Archive for April, 2010

Quick Belt

April 30th, 2010 No comments

When I made Vogue 1088 recently, I wasn’t very happy with the belt I used in the photos.  It was one I picked up for next to nothing because it was the easiest way to buy a buckle to play with.  It’s some kind of vinyl, with a pearly sheen.  (Maybe it’s supposed to look metallic?)  Here it is on the dress:

The metal buckle was all wrong (and so was the vinyl), but I kind of liked this style of belt with this dress, though, so I combined some faux linen and a rectangular plastic buckle I got at M&J, and came up with this:

(Whoops –normally that button would be, well, actually buttoned.  My bad.)

It couldn’t have been easier:  I cut the fabric to the length and width I wanted, angling one end (and adding a seam allowance, of course); chose a light interfacing with some body; stitched it all together, leaving one end open; edgestitched; closed the straight end, wrapped it around the buckle’s center bar; stitched the end down, and that was it.

I really like it on the dress, and I love the shape of this buckle, but I wish it were, say, enameled wood or even just a better quality plastic.  It’ll do for now, though, and the belt is just as comfortable to wear as the dress is.

Categories: Accessories Tags:


April 29th, 2010 No comments

I’ll be taking a sewing workshop soon, and picked up the supplies the other day.  We’ll be doing embellishment, which is about as foreign to me as sewing gets; I’m more a technical/engineering type.  Or, at least, I’m in no way about the glam!  But I’m really looking forward to the class as a way to explore something I’d otherwise never touch.

Here’s what we were instructed to bring:

  • Seed beads:  I got the tiniest black ones (in the envelopes to the right), but also containers of slightly larger beads in gold/brown/black tones and in green tones (the tubes on the upper left)
  • Braid (chain-stitched) trims: I choose ivory, black, and a less loopy one in camel
  • Rattail cord in green, copper, taupe, off-white (and black, not shown) I think we only  needed one color, but I thought I’d like to be able to choose once I’m working, especially since my colors are more “basic” than “flash”
  • Bugle beads (cylindrical beads) (package in the lower right corner)
  • Piece of background fabric (not shown; mine’s off-white dupioni silk)
  • Felt for backing (not shown; mine’s black)

We’ve also been instructed to bring our scissors, thread, pins (normal sewing supplies), no. 10 beading needles, and a pointed sacking needle, none of which I photographed because they’re just part of my basic tool kit.

I can’t see myself wearing garments decorated with these lovely things, but I can imagine that this kind of decorative art might be  pretty cool for cushions, bags, album covers, tops of boxes, on cards (on paper or on stiffened fabric), or even as a (removable) decorative brooch for a flamboyant evening.  Will I be able to find my inner artist?  We’ll know soon  .  .  .

Categories: Fun Tags:

Thrift Store Rescue: Jacket Repair

April 28th, 2010 No comments

Sometime back in 2008, I saw this jacket at a thrift shop, and fell in love with it.  Why?  Because it’s weird, that’s why.  It’s a kooky variation on what used to be a classic Columbia winter jacket.  This one is made of the same clear nylon jade/purple/black colors, and has the typical color-patching, but it’s a pullover, and the cut is much trimmer than a typical Columbia-type jacket.

It also has zippers all over the place:  under that snap placket; at the center front (the fit’s so trim that you’d need to unzip to run); under each arm; and up one side.

The problem was that much of the hem had pulled out, and the nylon lining, naturally, had begun to disintegrate.  Not so badly that it couldn’t be fixed, though.  I was pretty sure that, among the very few non-sparkly woven trims at JoAnn, I remembered one with jewel tones not unlike those in this jacket:

Not only were the colors compatible, but the pattern seemed just about perfect, too.  Here it is sewn in  place on the coat:

In the few spots where the lining had unraveled especially badly, the trim was just wide enough to bridge the gap.  I sewed it in place with tiny, nearly invisible stitches, since I didn’t want stitching lines on the front.

The new trim not only solved the problem, but made the inside just as full of crisp, sporty pizazz as the exterior:

You’d never know that the frazzled lining had almost turned this jacket into a discard.  Now it’s my favorite early fall, late spring coat.

Categories: Jackets, Tips Tags:

TSA-Friendly Belt

April 27th, 2010 2 comments

Ah, TSA.  How you’ve changed our lives.  How difficult you’ve made it to travel in normal, human, clothing.  For an upcoming trip, I am wearing a t-shirt tunic and leggings on the plane because that will get me through screening more expeditiously than anything else, and because, after surviving the horror that is the modern airport, I want to feel comfortable once I’m in that tin tube.

I’d rather be wearing pjs, but, hey, this is the closest I can get.  In a concession to not looking as if I’d just dressed for breakfast, I’ll be wearing a belt.  Not an interesting belt, and, heaven knows, not a belt with any metal — enemy of TSA — in it.  I’ll be wearing this belt:

It’s elastic, 1 1/2 inches wide, with what is called a “ladder buckle” connecting the ends.  Here are the components:

I sewed heavy-duty hook-and-loop tape, as wide as the elastic, to each end of the belt, making sure to leave a lot of room for adjustment.  Once actually on board I don’t want to end up bifurcated by a too-tight elastic band around my waist, so being able to readjust the size without depending on the elastic alone was a must.

It doesn’t bother me to wear the flat buckle in the back, so I can wear the belt as it is above on Miss Bedelia, or turned around so that it looks like a contrast waistband, or a plain elastic cincher.

You can buy ladder buckles at most (if not all) EMS stores (they’re behind the counter, ask to see the delrin or nylon buckles), at REI, and at  sporting goods/adventure stores that sell webbing.  They’re often on a rack by luggage or camping gear.

Categories: Accessories, Tips Tags:

Vogue 8657, Judi Dench, and Me

April 22nd, 2010 4 comments

OK,  so there are several problems here.  The first is what I have in common with Judi Dench.  Dame Dench has been quoted as having said (either to Charlie Rose or to USA Today, I can’t seem to track it down):

In my mind’s eye I’m 6 feet tall and slender as a willow, and I’ll go through life like that.

She is five feet, one and three-quarters inches tall  (156.8 cm).  I am five two and a half (158.8 cm).   Not unlike Judi Dench, in my mind’s eye I am six feet tall (182.9 cm) and a Swedish Amazon.  This is possibly why I am drawn to patterns like Vogue 8657:

See those proportions?  I’m not sure any  human possesses them, but I can tell you, definitively, that no person of approximately five feet, two inches does.  But if I were six feet tall  .  .  .

And then there’s the question of my bust.  It is not the bust of my youth; without going into too much detail, it is not even the bust of my early 30s.  I am still essentially proportionate — for a person five-two, not for an Amazon — but my bust has become round.  And bigger.  Substantially bigger.

Don’t get me wrong. I like my body.  It’s the only one I have, and, really, I’m fine with it.  But I’m a little confused about how to clothe it if I’m not wearing t-shirts and jeans.

One recent pattern works pretty well, and I think I know why.  It has a long skirt with a lot of character, and what you see are proportions created by the dress.  It’s an illusion; it’s not me.  (But I like it!)  Vogue 8657 achieves no such sleight.

So here it is:

It turned out fine, in the sense that it fits.  I cut a 10 everywhere but the bust, but it’s borderline too large, and if I keep losing weight, I’ll have to move down to an 8.  I cut a 12 in the bust, and moved the darts down a little less than an inch because   .  .    well, you know why.

You probably noticed right away that the proportions of this top have nothing to do with the elongated version in the illustration.  My top — the real one — is squarish, not an attractive rectangle.  Not the attractive rectangle that would lengthen the appearance of the body, for example.

And there’s another problem:  When you put a largish, roundish bust into a squarish, boxy-ish blouse, you get  .  .  .  formidable.  In this case, not formidable as in “awesome”, but as in “bust like the superstructure of a battleship”.  On a dinghy-sized rowboat.

So the envelope fails to illustrate the top accurately in terms of aspect ratio.  And that lovely drape sketched so nicely by Vogue?  Well, the back of the envelope fails to mention that this top is entirely self-lined.  I used an extremely light — almost handkerchief light — rayon blend.  Doubled, it folds; it does not drape.  If you want flow, you’ll need to use the thinnest silk you can find, or chiffon.  Or change the construction completely by not lining it.

Other issues:  There’s a long buttonhole, through which the sash threads.  For some reason, it’s placed above the waist.  Which means, in my case, that my waist would get completely lost, and my bust would have a tie more-or-less right under it.  Not good.  I lowered it.

Also, if you use the spot Vogue appear to have marked for placing the single snap, you won’t be able to use the sash, because the snap is right smack in the way.  What’s up with that?

The buttonhole foot on my main machine won’t make a buttonhole as long as this one needs to be.  (I could do it with the machine, guiding it manually, but I’m not that brave reckless.)  This blouse wasn’t “bound-buttonhole-worthy”, so I just faced the two buttonholes (one in the main fabric, one in the lining), basted them together once the blouse was done, and then edgestitched all around.

