Archive for June, 2011

Quality control. Of a sort.

June 25th, 2011 5 comments

The cat who used to be the baby of the family thinks the sewing room is incredibly boring, which was a much-appreciated surprise, as Baby is incredibly persistent, and forgets nothing that interests him.

We have two new boys, though, and one of them loves to spend time with me in the sewing room.  Leo is a very lazy relaxed fellow and, unlike Baby, refuses to jump up anywhere.  Leo respects the gates we have all over the house:  Baby sails right over the gates, but Leo refuses to.

Naturally, I assumed my sewing table was safe.  I was wrong.  Apparently Leo can do a standing leap from the floor to above my waist if sufficiently motivated.  And his persistence more than matches Baby’s.

I do not find his assistance helpful.

We reached an accommodation:

Leo is another BIG cat; he’s also a Maine Coon, like our Emma, but with different coloring.  He probably won’t be full-grown, though, for another year or so.

Categories: Misc Tags:

Christine Jonson Skirt 1219

June 24th, 2011 8 comments

Jonson calls this an A-line skirt, but I wouldn’t call this an “A-line” at all.  The seams are princes-styles gores, and the skirt is very narrow by design, not flared like an traditional A-line.  Unlike an A-line skirt, this garment flows beautifully, and fits very nicely around the body, at least partly because there are no bulky side seams — also contrary to typical A-line styling.

The cjpatterns sketch, as usual, takes a few liberties.  There’s no doubt that the skirt flows wonderfully, but in no way does it achieve the proportions in the drawing, nor that width at the hem.  Also unlike the illustration, the actual skirt is quite narrow:

Construction couldn’t be simpler.  Stitch four seams, add elastic at the waist, and then hem.  I think Jonson has you fold and turn a casing for one-inch wide elastic; I don’t like casings made of knits, and I prefer wide elastic at the waist, so I altered my pattern to accommodate those changes.   My elastic is just attached to the right side, folded under, and “stitched-in-the-ditch” at the four seams to hold it in place.

Here’s how the skirt looks with the tank from Jonson’s BaseWear One pattern:

The fabric’s an ITY from Spandex House; I wondered what it would feel like in summer heat, but I wore this outfit in 95 degree weather in New York City recently, and it couldn’t have been more comfortable.  The skirt is very airy and light, and somehow the way it flowed made me feel cooler than I expected to.

I’m 5’2″, so I shortened the skirt, which gave me a length closer to what was illustrated on the pattern cover.  This is another piece in my planned wardrobe, and another perfect travel garment; it scrunches up into nothing, and comes out of a bag completely wearable.


Threads Wardrobe Storyboard

Christine Jonson Princess Dress 1117

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Top 622

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Leggings 622

Tunic/Tank Dress from BaseWear One Pattern 622

Wardrobe Wrap-Up

Categories: Christine Jonson, Skirts Tags:

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Top 622

June 20th, 2011 7 comments

Here’s the illustration from the cjpatterns site, which is, as usual, pretty but not useful.  The tank, in particular, has a lot more shape in execution than you’d ever guess from the illustration.  It looks blocky and puffy in the drawing, but in reality it’s actually got a nice, body-hugging shape.

This tank isn’t meant to be reversible, but I decided that’s what I wanted, per my wardrobe plan.  I used a print/solid combination; here’s the print side, with the V-neck worn in front:

I made the solid side an inch and a half longer, so that it would show under the print.  Part of my wardrobe plan includes a matching print skirt, and the line of the combined pieces is one long, unrelenting, bright print, so I liked the idea of breaking it up a bit.  Here’s the V-neck version of the solid side:

(Yeah, my dummy lurches to the left.  I probably should compensate for this when taking pictures, but I never remember to.)

This is a super-simple pattern with nice shaping, and the simplest of construction techniques:  It’s meant as exercise wear, so Jonson just has you turn the edges down by 3/8ths of an inch and stitch them in place.  To make my reversible tank, I just used a 3/8ths inch seam on my serger.  No trimming was necessary; the narrow seam and the stretchy spandex fabrics worked well together, and made this one fast project.

The top can easily be worn backwards or frontwards, although I don’t think Jonson points this out, and the instructions don’t offer the reversible alternative, but if you chose to line the top and turn it around at whim, you’ve got lots of wearing options.

Here’s the print side, worn with the round neckline at the front:

When you  make a reversible top, one method involves sewing the hems together, so that they are exactly the same length.  I’m not wild about this; it seems to constrict the flow of the garment and make its movement less “natural”, unless the fabrics involved are weightless.  On the other hand, if the two hems float freely, it’s difficult to keep them lined up perfectly so that the underside doesn’t show when you don’t want it to.  Making one hem intentionally longer solves this problem.

Here’s the round collar side of the solid tank:

Whether you make the hems the same length or not, a useful tip is to sew a small snap at the lower edge of each side seam, inside the garment, between the layers.  This allows you to keep the tanks aligned, but without constraining the fabrics unnecessarily.  If you’re traveling, this also allows you to separate the layers for faster drying if you’re rinsing your garments out in a sink, and hanging them up to dry.

Rather than make an FBA, I cut between sizes at the bust, which was lazy and (ahem) not too bright, especially since I failed to take the armhole back to my proper, smaller size.  This made the top gap along the armholes above the bust.  I considered running elastic thread along the edge between the layers, but ended up using double strands of thread, hidden between the layers and run between the edge stitching and the edge of the garments along the relevant parts of the armholes.  The resulting fix isn’t perfect, but made the top wearable.

Every now and then, someone asks “What’s the point of reversible clothing?   You probably want to wash it between wearings anyway, right?”.  Well, yes.  But a tank like this makes up most easily if lined, so why not make the lining a wearable, different color?  And, of course,  a reversible tank might give you the option to go from day-to-evening by just turning the top around, which might be a bonus when traveling, or staying out for the evening after work.


This is another piece in my Christine Jonson/Threads wardrobe plan.

Making a Reversible Tank

Threads Wardrobe Storyboard

Christine Jonson Princess Dress 1117

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Top 622

Christine Jonson Skirt 1219

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Leggings 622

Tunic/Tank Dress from BaseWear One Pattern 622

Wardrobe Wrap-Up

Categories: Christine Jonson, Tips, Tops Tags:

FIT Exhibit: The Sporting Life

June 16th, 2011 2 comments

One of the myriad nearly-secret pleasures of New York City is the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.  Admission is free, and the gallery is always full of slightly eclectic, fascinating garments.  Until November 5, 2011, the exhibit is “The Sporting Life”, and featured clothing runs the gamut from the 1800s to the 21st century.

Sadly, photos aren’t allowed, and, generally speaking I’ve found that the photos released for publicity by FIT rarely illustrate the scope of the collections.  The current exhibit is no exception, and it’s a pity, because there is so much detail that is wonderful to discuss, and it’s very difficult to do that without images.

Here are two “sporting” outfits, both from the late 1800s, among the very few photos available online:

First, a two piece dress by Haas Brothers, with a middy blouse (I do love me a middy!):

The contrast looks orange here, but it’s not; even 117 years later it’s a bright, clear red.  The trim is a white flat soutache braid used in triple rows around the collar, hem and cuff, and double rows on the tie and belt.  The belt has no obvious fastener; just a diagonal keeper. It’s dressy athletic-wear, 1894 style!

Second, this gym suit, for more active young women:

I’m guessing that waist is about 18 inches, and perhaps it was corseted even for sport, but it does make for a marvelous profile, doesn’t it?  Careful examination (don’t you wish all clothing exhibits were staged with mirrors showing the reverse of the garments?) revealed that this, too, is a two-piece garment.  There’s a small peplum that tucks into the trousers below the very fitted waist on the top.

Another secret:  There are neat little buttoned tabs at the side waist, and longish openings at the side seams.  This suit has a drop seat!  Was it actually used as such?  Or was that just a simple way to accommodate entry and exit?  The collarless, side-buttoned blouse is classic; we’ve seen more than a few like this in the decades since.

Oddly, all of the other PR photos show what I found the least interesting of the garments:  A Patagonia jacket; generic biking jerseys; an OK Tom Ford Gucci ski jacket and an eh LaCroix beach ensemble — all of them from the 1990s.  There’s so much more to see, and many more decades represented than just these two.  I wish the bait had been a little more varied — or that I’d been allowed to show you far more of what I loved seeing!

Above, the Patagonia jacket.  Meh.  Clean design, but .  .  . more commercial than spellbinding.  It might be stupendous in a technical clothing exhibit.  Perhaps, thirty years from now, this will be a curious relic of a distant time in sportswear.  Today?  It just doesn’t seem either ground-breaking, nor particularly representative of a compelling era.  Design-wise, these garments are more utilitarian than cutting edge.  Don’t get me wrong; I love utilitarian clothing, but this sort of thing, like the biking jerseys, seemed out of place in an exhibit that generally celebrated the idea of sport as interpreted by designers responding to cultural change.

Among the rest:  Anne Cole’s “scandal suits” from the 1960s; a fabulous (fuchsia?) neoprene dress with box pleats, a bouffant skirt and a tiny waist; plus fours for golfing;  men’s (and a woman’s) shooting jackets; and a really odd Gaultier ski suit that resembles a cozy mattress cover; and much, much more.

Everything was interesting to one degree or another, but the outfit that amazed and astonished me was a sporting outfit from the mid-40s designed by Claire McCardell.  Think skinny leggings (black) topped with a sleek trim jacket, subtly and narrowly striped in black and gold.  A zipper up the front that terminates in a deep collar — almost a cowl, but with no excess fabric.

The zipper is closed only to the base of the collar; one side of the open collar stands up, the other is folded over.  (Verrry chic!)  Long, slim sleeves are finished with just a touch of elastic hidden in the hems.  There are nearly hidden vertical pockets — all you can see is the hint of the zippers — just at the side, and below, each breast.  Matching boot/shoes that are the same stripe as the jacket, and almost pixie-ish — except that they are the height of era-less style, and not cute at all.  To die for — and eminently wearable today, a mere seventy or so years later.

Categories: Misc, Vintage Tags:

Threads Wardrobe Storyboard

June 14th, 2011 4 comments

Chez Noile is still in chaos, so I needed some quickie sewing projects that would chew up stash and require minimal space in the sewing room.  Also, I need summer clothes, since I’ve done little about acquiring any for years.  The Christine Jonson summer wardrobe from Threads (Issue 155 June/July 2011) became my springboard:

I made up a storyboard to keep my goal firmly in mind, and I even made the Princess Dress, although I’m not much of a dress-wearer.

Not only is the storyboard a great help in keeping me on track, but it’s a marvelous tool for checking and gathering notions.  I used line drawings from Christine’s site (altering at least one neckline according to my whim), and mocked it up on my computer, leaving room (more or less) for swatches.

The next step was to print it it on cardstock and glue my fabric swatches on.  Then I cut a transparent quilting template to fit over the whole thing, which protects it when attached to a clipboard.  With clipboard in hand, heading to the fabric store to pick up whatever thread or notions I need is fast and easy.  Matching colors is a cinch using the storyboard; it’s much easier than managing a slew of loose swatches.

Inevitably, I’ve made a few changes.  I’ve decided not to make the sleeveless vest, since I can’t actually see myself wearing it.  In summer, if I need a wrap, I need it over my arms, to compensate for air-conditioning.  And I’m not sure what I’m going to do about the jacket.  Do I make it reversible?  In a print?  And I’m not sure I’ll make the sleeved top from the Princess dress pattern, since I now suspect that, for this particular design, my bust is better balanced with a skirt.

But changes and refinement as I go along are all part of the program.  I’m really enjoying making up a planned wardrobe; I think this is a first for me, and I’m counting on making this my “go-to-it’s-brainless” summer travel wardrobe.

So far, I’ve completed five of the garments, and will be knocking off a few more as I wait on the tradesman’s fancy and the moment I can put the house back together.  Finished are the dress, a reversible top, one skirt, and two pair of leggings.  Reviews to come, and more on the way as I knock off the rest.

Christine Jonson quotes a budget of “just under $400” for nine to twelve garments that yield over twenty outfits.  My costs will run under $70 for all pieces, but I’m not using the premium cotton/lycra fabrics Jonson features.  (I can say “for all pieces” now, because I’m working with a finite number of fabrics, even though I haven’t finished the project.)


Christine Jonson Skirt 1219

Making a Reversible Tank

Threads Wardrobe Storyboard

Christine Jonson Princess Dress 1117

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Top 622

Christine Jonson Skirt 1219

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Leggings 622

Tunic/Tank Dress from BaseWear One Pattern 622

Wardrobe Wrap-Up

Vogue 1085 – Betzina Top

June 12th, 2011 10 comments

I think this view of this pattern has gotten a bum rap.  (It’s View B, the wrap top.)  Yes, it has a huge error — the instructions tell you to attach the ties to the hem, not the sides, but once that’s straightened out, the top works fine, if you wrap it correctly, and use one other little tip, which I describe below.

My version is made from a jersey I saw last summer at a PR weekend.  We were standing in line to get coffee, and right there, in Robin’s bag, was fabric in a print I liked, in the exact colors I had been looking for!  I’d missed the bolt at Spandex House.  Robin very kindly let me run back to SH with her fabric in hand, and I was able to buy my own yardage before racing back to have coffee with the gang.  (See the wrap dress Robin made from this fabric here Scroll down; it’s the second dress in the post.)

The top is reversible, and, except for the ties, is cut all in one piece.  (I do love me some wonky design!).   Here’s the V-necked version:

Instead of attaching my ties to the sides of the wrap, I attached them about three inches up.  I didn’t want it to wrap below my waist.  This does give a little peplum effect to the area below the wrap, but I kind of like that.  Do not attach the ties to the hem, as the pattern instructions tell you to!

(The fabric looks like chocolate-and-teal here, but it’s really black, not brown, by the way.)

Here’s the cowl side:

Some people have noted that the wrap would go more smoothly if there were side slits on the top.  This is undoubtedly true, and there’s no reason not to add them.  Unless, of course, you’re speed-mad, and want to blitz thorough the construction on your serger, which is what I’m all about these days. If you want the openings, they’re easy to do; just leave the seams open where desired, fold allowances under, and edge- stitch around the opening.

Here’s what you need to know about wearing this top:

  • Remember that, no matter which side is front, the seams run from your underarms to your waist.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to put this top on upside down.  Remember the seam orientation, and you’ll be fine.
  • To ensure successful wearing, attach bra strap holders to the top of the armhole openings, directly above the underarm seams at the shoulder.  This bouse looks awful if the top of the armholes slip off onto your arms; it becomes a shapeless blob, and looks like one hot mess! You can buy the bra strap holders at fabric stores for a ridiculous price, or you can make your own, as I did, by sewing clear nylon snaps to twill tape.  Takes two minutes.
  • I lengthened the ties by cutting them to the correct length for a size three or four sizes up from mine.  I prefer the flexibility of slightly longer ties.

Here are the two back views (apparently, I only took one; I’ll add the other later).  This one shows the back when you’re wearing the cowl side forward:

Contrary to some other reviews I read, I had no trouble at all making sure my bra didn’t show when wearing the cowl forward.  The trick is making sure that the armholes stay where they belong.  Wrapping so that the back is covered is no problem if the top isn’t slipping all over the place.

One last note:  The instructions have the sewist finish the garment by gluing the hem with iron-on tape.  What???  Hey, if I wanted to use stick-um, this hobby would be called “scrapbooking”, not “sewing”.  I finished everything by the standard methods.

*Hey, Vogue (and other patternmakers), isn’t it high time you had a corrections page?  Communication is what the Internet is all about; it would involve minimum effort, and gain you great good will.  How about it?  Even the New York Times publishes daily corrections.  Surely Vogue can manage corrections for seasonal releases of patterns, no???

Categories: Tops Tags:

Vibram “Barefoot” Mary Janes!

June 8th, 2011 2 comments

Be still my heart!   I can now walk in “barefoot” comfort with shoes on.

I love my Five Fingers, but, let’s face it, if you wear those babies around town you’re going to be discussing your feet with everyone you encounter.  Merrell (whose shoes, along with Clarks, fit me better than any others) got together with Vibram and decided to solve this serious social problem.

Five Fingers have a separate little pocket for each toe, and they are amazingly comfortable shoes; Mr. Noile and I wear ours kayaking.  The general idea is that they allow you to walk just as you do when barefoot; a whole bunch of runners swear by them, and feel they’re much better for feet and legs than standard running shoes.

These Mary Janes are the covert version of the barefoot locomotion.  There are a bunch of other styles in this line (these are called “Pure Glove”), but this is the one I’ll wear every day.  Someone described wearing these as being like wearing socks with soles; it’s true!  Sooo good to the feet!

Oh, and they’re machine washable.  They may just possibly be the perfect shoe in which to travel; they’re light AND sturdy — as well as being readily removable if you have the misfortune of encountering TSA.

These might be barefoot shoes even Lsa could love .  .  .

Categories: Accessories, Adventure/Travel Tags:

Christine Jonson Princess Dress 1117

June 6th, 2011 6 comments

I looooove this dress!  When Carolyn posted about getting ready to make it (and about Christine’s pattern offer, which, alas, I assume is over), I finally was inspired to experiment with a CJ pattern.  I’m so glad Carolyn gave me the nudge!  Here’s the sketch from the pattern envelope:

After consulting the body measurements on the envelope, and checking my knit, I cut a size 8.  That’s the correct size for me based on high bust, waist and hip.  I narrowly escaped needing an FBA.  If my knit hadn’t had 100% stretch, I’d have had to do one.  The resulting bust fit is snug, but not indecent, so I’m pleased with this decision.

There aren’t any facings; the bodice is self-lined.  I loved this; it’s easy to construct (no finishing!), and I cut the lining first and used it as a muslin.  If your dress fabric is too heavy, there’s no reason you couldn’t use a compatible lighter stretch knit, or even a stretch mesh in a skin-tone or in compatible color for lining.  For this light lycra blend, self-fabric was fine.

The pattern drafting is a joy.  The center back seam follows the natural curves of my real, human, back, and adds to the flattering princess fit.  The skirt is so flirty and fun that I just don’t want to take this dress off; I think there will be many more of these in my future.

Construction couldn’t be simpler; it’s basically “sew the neckline” and then “hit the serger”.  The hem is just turned up a half-inch; I can’t remember if the instructions said to serge it first, but I did just to give it a little extra stability.  Then I topstitched (it could be twin-needled, but I didn’t want to bother), and ended up with a light, stable hem.

I did make a couple of changes:  The instructions call for iron-on interfacing around the neck line, but I won’t iron-on anything, so that was out.  I used standard interfacing, but chose one I wasn’t happy with, so I ended up cutting it off, just leaving the slightest reinforcement at the seam.  That worked well.  Twill tape reinforcement might have been an option, but I rejected it, because I think the bulk might make it difficult to keep the facing in place.  Interfacing, of the iron-on or another variety, might be desirable with a heavier fabric, but this dress seems fine without it.

I edge-stitched just inside the bodice facing line; that prevented any roll-out.   The only other change was shortening the sleeves.  I don’t really like wrist-length sleeves on my dresses.  (Though, go figure, I like extra-long ones on my shirts!)

The single feature I’m not certain about is the asymmetrical neckline; it just doesn’t do much for me (although check out how beautifully it lies in place!).  It seems sort of neither here nor there; next time I’ll re-draw the neck and consider a straight vee.  Also, huge floral prints don’t do much for my über-bust, but I’m just beyond caring now.  Let’s hear it for mad purples and aqua!

The pattern offers a long version and this short one.  I didn’t change the length of the short version:  For reference, I’m 5 feet 2 inches tall, so this dress will be quite short on a woman five or six inches taller than I am.


Making a Reversible Tank

Threads Wardrobe Storyboard

Christine Jonson Princess Dress 1117

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Top 622

Christine Jonson Skirt 1219

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Leggings 622

Tunic/Tank Dress from BaseWear One Pattern 622

Wardrobe Wrap-Up

Categories: Christine Jonson, Dresses Tags:

Jezebel Dress Form, Part 2

June 1st, 2011 No comments

It’s up:  The Jezebel dressmaker dummy tutorial, part 2.

Love these articles!  Once I get a weekend to myself (and *cough, cough* Mr. Noile gets some free time), I’m going for it.

I love the shoulders, by the way.  They’re going to cause some problems when constructing garments (that’s why über-expensive Wolf makes “collapsible” forms), but I’ve minded much more having ill-defined shoulders on my current dummy.

Related:  Did you Say “Jezebel”?

Categories: DIY, Tools Tags: