Sunday, July 27, 2014

Top with Contrast Binding

This binding detail was inspired by a top I saw in RTW. If you own a coverstitch machine or serger that can attach a knit binding, this detail would be easy peasy to construct. But even without a special machine, it's not that hard to do.

I started with a TNT pattern - the Renfew, which I've made here and here. This knit is not very stretchy in the vertical direction, so I sewed in the bust darts. (By the way, I used a version of the Renfrew where I raised the neckline a bit.)

The binding is first attached vertically to the front pieces. In the RTW garment, they then placed the fronts, right sides together, and sewed a scant 1/6th of an inch seam to attach them together. I assembled them a little differently: I abutted the bound edges and whipstitched them, by hand, from the back. Once the fronts are attached to form a single unit, then the shoulder seams are sewn and the neck binding is attached, leaving a gap of about 1".

I used a black rayon/lycra jersey for the binding and I cut the strips 2" wide. I folded them in half, the long way, with both raw edges together, and sewed them to the front with a 1/4" seam. I then wrapped the folded edge around to the back and hand-stitched it in place. This makes a nice, beefy, double binding. If you have a thicker fabric, you might prefer a single binding.

I purchased this fabric last May at Santa Fe Fabrics when visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico. This printed knit is slightly crinkled and has what can only be described as a perforated texture. Very interesting.

Unfortunately I did have one mishap during construction. When serging the armscye seam, I caught the sleeve fabric in the serger blade.


Luckily I had enough fabric to cut another (slightly shorter) sleeve, but I was already thinking of a plan B and C in case that wasn't an option. (Plan B - solid black sleeves. Plan C - some sort of elaborate patch/seaming.)

For the last two days, I've been using my long walks to head to the mall. On Friday I walked to Union Square in downtown SF, and yesterday I walked to my local mall, also in SF. I just love checking out designer RTW and the fall fashions are arriving! Woot! Fall is my favorite time of year, fashion-wise. My mojo is flowing and I wish I had more time to sew!

Nordstroms in Union Square

And, just for fun...
A very tall sculpture at work, silhouetted by the sunrise.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Grommets, Britex Blogger, Glasses, Minnesota Meetup

This is a "miscellaneous" blog post!



Thanks for all the kind feedback on my grommet coat! I wore it to work today and I do like it! The big pockets are so useful (and Pockets Are King). I was asked a few questions in the comments, so let me answer here:

Do the grommets make the coat heavy?
No. They give the coat some nice heft, but even 2 gross of grommets weighs very little.
Where do you buy grommets?
I bought mine from Seattle Fabrics, but I can also recommend Richard the Thread, who also sells white grommets. I used size 0 for the coat, except for the larger grommets on the pockets, which are size 2.
What is the difference between an eyelet and a grommet?
In my experience, an eyelet is smaller than a grommet and uses only one piece of metal. Eyelets are used on shoes for threading the laces, for example. Grommets are more heavy duty and use two pieces of metal. The backside also has a washer-type piece of metal. Both come in a variety of sizes, though grommets come in much larger sizes, intended for very heavy duty use. I googled "difference between eyelets and grommets" and found this and this. So, YMMV.

Britex Blogger

There was some nice fallout from my talk at Britex last month. They have asked me to become a Britex blogger! (You can now see the badge on my blog, which takes you to their site.) I picked up my first piece of fabric a couple weeks ago, but I haven't been able to start sewing it yet. I was going to start after finishing the grommet coat, then I realized that I didn't own the pattern I wanted to use as a springboard, so I had to order it. It's a really gorgeous piece of fabric, and I want to do it justice, so stay tuned!

Minnesota Meetup!

Minnesotans are such friendly people!

After posting that I would be spending a few days in the Minneapolis area (taking my daughter off to university), I received some nice emails. Several of those offered to arrange a meetup while I am there, and I decided to accept one of the lovely offers! However, there are limited spots available. The meetup is scheduled for Saturday, August 30th, at 3pm and will be held at Treadle Yard Goods in St Paul. Please send me email if you would like to come and I will get you on the list, on a first-come first-served basis.

THANKS to Treadle Yard Goods and to Alice M for arranging everything! I look forward to meeting some of you in St Paul!


One of my favorite doctors is the eye doctor! Why, you ask? Well, how many doctors write a prescription for fashion accessories? (If a podiatrist wrote a prescription for, say, Trippens, I would go to that doctor!) I have two new pair of everyday glasses, and one even relates to sewing!

New glasses #1 - by a brand called Fish
New glasses #2 - by Karl Lagerfeld

It might be hard to see, but the Karl Lagerfeld glasses feature (non-functioning) zippers on the sides! I love these. Here is another close up.

The zipper pull is on the left side only. I took this pic in the Google Coffee Lab and their counter features intentional coffee rings. It's a very cool effect!

And, just for fun...

One of the Google cafes is in a building that has a transportation theme. This VW bus is used by folks who want to hang out and work, or eat. I guess the tire lock is to discourage any pranks. ;)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Denim Duster with Grommets


It was foggy, chilly, and very windy when I took these pics!

I've finished!!!

I've finally finished my denim duster with grommets and bellows pockets!

This thing took me weeks to sew. More than a month.

Why did this take you so long?, you ask?

Excellent question!

It took so long partly for the usual reasons (daily, long commute which saps energy, now walking over 11,500 steps a day which also takes time), but mostly for the following reasons:

  • I flat felled every seam on this coat by hand. Normally I enjoy hand sewing, but this fabric did not cooperate. It resisted every single stitch of the needle, giving me damaged, sore fingers and, more than once, driving the back of the needle into my middle finger. (You guessed it, I do not use a thimble.)
  • I set close to 288 grommets into this coat. How do I know the approximate count? I bought two gross of grommets and used most of them up.
  • There were problems with my grommet supplier. In my first order, I ordered a gross of several sizes of black grommets to test out. I didn't open the box until the July 4th weekend. (Big mistake, but I normally do not have problems with my orders.) That's when I realized that the gross of the size I preferred had been left out of the box (leaving me only the 44 pair of grommets that came with the setter), and I couldn't call to fix it until Monday after the 4-day weekend. I called that Monday and they sent me the gross, which arrived on Friday. I spent the weekend hammering grommets and realized, horror of horrors, that I needed another gross. All of these delays slowed things down.
  • Installing 2 gross of grommets... well, that just takes a little time. Your back needs a break from the vigorous hammering now and again. :)
  • Lots of stuff going on outside of work, which eats into the sewing time on my weekends. For example, this weekend, I celebrated my birthday with my daughters. We hiked for hours in Butano State Park, eating Artichoke Garlic Herb bread and Olallieberry Pies from Norm's Market in Pescadero. Yum. (The Olallieberry is similar to a blackberry.)
Foreground: Olallieberry Pie on the left. Artichoke Garlic Herb bread on the right. My friends assured me that this bread is worthy of Bucket List status. It is quite tasty.

My progeny inherited my silly gene

But finish I did! I had decided some time ago that I was tired of sewing quick and easy garments every weekend in order to have a weekly post. I do like posting at least once a week, but I was putting too much pressure on myself and wasn't able to dive into meaty, more interesting projects. So I've let go the idea that I have to post every week. And I hope to be showing you more of a mix of the more interesting, along with the quick and satisfying. There is certainly a place for both in every wardrobe.

And now, on to the knitty gritty details.

The fabric:

I keep calling this fabric a denim, but I lie. Sorta. What is denim? The wikipedia definition is a good one:

Denim is a sturdy cotton twill textile in which the weft passes under two or more warp threads. This twill weaving produces the familiar diagonal ribbing of the denim that distinguishes it from cotton duck.

It is a characteristic of most indigo denim that only the warp threads are dyed, whereas the weft threads remain plain white. As a result of the warp-faced twill weaving, one side of the textile then shows the blue warp threads and the other side shows the white weft threads. This is why blue jeans are white on the inside. The indigo dyeing process, in which the core of the warp threads remain white, creates denim's fading characteristics, which are unique compared to every other textile.

You'll note that one of the defining characteristics of denim is the twill weave, which causes a diagonal ridge on the face of the fabric. My fabric has a plain weave, not a twill weave, but it is woven using threads you would find in any denim garment. The warp threads (the long direction) in this 100% denim-like cotton are solid indigo blue. The weft threads (that are woven up and over the warp threads in the loom), are indigo blue and white. This causes a subtle pinstripe design across the grain of the fabric (from selvedge to selvedge). I wanted the stripes to go up and down the body, so I cut the pattern out on the cross grain.

My cutting table, littered with "grommet holes" (similar in concept to donut holes)

For some reason this fabric often photographs as grey, but it's indigo colored. The grommets are a matte black. I had 4-1/2 yards of this 60" wide fabric in my stash and it is a very crisp, unyielding denim, so I tried softening it with Coke. It did not work. This project used almost all of the 4-1/2 yards.

The pattern:

I used a dress pattern, Very Easy Vogue 8983.

Vogue 8983

This pattern has great lines. It features armscye princess seams, front and back. (Lots of opportunities for fitting.) The front princess seams are offset - they do not go directly through the bust point. This is why there is a short dart from the bust point to the princess seam. Don't ask me why, but I like this design feature and I saw more of this sort of princess seam in the recent Vogue offerings. (For example, Vogue 9019.)

This dress also features the recent trend of a mullet, or high-low, hem. In general, I am not crazy about mullet dresses, particularly extreme mullet hems. (I do like a more subtle mullet hem.) But the extreme high-low hem seems like a trend that will go by the wayside very quickly. Despite that, I kinda liked the mullet on the pattern drawing. I posted the question "Mullet dresses. Yay or Nay?" on my Facebook page and got a lot of interesting answers, but the prevailing opinion was "nay". When I pinned the paper pattern together, I quickly realized that this was a fairly extreme mullet hem. The front of the dress ended at my knee (yuck) and the back ended near my ankle. So I lengthened the front over 6 inches, leaving the length alone in the back. This affected most every pattern piece, since it's a gradual change.

When I had the garment sewn together and on my body, I quickly realized that I hated the mullet hem. Hated. So I lopped it off, removing about 8" of length at CB, but leaving the length I had added at the front.

The primary reason I chose this pattern, other than the princess seams, was for the front band that goes around the neck and down the front in a continuous line. I wanted to fill this with grommets, creating a kind of self "trim".

Other pattern alterations:

  • Lowered the bust dart by about 2".
  • I decided I did not want to do my usual FBA, for long reasons that I won't go into here. Instead, I graded the bodice up so it would fit around my bust. (I have new thoughts about my FBA in certain garments, which requires a separate post.) This was a lengthy process since there are so many vertical seams and I added 3/8" to each seam.
  • The dress does not have pockets. I wanted some interesting pockets, so I used my Pulmu Pocket pattern, which I copied from a RTW coat from Korea (via the thrift store). This bellows-style pocket has a large opening, which didn't hang well in the stiff denim, so I contained the fullness by creating a pleat and securing it with a larger grommet. Only the top part of these pockets are attached to the garment, leaving the rest to hang free.
  • The sleeves on this dress are short with a straight hem. The pattern shows them folded up. I wanted a longer sleeve, but not a full length sleeve, as this is a lightweight "summer" coat. (Keeping in mind that summer in San Francisco can be pretty darned cold.) I drafted a 3" sleeve band to create a sort of lantern shape at the end of the sleeve - it tapers just above the wrist.
  • When I graded up the dress, I decided I didn't want closures - so I made it just meet at the bust. Closures would detract from the grommets and I couldn't find hooks I liked that were subtle enough.
  • The seam allowances are 5/8", as with all McVogueRick patterns, but I used 1/4" on the very outside seam, when attaching the band facing to the band. I did this because I wanted to make the band just a bit wider for the grommets.
  • Omitted the belt.
  • Added the Pulmu Pockets.
  • Grommeted the heck out of it.
  • As mentioned, I removed the high-low hem.
  • Flat felled each seam by hand. Hemmed by hand. Then topstitched most seams and the hem with black top-stitching thread.
  • Made liberal use of the mallet for the thick areas, such as when a seam crosses over another seam and I needed to top-stitch over that, creating even more layers. Hammering these areas really does make it easier for the machine to handle.
  • I was considering raising the neckline, but when I tried on the paper pattern tissue, I decided to leave it.

The result:

As I was working on this project, Margy asked me once or twice if I liked it. I wasn't sure. Now that it's finished I can say that I do like it. (I don't know that I love it, but I like it.) I hope I wear it. I don't usually think of wearing a long coat in warmer weather, even a lightweight coat. But I really like the heft that the grommets give to the coat. Time will tell.

I already have my next project planned. It requires some pattern drafting to take advantage of a beautiful fabric, but shouldn't be too time consuming to construct. I do plan to muslin it, since it is a special fabric. Have a great week!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New Website - Curvy Sewing Collective

Have you heard of the Curvy Sewing Collective? What started as a group of bloggers who wanted to better represent curvy sewists, has turned into a beautiful new website. Read more about it in the words of their founder (and website designer extraordinaire), Jenny of Cashmerette.

Announcement: The Curvy Sewing Collective website launches July 15th!

On June 15th, the Curvy Sewing Collective is proud to announce the launch of a new website dedicated to helping curvy women sew a fabulous wardrobe and feel fantastic:

The project began when Jenny of Cashmerette and Mary of Idle Fancy were lamenting the lack of representation of curvy women in the sewing blogosphere, despite the fact that huge numbers of home sewists are curvy. So, they teamed up with Tanya of Mrs Hughes, T of uandmii, Mary of Young, Broke & Fabulous, Laurence of Quirky, Pretty Cute and Sophie-Lee of Two Random Words to form the Curvy Sewing Collective. Fresh off the success of the Curvy Colette blog tour which launched the new Colette Patterns Moneta and Mabel patterns in curvy style, the CSC is off to its next adventure!

The Curvy Sewing Collective website is planned to be a one-stop resource for curvy sewists, covering topics such as pattern reviews for curvy figures, tutorials on common fitting adjustments, body confidence and positivity articles, and inspiration from the sewing world and beyond. Future topics include a wrap dress sew along, swimsuit tips and confidence and even... bra-making! It's open for all sewists and folks who want to contribute to the community: there are forums for discussion, and sewists interested in contributing posts can submit ideas to

So please join us in starting up our new community online - we hope to see you all there!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Embarrassment of Riches - Vogue Early Fall Patterns, 2014


What's happened?!

Have I died?!

Am I dreaming?!

I just laid eyes on the Fall 2014 collection of patterns from Vogue and I can't believe what I am seeing.


I barely know where to start.

They've been listening!

Now, before I go further, let me say that there are far too many ruffles, jabots, cravats, and pussy bows in this collection for my liking, but that is really a small quibble given the bounty of riches. Women who favor a classic look and have a bust that can pull off these embellishments should be happy. For example, I normally love Mizono designs, but this one, as cute as it is, would overwhelm many women and would never work on me.

Vogue 1413

Another example of the ubiquitous pussy bow is on this Guy Laroche top:

The technical drawing shows a very interesting sleeve and a center front zipper under that pussy bow. (OK, I admit it. I really hate pussy bows.)

Vogue 1416

There are lots of dresses, yes, but there are some cool dresses. And, overall, there seems to be a much better mix of dresses and separates. I see a decent selection of pants, skirts, and tops. There are some basic patterns with "twists", but also some challenging patterns. It feels like a better mix than we have been seeing in past seasons. This also seems like the largest offering of patterns that we've seen from Vogue (at one go) in recent memory.

Am I wrong?

There is some great detailing and interesting seaming galore. There are lots of princess seams (and variations thereof), which give you great opportunities for fitting.

I love the direction that I am seeing!

To do a proper review, I should probably break this up into multiple posts, but I don't have time for a proper review, so I'll just dive in.

Here goes...


First, they have heard that we want more interesting details. Oh yes. There is a bounty of patterns with interesting seaming. Look at this LBD from DKNY. At first glance, it might look cute but conventional:

But check out the seaming:

Vogue 1408

This top is also unusual. It has forward front seams (and no side seams):

And see those horizontal lines? Those are darts! That's thinking outside the box.

Vogue 9020

Margy was looking for skirt patterns recently. How about this beauty?

Vogue 9031

The fall offerings include many variations on a sheath dress, which is a popular silhouette right now. Here's one, a DKNY that I can see on Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic):

Vogue 1407

And another, this one a Donna Karan, which is her high-end line. (To be truthful, I don't care for the fabrication they've used, but I respect the seaming!)

Vogue 1409

Oh, Ralph Rucci, how do I love thee? He is a Prince of Seams. (I won't be making these garments for myself, but I admire the unusual construction.)

Vogue 1419

Vogue 1404


I love asymmetry and it's very big right now. So much asymmetric goodness in these patterns! It is fussier to cut and sew an asymmetric pattern, but the result is really worth the effort.

Do you have a double sided ponte and a penchant for a fitted dress? This one is fun and can show a double-sided fabric to advantage:

Vogue 9024

I've been thinking of drafting a top similar to this Linda and Tom Platt design:

But I actually prefer the second view on this pattern:

Vogue 1415

This Rachel Comey dress has an asymmetric neckline, waistline ruching, and a kicky back godet. It has a real retro feel to it and would be great on the right woman. (I can see this on Laura Mae!)

Vogue 1406


There are some interesting silhouettes. Look at Lynn Mizono's other offering. It would be difficult to carry this off with my uber busty figure, but, wow, it would be gorgeous on the right woman. (I am thinking that my friends Heather and Dorothy would rock this one.)

Vogue 1410

This Donna Karan pattern features such a dramatic top! And just look at the back seaming on those pants! Such a pity that the pants feature front pleats. Front pleats are very unflattering on most women except for the very thin. Believe me... I lived through the pleated pants craze of the 80s. They really do not flatter most women who don't have model thin bodies.

Vogue 1417

Another sheath dress. This pattern is classic and seems to be straightforward.

But look at the technical drawing. See that gentle curve on the shoulder yoke? That's the sort of detail that appeals to me. It exhibits a subtle sense of good design that has been mostly lacking in recent years. It's very good to see.

Vogue 9019

If you have a waist and can wear a wrap style, this top looks like a winner to me. It has sewn-in tucks and is worn on top of a skirt or pants. The pointed hem is flattering and the soft peplum effect would help to obscure a belly. The sewn-in tucks mean that it should stay put better than most wrap tops - it should be less fussy to wear. And you can easily close it with snaps or buttons if you want to avoid using the belt. (I see that the pattern actually calls for snaps.) I can see this one on TinyJunco!

Vogue 9037

This basic 4-gore skirt might seem pedestrian, but it will hang beautifully as it's designed on the bias. It features a raw-edge hem, but you can easily hem it if you prefer.

Vogue 9030

Look at this beautiful princess seamed coat. Again, a fairly classic design, but the front princess seams end in angled pockets - a nice detail. There is a dramatic shawl collar variation, and a Peter Pan collar variation. (OK, here's the truth. I detest Peter Pan collars. I wore them in Kindergarten and Never.Again.)

But this is a great coat, classic, but with a twist. There are several variations for the sleeve hems. If I were to make this and wanted it to be warm, I'd make the Peter Pan variation, as it offers more coverage, but I'd swap out the collar. If I wanted an elegant evening coat, I'd make views D or E, maybe with some special embellishment on the collar. Though, to be completely honest, I'd probably scale back the size and shape of that collar a bit.

Vogue 9040

Misses (D'OH!)

There are a few patterns that you might want to look at very carefully before diving in. I call these "misses", as in "sewist beware."

For example, consider this raglan sleeve top. There is no place where it really fits the body - it hangs from the shoulders (or bust, as the case may be.) This is the sort of top that can easily look like a maternity top.

Vogue 9027

This vest is kind of cool. It has potential, though you will probably be happiest making this with a drapey fabric, and maybe adding a closure. I do like that there are back shoulder darts.

But I would be wary of pairing this vest with this skirt. I think it would skew to frumpy and dumpy very quickly. And the pleated pants... Unfortunate. Not my favorite look.

Vogue 9034


There is a gorgeous jacket and pants pattern for MEN! No dull bathrobe or boring blazer that we've seen a million times before. This pattern is seriously cool.

Vogue 9041


I am past caring about kids patterns (and grandkids are too far off), but they have even brought back classic girls designs with two new patterns. It just seems right that Vogue should have these available, doesn't it? This is for those tykes who need to dress up for Gramma's house on a special holiday, or maybe to see a big production of Nutcracker. (For cool everyday kids wear, stick with Burda or similar.)

Hits (My Favorites)

I've shown a lot of patterns that I admire, but I may not buy, as some don't suit me, or are just not my style.

What do I plan to add to my collection of patterns?

I don't have a long list, but I am fairly enthusiastic about these designs.

This Marcy Tilton jacket and pants are very cool. Unfortunately, I will have to modify the jacket to remove the swing if I want to make it for me (swing jackets/coats really don't flatter me), but the design is quite cool. I looooove the pants, which have a harem vibe. (I am disappointed there is only one new Tilton pattern in this collection, but at least it's separates and includes two garments!)

Vogue 9035

These Sandra Betzina pants are a Must Have for me.

It's easy to think, "oh, just another pair of pants with narrow legs", but look at the delicious seaming! I would wear these for everyday, but they would also make a really fun pair of work-out pants.

Vogue 1411

This Sandra Betzina jacket is interesting. It has a "western shirt" vibe to it.

But I actually prefer the alternate view. What great lines, including French Darts and the collar that slightly stands up! Yes, yes, yes.

Vogue 1418

And I love the funky princess seaming on this jacket and the fun pointed sleeve hems! That little inset contrast neckline is a design feature we've seen many times in RTW, but not that often in patterns. I love it!

Vogue 9039

I've mentioned the following patterns earlier in this review, but I also plan to buy these.

I'd modify this skirt to remove the zipper, and change it to an elastic waistband. I'd probably not color block it (though I might topstitch the seams) and I wouldn't wear anything tucked in. I would probably make it out of a ponte or double knit. Swishy swishy.

Vogue 9031

For this cowl top, I'd remove the flare at the hip and make this out of something with lovely drape, like a sweater knit.

Vogue 1415

Oh, I love this jacket. Yes, it's for men, but I bet it could be adapted. Just look at all that lovely detailing!

Vogue 9041

So, what are YOUR thoughts? Do you see anything you like? Anything you think I missed? (I definitely had to leave some goodies out - there was just too much to cover everything.)

I was hoping to finish my denim coat this evening, but I ran out of hardware!!! ARGH! I have to order more (it's not available locally), so there will be another delay. Besides, I spent my entire evening dashing off this post, which I wrote quickly, but it took hours. :)