I might wear it, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be resigned to how I look in it.  It’s back to the drawing board for me, style-wise.  Grrr.

Categories: Tops Tags:

Cuffing Travel/Trekking Pants

April 20th, 2010 2 comments

Every pair of travel/trekking pants I own has a bunch of features I really like, but no one pair has every feature I like.  The particular pair I’m posting about here are nearly perfect, but the legs are much wider than I prefer for most uses.  Most such pants have tabs, snaps, or some other way to cinch in the legs, but this pair doesn’t.  That’s because they have side seam zippers so that the legs can be easily pulled over hiking boots:

That’s a great feature, but on me, these legs are waaaaay too wide.  I needed some way to rein in that yardage!

There was no way to find fabric that was exactly like the one used for the pants,  so I bought a half-dozen buttons and sewed two small loops made of 1/8th-of-an-inch elastic.  I sewed two buttons just close enough to hold the elastic loop next to the pant leg.  Then I sewed a third button on each leg far enough away so that stretching the elastic to reach it made the pant leg as small as I wanted.

Then I sewed each elastic loop permanently around the far left button.  The free loop slips over the button to the near right when the pants are being worn with the legs wide, keeping the elastic from flopping.  The far button is used to hold the loop in place when the pant legs are cinched:

A pleat is automatically formed under the buttons, and voilà, no more balloon-legs.  Or ticks crawling above your socks.  Much better.

Categories: Pants, Tips Tags:

Vogue 1088 and Burda 7658

April 17th, 2010 2 comments

I love the look of Vogue 1088, but the back of the top, not so much.

That’s because there is no top at “back of the top”.  Although my hatred for bras exceeds nearly every other prejudice I hold, this is not a dress I could wear without a bra of some kind.  Strapless is not an option for me, so I decided to use the bodice from Burda 7658 instead:

It was nearly a perfect trade-off, facilitated quite a bit by the open front of the Vogue pattern, which has you simply turn the skirt edges back to  make a facing.  Lots of fudge room there.  Here it is, completed:

That belt’s all wrong, but I still can’t decide what to do about it.  I don’t really like the look of the Vogue belt (just not nuts about hemp around the waist), but I can’t deny that it looks better than the black ones I’ve tried so far.  I’ll have to give that some thought.

I cut a ten through the shoulders and waist of the bodice, and a twelve at the bust and for the skirt (I made modifications there as needed to fit the bodice).  Although I’m short (5 feet, 2.5 inches to be exact), I did not shorten the skirt, since I love this length.

I knew that the skirt would be a bit of an issue, since it has what looked like huge, draped pockets.  Here’s the secret to success with this pattern:  Those drapes aren’t pockets!

The instructions, and the pattern tissue, are full of references to something called a “belt”.  That’s what those drapes are — fabric “belts” that drape across and over hidden pockets.  Hard to visualize?  I pinned the skirt tissue together so that I’d have a look before cutting into the fabric:

Wonky, no?  And so exciting!  Angling off over toward the upper right is the facing edge of the skirt front. Attached to it is the skirt side, with what looks like a rounded, squarish piece bulging weirdly out from an otherwise fairly normal-looking pattern piece.  That’s the belt.  Eventually you’ll pick it up, attach it to the straight edge on the tissue over on the left, and it will drape nicely.

Construction is actually surprisingly simple, as long as you watch your notches and check each piece as you add one to the other.  The pockets are supposed to be welted, but I preferred zipper pockets, and I also deepened them so that they’d be more useful.

Here’s a view inside the belt. looking down toward the hem.  You won’t want to mistake the belt for a pocket; it’s completely open across the bottom edge:

You can just make out the zipper.  Yes, that is a light dusting of environmental fuzz.  I live with an angora cat.  I’m completely resigned; there’s really nothing that can be done about it.  At least I have no carpets; you have no idea how that helps.

The belts are just wrapped around and inserted into the back side seams.  Easy-peasy.  Here’s the way the belt looks as the dress is worn:

You  can’t see the pocket itself at all, and, much to  my surprise, the belt draped very nicely even in this unforgiving fabric.  In fact, mine looks virtually identical to the Vogue shot.

I loved being able to put in over-sized pockets; the skirt is so full that you can actually use them without anyone being the wiser.  The Vogue pockets are rectangles; if I make this again, I’ll make them a teardrop shape that follows the hip a bit better.  If you use the smaller Vogue pockets, that won’t matter.

There’s a huge amount of edge- and top- stitching, which I happen to love.  If you don’t, this may  not be the pattern for you, as it’s functional in some crucial areas.  Bliss!

The Burda bodice has the same feeling as Karan’s, but looks just a bit more vintage-y.  And, of course, it has that full back.  Here it is before I added buttonholes:

The bodice fit almost perfectly into the skirt, although I should have adjusted the curve at the waist facing to accommodate the bodice a bit better.  I had to make a quarter-inch adjustment in the circular rise on each side there.

At least that’s what I thought as I got close to the finish line.  However, something went seriously wrong with the back, and I nearly finished the dress without ever  noticing.  Fortunately,  Mr. Noile did, though, and described it to  me.  Although the armholes fit the way I wanted them to, and both the neck and waist did, too, halfway between the top of my shoulder and my armpit, on either side of the center  the back didn’t work at all.

I don’t really know how to describe what was wrong, but, trust me, it was very, very wrong.  I think my unfamiliarity with Miss Bedelia contributed to my failure to see this.  I may have been guilty of some misinterpretation of some of the lumps and bumps of her wire frame.

In any case, I took a day to consider what to do about it. Should I just chuck the whole thing?  But, ohhhh, I do love that skirt!  Should I just make the dress into a skirt, and call it an interesting separate?

In the end, feeling like a neophyte surgeon, I performed a whole-back-transplant.  Yep, I removed the whole back (and only the back) of the bodice, and replaced it with a newly-altered, newly-cut piece.  I hadn’t ever encountered this kind of fit issue before, so I winged the alterations.  The final result isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s much better, and certainly wearable.

This was my first Burda clothing pattern, and I wondered what I’d think of the bias-strip finish on the armholes.  I think it’s a “no” for me — there’s just way too much bulk when the trim is folded over; I’m worried that it won’t stay in place (on this slanting shoulder seam, anyway, which is longer than the average armhole) without more aggressive topstitching than I want on this dress.  I really like a nice, smooth facing. That’s what I’ll do next time.

I did continue the edge-stitching down along the facing edge to keep the edge crisp; Vogue doesn’t have you do that.

I strengthened the buttonholes by using heavy duty thread in my buttonhole foot; I’ll post about that later.

I’m a little a lot too squeamish fastidious to adopt Peter’s attitude toward thrift-store sheets, but I did make this from a (brand-new) cotton/poly sheet, so Peter’s example was not completely lost on me. A sheet was perfect since I didn’t want to spend a fortune on an experiment, and I knew it would it let me be wasteful with my cutting layout, if that were necessary.  Not to mention that I could cut the large skirt pieces, doubled, flat, without having to do each one individually.

Yes, this is a “wearable muslin”.  I hate to jump into the controversy about that term, but, for what it’s worth, here’s my take:  When I did proper tailoring, I made a proper muslin.  You have to; it’s part of the process.  A tailor’s muslin isn’t ever worn, or even “finished” (as Ann points out).   However, now that I sew things that are much less structured, I often make them up in a fabric I feel free to toss if it doesn’t work out — or to wear, if it does.  That’s what I call a “wearable muslin”.  Times change, terms change.  We can adjust.  Or defend your terms, as Ann does, very well and amusingly, in her post, which you should read!

Making this dress did remind me of how utterly awful cotton/poly blends are.  Gag.  The next sheet’s going to be 100% cotton.

Related:  I made a different belt for this dress — see Quick Belt

Categories: Dresses Tags:

Five Fingers — Yes, Baby!

April 15th, 2010 4 comments

OK, this is a controversy I can’t avoid.  Five Fingers!  Lsa, of As I Said . . . , has been scarred by an encounter with my favorite kayaking shoes:

Now, I agree with Lsa’s main point — even I have to admit that these stupendous, wonderful, incredibly comfortable foot-coddlers are NOT  fashion-forward.  BUT I feel compelled to rise to their defense (I’ve done it before, though with a different focus).  If you like having bare feet, you’ll probably love these things — it’s bare foot without any of the drawbacks.

So what do you think?  If Vibram made them transparent (so that they were essentially visible), could we wear them with real clothes and mainstream them into our fashion consciousness?  I’m  just suggesting .  .  .

Related:  Five Fingers for the Feet

Categories: Adventure/Travel, Fun, Kayak Stuff Tags:

“My Double” Instruction Booklet

April 14th, 2010 28 comments

Miss Bedelia was originally shipped with an instruction booklet, which I was lucky to find on eBay.  It’s got very complete directions for fitting the dress form, and is, all in all, a marvel of clear English.  Which is more than I can say for any other instruction manual I’ve seen in, say, the last 30 years or so.

Here’s the cover:

Page One, emphasizing the wide variation of suitable sizes (including the suggestion that “Aunt Jane” may be “a size or two, or even three, larger than you”:

Page Two, fitting the halves to Aunt Jane (the implication here is that you’ll need a helper to fit “My Double”, and that is correct.  Very correct:

Page Three, a description of the two distinct types of meshes, and how to adjust each properly:

Page Four, molding the form to the body in question:

Page Five, fitting the bust, upper back, waist, lower body, and collar

Page Six, double checking and removing the form:

Page Seven, assembling and adjusting the stand:

Page Eight, using the adjustable sliding rods to make the form rigid on the stand:

Page Nine (to be done before the steps on page eight), checking Aunt Jane’s posture to ensure it’s duplicated correctly:

Back Page, attaching tapes for pinning dress material to the form:

Miss Bedelia was unfortunately parted from her internal rods at some point in her life.  I am still debating how, and if, I need/want to replace them, since I suspect there is little or no chance of finding anything like them at this point.  Unless, of course, a miracle occurs, and I run across them in someone’s old donated sewing supplies at a thrift shop.  Here’s what they look like, in a bit more detail:

You can understand, I’m sure, the longing with which I read this note on page ten:

If you want extra sliding rods for “My Double” they are available at 20 [whoa — there’s no cent sign on my keyboard!  talk about extinction! — ok, read that as ‘twenty cents’] each.

That’s the kind of time machine I’m interested in — the one that lets me order from the past!


Miss Bedelia:  My New Dress Form

Easiest Dummy Stand Ever

“My Double” Instruction Booklet

A Tale of Two Dummies

Replacement Rods for “My Double” Dress Form

Categories: Tools Tags:

Miss Bedelia: My New Dress Form

April 12th, 2010 10 comments

Miss Bedelia is my “new” dress form:  she is a gift from my dear aunt, who was kind enough to name her, too, thus sparing her the ignominy of an anonymous existence.  I’ve always wanted one of these, partly because they are such an artifact, but also because I simply wanted to know how they work — and if they are effective as other types.  Not that it matters — is there anything more iconic than this?

Mr. Noile recently helped me fit Miss Bedelia.  This was a non-trivial operation.  There are snaps down the center front and back, but, if you’re trying to put this carapace on by yourself, wriggling into it is, well, interesting.   Or, in my own case, nearly immobilizing.  Mr. Noile was preoccupied downstairs at the time, playing “Birdie” with our little cat Aldebaran, so rescue was not immediately at hand.  Aldebaran is our very bright, hyper-active young cat, and the entire household’s well-being depends on Aldebaran getting a daily workout playing Birdie.

There are no photos of me encased in Miss Bedelia.  This is at least partly because once Mr. Noile found his way upstairs, he took one look at me, wrapped as I was in a steel cage, and said “so it’s not just kilts, is it, now?”  which was a reference to my affection for men in kilts.  Which I assure you is merely in the interest of their (or, in this case, Mr. Noile’s) well-being, not some random perversion. Who wouldn’t want to wear a Utili-Kilt?  Particularly the one with all the (snap-able! removable! adjustable!) cargo pockets?

But I digress.  Mr. Noile agreeably pushed and pulled and generally mauled Miss Bedelia into (my) shape, and then unsnapped both sides.  That was, itself, a bit of a weird moment, as I shed two halves of myself, and watched them split off, all hollow and, well, empty of what makes me, me.

I quickly reassembled Miss Bedelia, and tried my nearly-finished red dress on her new shape.  Perfect!  Or as near as can be expected — the dress actually fits me a bit better, but Miss Bedelia’s form is plenty close enough  to work with.  Miss Bedelia will be best with woven fabrics, though, I can see.  The lumps and bumps made by her hardware might be a bit distracting, and perhaps cause some distortion, when working with knits.

She originally came with a set of adjustable rods which thread through loops attached to her center support, and with twill-tape-like ties to hold her shell to the shoulder support.  I was able to replicate the ties, of course, but haven’t quite decided what to do about the internal supports, though I’m kicking around a couple of ideas.  If I’m careful, they may not be necessary.

Because Miss Bedelia’s pedestal spelled disaster for my oak floors, I picked up a rolling plant stand from IKEA, guessing that it would work well.  As you can see, it couldn’t have been a better solution.  Miss Bedelia is very light, so moving her around the room is a breeze now, and no floors are harmed in the process.


Duct Tape Dummy

Easiest Dummy Stand Ever

“My Double” Instruction Booklet

A Tale of Two Dummies

Replacement Rods for “My Double” Dress Form

Read the post about the dress here:  Vogue 1088 and Burda 7658

Categories: Tools Tags: