

check shirt at garden store

What a glamorous life I lead - taking blog photos at the garden store. Actually I couldn't resist snapping these standing next to the cyclamen. Those colors!

On my cutting table right now, so many things. Actually I have started a silk blouse using a different pattern - although it is a pattern repeat. The fabric is one that I bought at Mood in NY.

blue silk blouse Burda pattern

And I started with this silk to make the blouse first, as I am still playing around with options for the coordinating wool also purchased at Mood.

DO not Laugh at this!  Which is a test muslin for a jacket. Sewn using two different scraps of cotton  in order to look at the color block effect. Seems successful even in this goofy quilting cotton combo. And disregard the striped number underneath, a recent project, my first turtleneck which will appear in a future blog post.

test muslin for wool jacket

This is McCalls 7549. When this pattern came out I saw a lot of people that put it on their "want to sew" lists and yet I find almost no completed versions. I think it has possibilities. If you do a screen capture of the tech drawing and put into photoshop you can use the paintbrush tool to fill in the shapes with color. I find this super useful for figuring out how to design color block garments. My test below. The fabric I will use is a tweedy plaid and dot pattern which might sound weird but just wait - I think it will be nice. (I certainly hope so after lugging this fabric home and then pondering it for more than a year).

M7549 pattern envelope jacket

coat color test 2

So that's the latest on what I'm sewing. Well actually, not by a long shot- so many things in the works but not a lot of photos to document. Although one other interesting item has me puzzling out the details which you can see here.

Hope everyone is having a great and relaxing Thanksgiving weekend here in the US and getting lots  accomplished wherever you are.

Happy Sewing, Beth

today's garden photo, a velvety red rose that bloomed a few weeks ago among the salvia branches.


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