Monday, April 4, 2016

Dresses! More Model Garments

I make a lot of model garments for classes I teach at Haberman Fabrics. My next set of classes starting in May will teach how to sew a variety of dresses. They include a vintage style dress from Vogue, a simple knit shift dress, and a wrap dress. 

Though quite time consuming making the dresses is fun and instructive. By constructing each garment I am able to know first hand all the details involved in making them, but more importantly, the process allows me to know where deviations from the construction sequence should be employed and what short cuts or improvements should be taught.

The vintage Vogue dress using pattern #2960 was the most fun to make.  Probably because it was the most challenging to construct, but also because I found it to be the most stylish of the three. The store and I chose to do it in a more dressy fabric to help promote the stores strong offering of wedding and social occasion fabrics, but it would look equally lovely in a beautiful floral print as illustrated on the pattern envelop - don't you agree?

The wrap dress made from Vogue #8784 is not a dress I would wear but is a very popular silhouette. In fact, Sarah at Goodbye Valentino recently featured a very similar dress. Made in a stretch cotton woven print the dress features a fully lined bodice. I chose not to line the skirt which worked out just right for the full skirt.

The third dress is a very practical and easy dress to make. Made using McCall's #6886 in a medium weight knit print the pattern features several necklines and sleeve options. I chose the short sleeve V-neck version. With a serger to finish all the seams and very few style lines or details this is a dress that can be made in just a matter of a few hours.



Saturday, February 13, 2016

Vogue 1414

Once again it's time to make samples. This time its for a silk blouse class I will be teaching in March at Haberman's.  The class is intended to teach skills and techniques for sewing with silky type fabrics, silk in particular, while constructing this lovely Anne Klein styled shirt using Vogue pattern #1414.

Vogue #1414

The shirt was made using a rather expensive medium weight silk charmeuse in this Asian inspired print. The pattern ran along the crossgrain so I was glad I had just a bit more than the pattern suggested. Otherwise, I would not have been able to match the pattern for the front overlays.

It turned out beautifully though I must admit there are lots of lessons to be learned when working with silk. Cutting out this type of fabric to grain is always a challenge. Having a gridded work surface, rotary cutter and pattern weighs made the job much easier. I also cut the patterns in a single layer to make sure I had control of the grain and to match the patterns for the shoulder overlays on the front -- I know it's hard to notice them in the photos.

Tissue paper, you know the kind used for gift wrapping, was also a godsend here. While I have a single hole needle plate I could have used, it would have limited me from moving my needle around and is a pain to change back and forth. So, tissue paper did the trick of preventing edges from sinking into the needle plate at the start of a seam and it did wonders keeping seams generally under control. It's one of the best and cheapest ways to maintain control when working with slippery fabrics.

Overall, I am pleased with the way the shirt turned out with the exception of the back. The back was the last piece I cut and it appears it was terribly off grain as the hemline does not hang straight. It's the only thing I can attribute to the problem. The round bolt of fabric was displayed in the store standing straight up which made the fabric cascade to the floor on the bias. Perhaps the grain shifted as a result of this, who knows. It is a big disappointment as everything else turned out well. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Janome Memory Craft 8900QCP

My New Arrival!

I've finally done it. I purchased a new sewing machine and isn't she a beauty!  It has great features and many more stitches I will ever use, But, what sold me was the AccuFeed Dual presser foot that glides through thick and shifty fabrics with ease that came with the machine.

I've waited a long time to invest in a good machine. A few years back the Viking machine I had since I graduated college over 40 years ago, pooped out on me. Given its age I figured it wasn't worth the money to have it fixed, so I quickly purchased an inexpensive Singer to get me through till I purchased a new one. 

Four years later I finally settled on this machine.  When the American Sewing Expo came to my town last fall I used the event to shop all the brands and newest models within my price range. I am glad I did that. It was the perfect forum to try out machines and listen to the sales pitches from all the top companies that ultimately helped me make a more informed decision.

Viking was at the top of my list for the longest time, but after learning ownership has changed hands several times within recent years I became concerned. The same conglomerate also owns Singer and Pfaff.  This raised the question of whether their future was on solid ground or would it mean a decline in quality for the 3 brands.  Of course, this change of hands could be for the better, but it seldom is. So I passed on Viking and Pfaff.

What I learned from shopping around is how small the sewing machine industry has whittled down to.  Brother and Baby Lock are also essentially the same company. While I find the Baby Lock machines to be exceptional, they are simply higher priced versions of Brother models. Not that that's bad, but I wasn't in love with the Brother models I could afford. 

So, that left me with either Bernina or Janome. While there is no question Bernina makes one of finest machines on the market the models I could afford were too basic. The really good ones are simply too high priced for me, so I had to pass - maybe one day if I win the lottery I'll get one. 

I was left to conclude a Janome machine would fit my needs. Its a company that appears to be on solid footing and they make good machines to fit just about any budget. I really liked the new Skyline S7 model and almost bought that one, but settled on this Memory Craft 8900 which in the end despite having a higher MSRP came in cheaper than the Skyline S7. It has all the bells and whistles I was looking for. I sews quietly and smoothing and makes lovely buttonholes - many different ones in fact. 

AccuFeed Dual presser foot

Like I said, I've researched and waited a long time to find a good machine. I just hope this one will also last me another 40 years.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2016 New Years Re-SEW-lutions

My latest post addresses setting New Year's resolutions, or re-sew-lutions, geared specifically to the sewer. Here is the link: 2016 Re-sew-lutions. Of course, when writing the post I had my own resolutions in mind. Just like everything else in life the new year is a great time to look back on what was, or more likely wasn't, accomplished last year as a basis for what the next year's objectives may be.

Most of the items on the post I have as on my own personal list of resolutions. There are a few more however I would like to add. Just as the post reads, cleaning my sewing studio is at the top of my list, too. My daughter's wedding, or should I say weddings! last year took a toll on my sewing space. In the rush to get everything done for the wedding shower, the wedding in Italy and then the American reception that followed, on top of writing assignments and teaching, my sewing space is in complete disarray. In my haste to keep my sewing table clear I haphazardly stuffed containers and drawers so that now everything is out of place. I can't find anything!

So, while I have a brief pause before my rush of teaching, writing, and sewing begins again, my first order of business is to reorganize all my fabric stash, and sewing supplies.  If I hope to be more productive in 2016 it has to start with a space where everything is in its proper place.

Another resolution I deem to be rather important is that I want 2016 to be a year where I finally sew more for myself.  Wow, it's hard to believe I even have to list this as a resolution, but the fact of the matter is though I sew almost everyday I am seldom sewing for myself.  I can't tell you how many pieces of fabric I have purchased with specific patterns or designs in mind, but never seem to get around to making them. Something always seems to interrupt my intentions. No more! I have made a preliminary list of items I want to make and will hopefully finally get to sew them. After all, what's the point of possessing this skill if I can't use it to my own advantage.  

If you are at all like me you've purchased oodles of classes from I'm  a sucker for buying them when they go on sale, especially at the $19.99 price, so now I have a boatload of them. The problem is I buy them but then don't watch them. Who does that?  So, this month and probably the next, I will commit myself to binge watching as many as I can and not purchase anymore until I have watched them all.  

It's already two weeks into the year and so far I'm on track. Can you say the same?


Monday, January 4, 2016

Pillows From Mom

The holidays can be especially tough after a loved one has recently passed. That was the case for my niece Carol whose mother passed away earlier in the year after a long illness. To help keep her mother's spirit a part of the season she asked me to make pillows and scarves out of some of her mother's favorite clothing items. They would be presents to her two sisters, her son and daughter, as well as her nieces and nephews. Just a little something to keep their mother's and grandmother's memory alive. It was such a lovely and heartfelt request I simply could not refuse her.

For the girls pillows were made in a variety of throw-types sizes from a couple of favorite sweatshirts and fleece jackets. I also made several small sachet-style ones filled with lavender.  For the boys I made gaiters out of a favorite fleece jacket. They all turned out nicely and I hear all were well received with lots of tears and smiles.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Jeff's Slippers

I have a student who has been trying to learn to sew and his project of choice has been slippers. He made a pair last year for a friend that has Multiple Sclerosis. A few weeks ago he contacted me to help him make another two pair for the same friend in time for her birthday next month.  His schedule unfortunately, became too demanding so he asked me to make them for him. These are the results. Aren't they cute! 

They were made from this pattern downloaded from the internet and is available on Here's the link:  J Howell Recycled Slippers

The body of the slippers are made from recycled wool sweaters that have been felted. Of course lots of other types of materials can be used, like fleece or regular woolens.  The pattern comes with the pattern pieces needed for several men's or women's sizes and instructions for both how to felt the wool and construct the slippers. 

Its a basic slipper design that works quite well but I would make a few modifications. Only the sole is lined so I would adjust the pattern so the upper is lined as well. It also doesn't include instructions for an interlining to cushion the sole, which I would add as well. But, other than that its a good pattern for a basic slipper. 

Jeff selected the fabrics which look ok, but weren't what I would have chosen. The upper on both pairs are made of recycled wool sweaters, one felted the other left as is. The brown pair features leather soles which worked out great. The grey ones used a suede like material, also a good choice.  What I really didn't like was his choice of material for the cuff and sole lining,. He purchased fake fur, one in ivory and the other in black. What an unbelievable mess these fabrics made. I have fur literally everywhere in my workroom and in and around my sewing machine!  The end results look pretty good, but neither fabric had the stretch or loft needed for a pair of slippers. 

The most difficult part of making them was dealing with the bulk the felted wool presents. Joining the upper with a back seam and adding a tag along that seam were particularly bulky.  Since the felted wool didn't fray I lapped the edges and stitch over it with a decorative stitch that literally fused the two fabrics together. 

The other issue I had was sewing with the leather. Pins became useless so I used binder clips to hold the layers together.  The added bulk combined with the leather also made it difficult to sew as the presser foot continued to stick. Fortunately my new sewing machine has a dual feed foot that solved the problem. Awesome feature!!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fall Placemats

My latest blog post - making placemats

My series on making seasonal table decor finished with my post on placemats made from fall inspired fabrics. I made four 12" x 18" placemats out of fabric in two fall themed prints. 

These were especially fun to make and look great on my kitchen table along with the matching napkins I made a few weeks ago. I'm not one to do this type of thing as I typically focus my time on making garments, but this was a pleasant diversion I am pleased to share with the sewing community.  

The method I used is very basic and will work for making placemats to fit any occasion or theme - Christmas, spring, Easter, etc. My take on doing the mitered corners is different from most, but I believe produces the best and sharpest looking corners -- you'll see! 

Here is the link to the post and happy fall. 
Fall themed placemats