Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2004


2010 - This year's decorations

Here is another little blast from the past. Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, so I really ran with it when the kids were little. :)

2004 - DD1 is a Christmas Tree!

In 2004, I made DD1 a Christmas Tree costume. I got the idea from one of those Halloween Magazines that are available that time of year – I can't remember which magazine.

I went further with the idea, though. For example, I found (on ebay) two sets of star-shaped Christmas tree lights that operated on a battery pack and had 8 flashing modes. They are strung around the costume, under the netting (my friend Renee helped with this and with the other tree decorations). The battery packs are hidden in pockets on the underside. As she was trick or treating, she was flashing up a storm.

The candy canes are real. I made her (non-functional) Christmas tree light earrings. I made the star topper using lots of glitter and two thicknesses of the card stock - the tip of the tree is sandwiched in between and held with lots of sticky tape. The bottom of the costume is supported by a small hula hoop. She is also ornamented with real jingle bells, so she provided an auditory and visual experience. She designed the giant stocking-shaped goody bag. It has straps (so it can be worn), which were tucked in for the photos below. She has fewer decorations on her back, so I told her she was designed to be placed against a wall. ;)

2004 - DD2 is an "Elvish Avenger"

DD2 wanted to be a warrior, in particular an "Elvish Avenger". For her costume I made the pants, tunic, cape, quiver, knife sheath, dagger sheath, and (not shown) the goody bag that she designed.

More pictures. :)

The Elf chops down a tree!

When I was taking these photos, which was on Halloween or maybe the day before, I grabbed an Santa hat from the Christmas decorations, wrapped an empty gift, and had DD2 dress in holiday colors. I then took some photos to use for our Christmas card. I just couldn't pass up this opportunity. :) It was probably the last year I made a photo Christmas card and it was certainly the earliest I had been prepared!

Our 2004 Christmas Card!

On the sewing front, I am making progress very slowly! But I hope to get some done today. :)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weekend Sewing... and Miscellaneous

Wow, I haven't sat at my sewing machine since Monday (and that was to briefly zip up a hem). This may be a first for me in the last year. I haven't been knitting either, though I've been planning some projects, thanks to the great Ravelry site. I'm shamzi on Ravelry, but I don't have much of interest to show you over there. ( There is a Miyake group there, but it's pretty quiet.

I have to really thank everyone for their generous and kind feedback on my Koos coat and my Sandra Betzina dress. The coat, in particular, has garnered me more positive feedback than anything I've made in the last 14 months, so I guess it's a success. It has received 43 comments on Pattern Review which is a record for me. :)

During construction of the coat, I had become a "fan" of Koos's Facebook page. Imagine my delight when logging into Facebook on Thursday and seeing that Koos (or his representative, more likely) had featured my blog on his page! I had not mentioned it on his page or anywhere on my FB page, so I suspect they watch Pattern Review for reviews of his patterns.

I really recommend checking out his page. There are photo albums that show many pieces of his current work - things that he sells in his New York boutique and there are some really great garments. (You may not know this, but Koos was responsible for those great, wild sweaters that Cosby wore on The Cosby Show.) In his current work you will see several pieces that feature the scallop - it's interesting to observe how a motif can evolve throughout a designer's process. It fascinates me, a designer wannabe. Check it out.

A stack of patterns sits next to me and I plan to make the most of this wet weekend. Maybe I'll have something new to show on Sunday or Monday. :) Coats and jackets are still on my mind and yesterday I ran to Britex at lunch (wearing my new Koos) to pick up some separating zippers for a couple of imminent projects. I yearn for a better zipper selection, but this is one of those things I prefer to see in person before I purchase. There are just too many interesting things to make, including new Au Bonheur pattern goodness.

And then, of course, are the imminent holidays. So many garments are "needed" for the various events coming up. I have a very fun piece of Thakoon fabric I bought from Emma One Sock months ago and I have been searching and searching for just the right pattern/design. I haven't found it yet. And I also have to find the right thing to make/bring for my sew group's gift exchange. I think I've decided, but I've thought that many times before.

Have a great weekend and a frabjous Halloween! ;)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Vogue 1210 - Sandra Betzina dress

When I reviewed the recent batch of Vogue patterns, I pretty much wrote this Sandra Betzina dress off as "not for my figure." Fast forward to Artistry in Fashion, an event benefiting the fashion design program at Canada College and featuring Sandra herself, who spoke and presented a fashion show of her designs. Students from Canada's fashion program modeled Sandra's garments and the same dress from the pattern cover was presented, but it was worn with the ties hanging down, rather than tied under the bust. It was lovely on the student model and I realized that it might work for me.

It wouldn't be fabulous on me, mind you, because it would hang from the bust and completely hide my hips/legs, but, hey... Variety is the spice of life, and all. :)

Several months ago I bought this border print fabric from FabricMart (no longer available). Well, it's not exactly a border print. It is a polka dot print, but the dots are small on one selvedge and grow larger towards the other selvedge. The fabric is wide (maybe 60") and I needed a long garment to show it off. A top or pants wouldn't satisfy my desire to use the entire print.

Yes, that's right. My first dress. gulp

I first considered Vogue 8659, but decided I didn't want to interrupt the print with that curved hem. Sandra's design is reminiscent of that pattern, but is cut almost straight across at the hemline.

This fabric is a 4-way polyester ITY knit. I don't particularly like to sew or wear ITY, or slinky, knits, because I find them to be hot and they tend to hug (rather than skim) my lumps and bumps, but I was completely seduced by this beautiful polka dot print.

This fabric has most of its stretch in the lengthwise grain. I cut it on the crosswise grain, which is more stable, but I had no choice if I wanted the dots to grow larger as they approached the hem. Meaning that the stretch goes up and down the body, rather than around the body, which is how you would usually want it. Having the stretch go vertically is rather strange, but, wow, the dress sure does swing and flow, and when I jump up and down, the dress actually bounces. After I bought this fabric from FM, I later saw it on Marcy Tilton's site, so, between the two sites, there must be lots of us who now have this in our stash. :)


  • Polka dot ITY knit from FabricMart.
  • Black mesh (for contrast) from Fabrix.
  • 1/2" Steam A Seam 2 (for hems)
  • 1/4" twill tape (to stabilize neckline)

Alterations & Modifications:

  • I cut out a size F, which was 4" too small in the bust. (This pattern allows for 1/2" finished ease in the bust, at least in the sizes I was looking at.) Instead of a traditional FBA, I just added 1" to the side seam at the bust and tapered it out after a few inches. I had to do this on the front and back side seam, and the front and back underarm sleeve seam - four pattern pieces were affected, in all. The side seams are sewn last so I knew I could take out what I needed - every knit has different stretch and you should tweak the fit here anyway. This approach worked well for this garment.

    Sleeve with added bit for FBA.

  • During construction, I removed 1/2" from the shoulder seams, before attaching sleeves.
  • As recommended in the pattern, I doubled the mesh for the sleeve insert.
  • I did not shorten the sleeves. This is very unusual for me, so I suspect that the sleeves are on the short side.
  • After the dress was finished, I shortened it 2". They recommend that you lengthen or shorten at the hemline, so this worked well.
  • After sewing the side seams, I tweaked the fit by removing 1/2 from the side seam, just under the bust - a 2" reduction in all.

This pattern was fairly easy to construct, with a couple caveats. The trickiest part is the neckline. Despite stabilizing the neckline with twill tape, once I had attached the contrast mesh band, it was far too baggy. Sandra recommends that you block the neckline, using steam, to encourage the band to hug the body, but there was no way any amount of steam would have fixed the floppy neck band.

Stabilizing the neckline with twill tape

After mulling it over for a bit, I decided that it was time to use a Marcy Tilton technique I had never used before. It felt right to combine their work, since Marcy and Sandra have been great friends for years. :) Marcy often creates outside tucks on her neckbands, which you can see on Vogue 8636. I'm not sure if I used the exact same technique as she uses, but I pinned in a number of tucks and started sewing. I kept adding tucks, without measuring, until the neckline fit the way I wanted it to fit. In the end, I added 18 tiny tucks.

Baby "Marcy" tucks!

Finished neckline. Photo lightened to show detail.

In order to reinforce the idea that these tucks were intentional, I also added tucks to the sleeve inset. They are hard to photograph, and very subtle, but they are there.

It's subtle, but there are 6 tucks spread across the length of the sleeve inset.

What do I think about this pattern? To be honest, I am not sure. It reminds me a bit of loungewear. Something I might wear before dinner when my friends drop by for cocktails. Wait, I don't do that. OK, I might wear it on the cruise ship apres swimming. Oops, not my lifestyle either. OK, how about I wear it when the doorbell rings and it's the neighbor reminding me to move the car because it's street cleaning day. Yup, that sounds more feasible. This knit is so heavy and drapey, and the print so dramatic, the great funky skirt shape is a bit lost, which is unfortunate.

When DD1 returned on Sunday afternoon, I put the dress on and styled it as I might wear it out. I nervously asked her what she thought and she really liked it and felt it was a rather dressed up look.

So, for me, the jury is out. I'm not sure if I will wear this out of the house, or to bed. What do you guys think?

Hangar shot

The shape of the dress

My knee fits perfectly into the corner!

Twirlability? Check.

Fashion DON'T. (I couldn't resist.) ;)


A Bit of Knitting - Missoni Scarf

One of the sewing blogs I follow is The Selfish Seamstress. I enjoy the humor of her blog. She is a younger, petite sewist with a passion for classic and retro styles crafted in menswear fabrics. She has recently relocated from Canada to Europe and her sewing machine has been in transit, so she has been knitting in the interim.

I had been getting the itch to do some knitting recently (must be the season and the cooler temperatures), when I saw her latest project, a Missoni-inspired scarf, and I had to make one. This design uses the classic Feather and Fan stitch, and I was preparing to create my own, when she graciously shared her pattern. I had already located some Lang Jawoll Magic sock yarn - I loved the variegated greens in her scarf, but I selected the blue shades (color 84.0035, or 35, for short). Lang Jawoll Magic is a superwash fingering weight yarn that is 75% wool and 25% nylon. The zigzag design of the Feather and Fan stitch really highlights this yarn's tendency to stripe. I grabbed my size 7 (4.5mm) bamboo circular needle and off I went. The pattern is on her page, but here it is again:

Cast on 78 stitches:

Row 1: K
Row 2: P
Row 3: K3, * (K2tog) 3 times, (YO, K1) 6 times, (K2tog) 3 times. Repeat from * until 3 stitches remain. K3.
Row 4: K

Repeat all rows until desired length is reached. Bind off loosely.

Before blocking


  • I slipped the first stitch of each row in the way it would have been knitted (or purled). This is an age-old technique that yields a more stable selvedge edge.
  • I ripped out many, many rows of this project. In fact, for the first 15 inches or so, I probably knitted it twice, because I did so much "unknitting". And that was after my first effort, which I completely frogged after a couple inches. I was really good at losing stitches, or forgetting the odd yarn over. Feh.
  • I used less than two skeins. The completed scarf was 56"x10-1/4" when relaxed.
  • This is a lace pattern, so you really have to block it to fully appreciate the design. I wet blocked mine, gently swishing it in a sink filled with warm water and Garnier shampoo (the current "regular" shampoo in the shower). I emptied the sink, refilled it with clean warm water, and rinsed the shampoo out. I put the scarf in a clean dry towel, rolled it up, and removed as much water as possible. I then laid out the scarf on two towels on the carpet. I arranged the scarf to 80" x 12", coaxing the scallops into shape, and secured them with lots of pins, stabbing directly into the towel/carpet. I didn't bother pinning the sides of the scarf, but smoothed it with my hands. Because it was a rainy day, I pointed a small rotating fan at the scarf to encourage it to dry more quickly.

    Proper blocking is no laughing matter, Jack!

Lacey goodness, post blocking.


Now that it's done, I'm a little sad. I finally got this pattern down and now it's over. I need a new knitting project. :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Vogue 1213 - Koos van den Akker Linen Coat

This is a long post. Maybe you want to skip the text and just see more pics. :)

Omigosh, do I love this pattern!

I liked it when it came out. I ordered it during the big BMV sale a week or two later. It arrived, along with all the other new pattern goodness, and, much to my surprise, I just knew I had to make this one first. I didn't expect that when I ordered it, but once I had the pattern in hand, I immediately envisioned the project and couldn't wait to get started.

Luckily, I had the perfect fabric on hand. Months ago, I purchased 6 yards of a "denim linen" from FabricMart (it's no longer available). I washed and dried it several times. This is truly a denim linen and not just a denim-colored linen. It is woven in a twill weave, just like denim. The warp threads are white and the weft threads are indigo-colored, resulting in that typical yarn-dyed denim effect. The only difference from standard denim is that the fiber is linen, so the resulting fabric has a nice drape and wrinkles like crazy.

I had trouble finding a suitable lining fabric. I bought at least three different potential linings from Fabrix, but none worked. It's difficult to match blue, especially this heathered, indigo shade of blue. I dove into my stash, but came up empty handed, at first. Finally, I found a sueded, sandwashed rayon that I bought from FabricMart maybe 6 months ago that worked pretty well. I purchased the fabric just after attending a lecture by Sandra Ericson where she talked about making Vionnet (and similar) bias garments. Someone asked Sandra how much fabric she buys and she answered that when she finds a nice, drapey rayon she will usually buy 5 yards for a dress, so that's what I did. I still have a couple yards left – I am not making bias dresses anyway. ;)


  • denim linen from FabricMart - I used about 5 of the 6 yards
  • slate blue sueded, sandwashed rayon for lining, also from FabricMart - you need more than is called for if you want to line the sleeves
  • 2 spools Gutterman cotton topstitching thread, color 20 (white)
  • white tricot fusible interfacing from Fabrix
  • 4 1-1/4" shank buttons from Fabrix
  • 4 5/8" clear buttons from Fabrix

I often make muslins, but I couldn't bring myself to make one this time, partly because I'm running out of fabric suitable for muslins - I can't keep cutting up my kid's bed sheets. :)

Instead, I pinned the pattern tissue together, tried it on, and decided I needed an FBA. Vogue gives the sizing of this pattern as "Very loose fitting" and they are right. According to the pattern, the finished bust measurement is 48" for a size 14, 50" for a size 16, 52" for a size 18, and 54" for a size 20 (the largest size). Usually, I cut out a size 20 and have to add an FBA to add width at the bust, but this time a size 20 was plenty big in the bust.

However, I still needed an FBA to add length - without it the hem of the coat would be shorter at the front. So, this time I used Sandra Betzina's princess seam FBA, from the book Fast Fit, which adds to the length only. I added 1" to the front pattern piece. For the middle front pattern piece, I added 1" to the side that is sewn to the front piece, tapered to 1/2" on the side sewn to the side front. On the side front, I added 1/2" to the side sewn to the middle front, tapered to nothing at the side seam (remembering to hinge at the 5/8" seam line to maintain the overall length of the seam). I also lowered the bust "bump" on the middle front several inches to my actual bust line. I applied the same alteration to the front lining pattern pieces.

I imagined this wonderful design a bit differently than shown on the pattern. First, I wanted to fold down and sew the scallops to the coat, rather than have them marching at attention along the seams, mimicking the back of a T-Rex. I also wanted to use a single fabric, rather than 6 contrasting fabrics. To ensure that the scallop detailing wasn't lost, I topstitched the seams with white topstitching thread.

A couple notes about the scallops: If I had thought this through a bit better, I would have realized that a twill fabric is not going to yield easily to scalloped seams. A twill weave is a diagonal weave, meaning it behaves differently depending on whether the bias angles to the left or the right. Scalloped seams have, by definition, bias in both directions. Creating a smooth scallop is not easy on a twill fabric. I was very painstaking when cutting and sewing the scallops, but they are not perfect. Of course, this isn't entirely my fault because the pattern scallops were apparently drawn by a human – they are not even - they vary quite a bit. I really don't care, but keep this in mind.

If you find the scallops too "unusual", it would be an easy matter to fold them down on the pattern before cutting out the fabric. I did this when I created the lining pattern for the sleeves.

Scallop construction

Folding out the scallops for the sleeve lining.

How many scallops? The body of the coat has six seams with six scallops each. The sleeves have another five, so there are 46 scallops total.

What is the deal with the buttonholes? I think of the buttonhole treatment as a quasi-bound buttonhole. You first sew a lined square - similar to an empty beanbag. Markings are transferred to the square, which is then sewn to the inside front facing. The buttonhole is cut, and the square is pulled through to the front. The opening is top-stitched, encasing the raw edges. The fabric square, which is now on the front of the coat, is pleated and topstitched to create a decorative bound buttonhole.

Pattern alterations and construction notes:

  • The pattern tells you to interface the scallops. This might be a good idea if you plan to let the scallops stand up, as designed, but I omitted the interfacing since I planned to stitch them down and didn't want them to have a different "hand." I did interface the front band, the collar, under collar, and collar stand. However, since the scallops aren't interfaced, stitch and handle carefully so as not to stretch the bias portions of the seam.
  • I narrowed the shoulders approx 3/4". I could have narrowed them even further.
  • There are no shortening or lengthening line on the sleeves. This is because the scallops run along the entire length of the sleeve. I needed to remove length, so I removed about 1/4" from each of the five scallops. (I folded approx 1/8" - 3/16" from the fullest part of each scallop, perpendicular to the grainline.)

    Shortened the sleeves by removing 1/4"-3/8" from each scallop.

  • The body of the coat is lined, but the sleeves aren't lined. I created my own lining by folding the scallops down, creating a straight line. I realized this fairly late in the game, so I sewed the sleeve lining in and then bound the armscye with a bias linen strip.

    Creating the sleeve lining by folding out the scallops.

    Lining. You can see the bias strips finishing the armscye.

  • The decorative buttonholes are a multi-step process. You first create a lined square, transfer the markings to the square, and sew it to the inside of the right facing. Cut the buttonhole and pull the fabric to the outside. The topstitching is done in three steps. First, stitch around the buttonhole. Then stitch around the outer part of the square. Finally secure the tucked portion of the buttonhole.

    Steps one and two of the topstitching are finished.

    Completed buttonholes

More Pics!


Topstitching goodness!!

Worn closed. Remember this scarf? My friend Renee made this this silk Nuno scarf for Christmas last year.

Hangar shot

Without scarf.

What do I like about this pattern?

  • The fit and flow of this great silhouette. If the scallops seem weird to you, it is easy to fold them out of the paper pattern, so don't let that deter you from this great design with lots of RTW details!!! You can also use regular or standard bound buttonholes and eliminate the decorative buttonhole detail. I'm just sayin'. :)
  • All the delicious topstitching goodness!!!

    Some of the great topstitching!

  • The unique quasi-bound buttonholes!
  • The collar with the collar stand. The stand doesn't extend all the way to the front edge of the collar, which is unusual, and it feels like high-end RTW. The under collar is cut on the bias and is slightly smaller than the upper collar, so it's easy to create a collar that falls beautifully.

  • The "two" princess seams in front, one has the scallops, and the other has the pockets, so the fit is so nice and the pocket is placed at a more natural location.
  • The bias band that finishes the hem.
Buy this pattern before it goes out of print! :)

How could one not love this line drawing? It reminds me of a Picasso, with the squiggly lines, and buttonholes that look like eyes stacked on top of each other! That little horizontal line at the bottom looks to me like the bemused mouth – it's actually the word "FABRIC" shrunk to a tiny size. :D

Postscript: After the coat was nearly finished, I moseyed on over to the discussion boards at Pattern Review. In the "New patterns from Vogue" thread, I saw that this coat had received some rather cutting comments, and had been dubbed the "Stegosaurus Coat" or the "Stego Coat." I love the nickname, but those reviewers really didn't see how marvelous this pattern can be. I want to make it again and already know what fabrics I would use for it (yes, next time I would use more than one fabric and I might even leave the scallops standing up).