Archive for April, 2008

PR Mini-Wardrobe Contest 2008

April 28th, 2008 1 comment

Here’s my storyboard for the PR Mini-Wardrobe Contest:

I went for the two tops, two bottoms option. The first top is Stretch and Sew’s City Tee, the long-sleeved version. This should be interesting — it has a built-in shelf bra, and I’ll be using power mesh for the first time. This pattern’s been hanging around for a year or two, and I’m glad to finally have an excuse to use it.

My Vogue 8499 muslin turned out so well that I’m really eager to make another pair. They’ll be very different in stretch cotton sateen. I’m not quite sure what to expect, but I’m sure I’ll like the results. The “stretch” will be largely irrelevant, since the pants are so full. This particular fabric has very little stretch and a nice resiliency, so it should work well and be very nice to wear.

The Vogue skirt is less of an experiment: the black linen-like fabric will give it a different look from my first version, but it should feel much the same to wear.

I’m a little dubious about Vogue 8323 — not the pattern itself, but the fabric I’ve chosen. We’ll see how it works up in one of those non-lycra cotton knits. (Got to use up that stash!). I cut out the cowl version of this shirt last summer, and didn’t quite finish making it. Today or tomorrow I’ll finish it as a warm-up to doing this new view.

There’s nothing really exciting here, but four good pieces to give my wardrobe a boost. The fabric and notions are sitting on my cutting table, ready for May 1, when we start our engines!

Note: There’s a typo on my storyboard — that pants pattern is 8499, not 8397. Correction as soon as I can manage it. This poor storyboard went through a few revisions, and I missed the old pattern number when finalizing it. 4/30/08:  Corrected storyboard added.

Categories: Fun Tags:

Vogue 8499 – Marcy Tilton Pants

April 27th, 2008 4 comments

This pattern is turning out to be one of my all-time favorites. This time I made the pants.

I love, love, love them! Yesterday was cold and rainy, and after running a few errands I retired to the sewing room and whipped them up. Mine are made of the same quirky linen blend I used for the skirt, and it turned out to be a great choice. It’s heavy enough so that the pants hold their shape, but it also flows very pleasingly.

(Apologies for the horrible wrinkles on the great pants. I made them, I wore them, I abused them. If you look at this fabric, it creases. I should have ironed them again before the photos, but I did not hesitate when the photographer was free. So the good news is that the pictures are on a real body. The bad news is that the fabric’s a disaster.) Side view:

The pattern directions were very clear, and construction is very simple. There’s a lot of topstitching, which takes some time, but nothing complex to deal with. However, be forewarned that the sizing is more than a little strange. Theoretically, I should have cut a size 14 (I wear an 8 or 10 in RTW, unless it’s really expensive RTW, in which case it’s a 4 or 6). BilllieJean’s review on Pattern Review confirmed my suspicion that these would run large: I cut a size 8, hedging my bet by cutting the crotch seam as a 10, and it was perfect. They’re still plenty big and flow-y, but that’s clearly the point.

The pants are also peculiarly long. I’m only 5’2″, so it could be argued that anything seems long to me, but I made View B (the cropped pants) and the length is right where I think it should be for View C (the long version). I may add one inch next time, but these are pretty good just as they are. I deliberately chose not to alter the pant leg length. There are wonderful darts that shape each leg, probably bracketing the knees on people of average height. Without a proper alteration, the top dart hits just at the top of my knee, instead of both bracketing it symetrically, with one dart well above, and one well below. I chose to view the darts as a structural detail rather than an accommodation to a joint; I think they look fine on me right where they fell.

I made one change: The waistband is flat in front (nice!), with a casing for elastic in back. I sewed two flat buttons to the inside of the front waistband, and made reinforced buttonholes in the elastic that I ran through the casing. This not only allows for some future adjustability, but also will let me replace worn elastic easily later. This is a simple trick I especially like for anything I wear when traveling.

This version was meant to be a muslin, but it’s turned out to be very wearable. Eventually, I think I’ll have to make them out out of my namesake fabric; they’d be spectacular in silk noil.

Categories: Pants Tags:

A Chair For My Sewing Room

April 27th, 2008 No comments

Finding a chair for my new sewing room hasn’t been easy. I didn’t want to spend a fortune until I was sure of exactly what I wanted, and none of the inexpensive chairs I’ve seen came with hardwood-floor-friendly casters. (One office supply place did offer to order them for me at $45 for a set of four, but with no guarantee that they’d fit the chair I bought. I declined.)

This week, IKEA came to the rescue. I found this chair, called “Snille”, and discovered that it fits my body perfectly. It has a primitive height adjustment system — turn the seat until it’s where you want it. I won’t miss a fancy hydraulic lift, though, since I don’t expect to be raising and lowering the seat regularly. For a total price of $19, I can live with it.

Snille wouldn’t have solved my problem if IKEA hadn’t just begun selling special casters for hard floors. Oddly named “Paragraf”, they’re about $11 for five. (They’re mentioned on the IKEA site, but only as options for other chairs.) When I snapped them into the chair frame, I was a initially dismayed, since it was a little difficult to push the chair. Once I sat in it, though, it sailed across the floor; apparently the casters need some weight pressing on them in order move smoothly.

It was a real surprise to find a chair this cheap that works so well, but I’m very happy with it. It’s easy to zip between my machines, and even over to the cutting table. Good thing I don’t have a long hallway; I’d be racing up and down it just for fun!

Categories: Home Tags:

Vogue 8497, Take Three

April 26th, 2008 6 comments

Yes, I did it again. It was my spouse’s fault. He took one look at my mini-wardrobe storyboard and said “You’re nuts. Marcy’s right. If you make that shirt again in that cotton, you won’t like it.” (OK, he was a little more diplomatic, but that’s what he meant.)

To refresh our memories, here’s Marcy Tilton’s Vogue 8497, looking smashing:

Marcy asserted the critical role of lycra in her comments on So I looked for lycra-enhanced knits in our fair village. And elsewhere.

This charming stuff was all I could find. It was cheap; I bought it in two colors. I made the shirt. It fits better (It actually fits me quite well; my dummy, not so much. Must replace dummy.) The fabric (poly/lycra) was awful to work with. (Another note: must learn to sew knits.) Details follow.

First, the alterations: I effectively shortened the sleeves by only one inch, instead of the two I’d taken up previously. I added two inches to the length all around, and took the side seams in to fit my actual body. I bound the collar, folding Vogue’s band over to make just a half-inch binding. I was very careful with the neckline, and think I’ve now got one that is what Marcy meant it to be, at least in terms of its size and shape. (Though not, of course, its width.)

For reasons that are still unclear to me, I also added an organza ruffle. It’s made of bias strips, about an inch deep, and folded double. It was quite twisty, so I pinned it to my cutting board overnight, which calmed it down quite a bit. Here’s a picture:

To stabilize and control the ruffle, I zigzagged it to one-quarter-inch twill tape, which worked perfectly. Then I basted it between the overlapping right front and the left front, and assembled the front per Vogue’s directions.

When it was all done, I put it on and walked downstairs to show my spouse. “Good God!” he exclaimed, later claiming that his eyes were too watery from pain to actually see how well it fit. This is not the reaction I expected from a man whose Hawaiian shirt collection has electrified an entire wall in our attic for a decade and a half. Who knew he had a secret streak of conservatism?

He suggested I donate the shirt to the deserving poor, but not before agreeing that it fits very well.

I’m making this one again, as soon as I can get my hands on some cotton/lycra. If anyone comments, references to “pigheadedness” will not be appreciated. This is just reasonable persistence. Really.

Oh, yeah. The storyboard’s getting edited. But not tonight.

Categories: Tops Tags:

DIY Reversible Copycat Bag

April 25th, 2008 17 comments

kbag1.jpgI loved the looks of this Keen Rose City shoulder bag when I first saw it (and every time after). The shoulder strap is very long, giving the bag a funky look, but also making wearing it pretty versatile — it drops from the shoulder, or can be worn across the body. It’s also got four very cool, hidden pockets.

What I don’t like, though, is the stiff, unforgiving, rubbery feeling of the Keen bag. It’s puffy around the edges, and probably wouldn’t feel very nice to wear — unless you’re really, really into industrial chic. I love my Keen shoes, but I think carrying this bag would be a little like wearing the shoes on my arm.

Fortunately I sew, and this basic design is simple (even, you might say, timeless, except for the lengthened straps). (I know, it’s all wrinkled in the picture. 100% cotton — go figure. Yes, the photographer was too lazy to re-iron it for the photo shoot.)


I whipped up this muslin from memory, and was really happy with it. Well, except for the fabric, maybe. That lining is not weaving’s finest hour. (But now it is out of my stash!)


This style was a natural for a reversible bag, and the full lining meant that I could have a total of six hidden pockets. There’s just one main pattern piece, which I drafted on freezer paper:

I cut two pieces of each fabric. I installed invisible zippers in the center seams of the main fabric and the lining, and added an extra layer of cloth between the main fabric and the lining in the body of the bag to divide the space into two separate pockets, accessed by the zippers on each side.


I cut small pockets to insert into the widest part of the shoulder strap, and then put one more invisible zipper in each inner strap seam, making small hidden pockets in the strap.

I assembled the bag like a vest. The shoulder strap is quite wide; much to my surprise, when I saw the Keen bag after I’d made mine, I’d actually gauged its width within an eighth of an inch of the Keen’s. I’m not sure how the width works on the original bag, as the strap is fairly stiff. I fold mine in half to wear it, which is very comfortable.

The exaggerated length of the strap is a lot of fun, but not as practical as it could be (especially since I’m short). I’ll definitely make this bag again, but will probably shorten the strap a little. And I need to work on my invisible zipper technique; I had some trouble with the short zippers set into the curve.

Categories: Accessories, DIY Tags:

New Look 6483 – Woven Tank

April 22nd, 2008 No comments

I’m desperately looking for a top to make for PR’s Mini-Wardrobe Contest. Marcy Tilton’s new tee shirt (Vogue 8497) was on my story board, but I haven’t yet worked out the issues I wrote about last week. Since we’re only a week away from the contest start, I went for something super-simple, and made this New Look tank.

I made view D (the green one on the lower right). The fabric’s a lighter weight linen; I made the facings of a poly-cotton I had on hand.

I like the neckline very much; it turned out very well, and it fits nicely. It’s designed with a slit in the neck in back, which closes with a button. I dislike these closures, so I eliminated the center back seam, and added a zipper to the left side seam.

Because there are small vents at the bottom of the tank, I inserted the zipper so that the opening is toward the hem, making a neat placket insertion.

The zipper stops at the same point that the vent begins on the other side, so there are still vents on each side of the tank. My machine doesn’t have fancy decorative stitches, so I used a crosshatch pattern to finish the neck, armholes and hem. Everything looks fine, but it just doesn’t send me. It’s also not right with Marcy’s skirt (Vogue 8499) either; in fact, both it and the skirt look frumpy when combined. A plain old sleeveless cotton tank — a snug one — looks a lot better with Marcy’s skirt. This is crucial; that skirt is on my storyboard. Sigh. I guess it’s back to the drawing board. Eight more days — should I panic yet?

Categories: Tops Tags:

Dollar-Store Dream

April 20th, 2008 1 comment

Longing for elegance, but lack the bankroll? Take a look at what one craftster did with ten dollars worth of supplies from a dollar store:

Impressive, no? Even more amusing than the picture itself are the details, which the creator, witwhitherwilt, covers thoroughly in her post on Craftster (including shots of her wearing it). Look out, Vera, ya got nothin’ on this gal!

Via the ever-wonderful Dress A Day.

Categories: Fun Tags:

Handle Mod for a Straw Bag

April 17th, 2008 2 comments

My new fuschia dress called for a spiffy bag, but one that still managed to keep the retro theme (at least a bit). Black wicker seemed like the right answer. I didn’t like the handles on the bag I found at all, though:


They just didn’t fit the mood. The original straps were sewn in place, so I removed them and bought webbing to make alternate straps — plus a little extra for a key chain. I wanted my new straps to be interchangeable, so I also bought a set of rectangular loop holders.


I attached small pieces of black webbing to each of the rectangular loops (you can see one of them in the picture above, at the lower right), and sewed them in place along the top of the bag.

Then I sewed decorative buttons to one side of each strap, and a flat, plain black button to the other side. Final step for the straps? Buttonholes, so that I could loop the ends of the strap through the rectangular holders, and button the strap (on the wrong side) to the flat black buttons.

I love the way the rectangular loops give such a professional look to the bag. Sewn loops just wouldn’t have done the job. Here’s a close-up look a the finished straps, attached:


I attached the key chain inside the bag, at the top, toward the front (as I’ll wear the bag). I tested several positions, and this one worked best for me. It’s placed so that the keys will rest on the bottom of the bag, so that any distortion of the rim of the bag will be minimized.


Here’s the bag (with the fuschia straps) on my dummy:


And with the black straps:


My bag came with an inner pocket sewn into the lining; if it hadn’t, I’d have added one. I still may enclose the opening and add a zipper for access; the jury’s out on that. In general, I prefer closed bags. This one’s designed to hold right under my arm, though, so securing the contents in that way may not be necessary. We’ll see.

Categories: Accessories Tags:

DIY Kayak Storage

April 15th, 2008 No comments

Here’s a simple kayak storage system I put together last Sunday. I used about 20 yards of webbing and four nylon buckles, all of which I bought at REI. We have only 29 inches of space for kayak storage along one wall in our over-crowded garage, so a more complicated rack was out of the question.

I melted the ends of the webbing with a small lighter to keep them from fraying. It’s usually a good idea to seal any holes in webbing the same way, but I didn’t bother in this case, since the minimal stress on the straps isn’t too likely to cause the holes to widen. Sewing the buckles on was easy and quick; I’ve used webbing and buckles for a ton of projects in the past.

The larger kayak (on the bottom) weighs 55 pounds; the smaller one just 35. The combined weight is no problem for either the webbing or the buckles, but each kayak is resting in its own loop just to be sure.

I attached the straps to the ceiling studs; two screws (each with a washer) anchor the longer set of straps. The shorter straps are anchored, with just one screw and washer, midway between the screws for the longer straps. I drilled pilot holes in the overhead 2x4s before attaching the straps, and made holes in the webbing by pushing screws through it before assembling things.

I put vertical 2x4s strategically to keep the kayaks from hitting the cinder block wall. That probably wasn’t necessary: As it turns out, slipping the boats in and out without hitting the wall isn’t any problem.

Assembly took about a fifteen minutes or so, and was so satisfying. More storage, and I didn’t even have to clean the garage! Whooo hoo!

Categories: DIY, Kayak Stuff Tags:

Vogue 8497 Revisted

April 13th, 2008 No comments

A comment by bananaoil on my review of this pattern got me thinking, so I went back to this shirt, whose failings I’ve discussed in detail in a previous post. This top turned out to be very boxy, and the neck band was, well, dreadful. So I changed a few things. Here’s the Marcy Tilton/Vogue photo:

First of all, I folded the neck band in half, toward the inside of the shirt, encasing the top edge of the neck opening, and hand-stitched it in place. That gave a much cleaner look, and also brought the size of the finished edge much closer to the look on the Vogue envelope.

Then I tackled the boxy look. I couldn’t very well lengthen the top, but I could tackle the sides. Beginning below the bust (which fit just right), I tapered from nothing to a whopping one and one-half inches at the hem. That’s a grand total of six inches taken off the width at the bottom! But it improved the looks quite a bit, as you can see:

I still think that this top could use another inch and a half to two inches in length, but I was surprised to discover that my altered top looks much more proportionate when it’s paired with Marcy’s wonderful skirt (Vogue 8499):

The neckline still isn’t right, though, and (not surprisingly). I haven’t decided whether it’s going to be worthwhile to alter the length, and work out a neat finish for the raw edges in a new top. I think I’ll move on in the meantime, and give the whole thing more thought before committing any more time to making another one. I do love that curved line; I wish Vogue had done a more careful job of scaling this pattern.

Update 4/20/08 – Marcy Tilton wrote a generous and helpful response to my review of this pattern on Pattern Review: you can read it in the comments by clicking here.

Categories: Tops Tags: