Thursday, September 28, 2017

Chiffon topper (my guilty pleasure), AIF 2017, Degas and Millinery, and more!

It's been awhile and there is much to discuss!


Chiffon topper

It's time to come clean and admit my guilty pleasure.

I LOVE chiffon and chiffon-like fabrics, such as georgette. Especially crinkle chiffon because, well, you know...texture. I am a bit baffled by my love of chiffon because I am not a fan of many feminine fashion details, like ruffles, bows, Peter Pan collars, stilettos, or light pink.

I have amassed a sizable collection of chiffon fabrics. I prefer prints, ombre gradations, and border prints, over solid colored chiffon. Last spring I made a Paisley blue silk chiffon duster. I've worn it a number of times, but I haven't been completely happy with it. I'm not quite sure why.

I purchased this chiffon when I visited the New York garment district in July 2016. It was my first and only visit to Paron Fabrics before they closed, and this was the only fabric I purchased.

I was inspired by the Zandra Rhodes pattern, Vogue 1547.

Pretty, huh?

I loved the skirt of this pattern, but I wanted to make some changes:

  • Eliminate the underdress.
  • Eliminate the back zipper. (I live alone, and for years I had frozen shoulder in BOTH shoulders. I reject back zippers, unless they are purely decorative.)
  • Make the bodice less fitted.
  • Use a CF opening (instead of the zipper).

I decided to merge the skirt from Zandra's pattern with Vogue 9427, a simple cardigan.

Alterations and modifications

I started with a size large cardigan (size 16-18), and a size 20 skirt (which fit the bottom of the top). I made numerous changes, especially to the cardigan.

  • Wide back adjustment, adding 1" (total 2").
  • Broad back adjustment, adding 3/8" (and a dart on the shoulder, in addition to the dart at the neckline in the original pattern.
  • Lowered dart, and increased by 1-1/2".
  • Forward shoulder adjustment, 1/2".
  • Rounded shoulder adjustment, 3/8".
  • Split the skirt to create a CF opening.
  • Omitted the sleeves.
  • Finished the 8+ yards of hem and CF opening with tiny micro hems.
  • Finished the neckline and armhole openings with 1" self bias strips, folded in half and pressed.
  • Closed the front of the bodice with elastic button loop tape and 22 tiny buttons from Britex.

Process pics

I sewed the elastic button loop tape...

...and the 22 tiny buttons by hand. (Both purchased at Britex.)

I used the tiny micro hem that I love.

The final pass

I measured and it was something like 8 yards of hem total

I cut 1" bias strips to make self bias trim to finish the neckline and armholes

The skirt

The skirt on this dress is a circle skirt (including the 4 corners of the skirt), but it's not your typical circle skirt. Rather that cutting the waist hole in a circle, it's cut as a narrow oval. I love this design, because it throws the fullness of the skirt off to the hip, rather than distributing the fullness evenly around the waist. I blogged about this effect back in 2009, in Draping Circle Skirt Fullness, complete with some rather ugly (but effective) sample photos.

Pardon the condition of this pattern. My cat venge-peed on the cardigan pattern, ruining my version with its extensive alterations. He didn't manage to ruin this pattern, though I quickly tossed it into a corner, out of peeing range, so it's a bit wrinkled.


I spent a lot of time on the bodice and the skirt. I fully hemmed the skirt, and finished the raw edges of the bodice, before joining them together. I was feeling hopeful.

I joined them together and tried them on.


I don't usually sew garments with a waist seam. And this is why.

The bodice and skirt were sewn straight. Off the hangar they look straight. But on my body, with its uber boobs, it's not straight! Even though I increased the bust dart with an FBA, this looks pretty awful. Dumpy, even.

I asked Ann Smith to help by pinning it up. She did, and it was better but, after carefully removing the seam and re-sewing, it still didn't look great. It took me 4 or 5 trips from the mirror to the machine to tweak it. I raised the entire seam, and it's no longer straight across my front, since my curves affect how the bodice hangs.

It's NOT perfect, but it's better! I can live with it now.

See where the armhole ends? That shows you how much I typically have to remove on a Big 4 pattern. This pattern is designed to have a sleeve and that's where the sleeve ends. I usually remove 3/4" to 1" before attaching a sleeve so that it lands in the correct spot on my shoulder. But, as a sleeveless topper, I like that it's a bit extended.

A circle skirt (including the corners), but the waist is cut as a narrow oval

So much simpler on the back, where I don't have bust curves

I love the swishie-swishiness!

I also love that it's not so tight that I have to button/unbutton all those little buttons. I can just pop it on and off over my head.

Once again, before and after tweaking the waist seam

I wore this topper to work on Tuesday and it's fun to wear!

Artistry in Fashion 2017

Last weekend was another great Artistry in Fashion! The guest speaker this year was Sandra Betzina, who talked about the 10 most common mistakes sewers make. (You can read more about her talk on the Cañada College Fashion Dept blog.) She brought books, videos and patterns to sell and had two racks of her garments—one in her talk and one in her booth outside. I had been meaning to buy All New Fabric Savvy, and this gave me a great excuse.

I also learned that she's changed the subscription model for her site, Power Sewing. You can now subscribe for $6.99 a month to have access to over 250 video programs that are 30-60 minutes in length.

It was a great talk! Sandra was funny and shared lots of into.

That's Sarah Bunje in the foreground; too bad I didn't get a pic of her great outfit! She made the necklace and sells them on Etsy

Sandra showing one of her very cute toppers

And, of course, the shopping was good, too!

I've been admiring these necklaces since Margy bought a silver one three years ago. I finally succumbed and bought a white one. These necklaces are made from deodorant balls. They are quite lightweight and will be great for travel

I've already worn the necklace to work

This safety pin necklace had to come home. I've worn it to work, too!

I also bought some pieces from Winnie (pictured), of Eccentric Designs, but I was so amused by her necklace made from contact lens cases!

Another booth featuring beautiful jewelry

The button lady

I found some mother of pearl buttons

I bought a few buttons. The post card is a hologram and is attached to a button carved as a skeleton. You can see a video of the holographic effect on Instagram

The classrooms in the fashion department are set up with student work. I was particularly impressed by the work in this little bolero! The back and front are both different and both beautiful.

I also saw some friends!

With Jane Foster, who has a sewing school in Walnut Creek

Michelle of Paganoonoo Designs

I'm sorry I didn't take a lot more photos, but I get so involved and I forget!

Exhibit: Degas and the Millinery Industry

The Legion of Honor in San Francisco has been hosting an exhibit that I've been meaning to see. I finally got there at the very end of its stay!

I made this plaid wool dress last winter using a Britex fabric.

I bought this gorgeous hat from my friend, Sue Krimmer, a couple years ago.

The exhibit, Degas Impressionism and the Millinery Trade is a tad misleading. Many other impressionist artists were also featured. Along with the paintings and prints, many period hats were on display. I mostly took photos of the art, which called to me more than most of the hats.

Let's start with the hats!

This was one of my favorite hats. This is the front of the hat...

...and this is the back! (You wouldn't have guessed, right?)
Caroline Reboux
French, 1837-1927
Woman's Hat, ca 1904-1905
Woven straw and dyed cotton flowers
"The labor intensive process of flower-making involved treating the material, typically silk or cotton, with flower or gelatin to improve its pliability, and then carefully cutting flowers and leaves from it. The material was often cut in layers to allow many flowers to be created simultaneously. Shapes were then punched into the flower by hand using a mallet. The flowers were dip-dyed, also by hand, and often several times to achieve the desired hue. Next they were shaped, scored, and crimped, and then secured to their intended hat by wire or stitching."

"This whimsical Seussian hat was my favorite in the whole exhibit!
Camille Marchais
French, active 1854-1922
Woman's hat, ca 1895
Silk plain-weave and silk-velvet flowers and leaves, and metal wire
Masses of blossoms frequently appeared on hats in the 1890s. Maison Camille Marchais, maker of this example, was one of the most renowned artificial flower and millinery shops in Paris, famous for creating flowers so lifelike they could be mistaken as real. A story from the newspaper Le Figaro tells of a Marchais bouquet that was ruined after accidentally being placed in a vase of water."

There were also beautiful paintings featuring a millinery theme. I took photos of just a few.

Renoir, Girl Seated with a White Hat, 1884

Degas, Madame Dietz-Monnin, 1879

Renoir, Young Girl with a Hat, 1890

Degas, The Conversation, 1895

Louise-Catherine Breslau, The Milliners, 1899

Renoir, Young Girls Looking at an Album, ca. 1892

Georges Jeanniot, At the Milliner's, 1900

Renoir, Pinning the Hat, ca. 1898

Degas, Mary Cassatt, ca. 1880-1884

Degas, The Millinery Shop, 1879-1886

Hats in the gift shop!

And more hats!

In the outdoor cafe

Enjoying my purse with the giant-ass zipper (purchased in Milan)

It was a beautiful day at the Legion of Honor!

Legion of Honor

Video: Sandra of Phyllis Boutique

About a month ago I purchased a "scarf/necklace" from Sandra at Phyllis Boutique in Palo Alto. On the same visit, Margy bought a similar piece. After returning home, I couldn't quite make it work the way Sandra did (and neither could Margy), so I went back a couple weeks ago and asked Sandra if she would mind if I made a video of her styling it, so I could share it with Margy and others.

She graciously agreed.

Here's the result. You can see what a delightful, creative force Sandra is. (And please tell me my voice isn't that weird.)



I think these knits were for sale...

I was in Seattle a week ago (was it only a week ago?) for a mostly-work trip. But I managed to squeeze in a visit to two fabric stores and one yarn store! On Monday night, my colleague Kathy and I took Lyft to Bad Woman Yarn, where I found some leather "buttons." Actually, they are clever screws!

Pretty cool, huh?

We then caught another Lyft to Pacific Fabrics. I had heard of this store, but I hadn't realized that there are FOUR of them in the Seattle area!

We visited the Northgate location, which also has a sizable yarn collection (for Kathy). What a great fabric store! It was very much like the old independent fabric stores that we used to have where I grew up in Santa Rosa, CA, like New York Fabrics, and House of Fabrics. The salespeople are knowledgeable, friendly, and it's easy to spend a lot of time there. They have a particularly nice home dec selection and juicy flat fold tables. They are very active on Instagram.

I am not sure how I missed all FOUR of these stores when I visited Seattle in the past! They are located in: Bellevue, Northgate, Bemerton, and Sodo Seattle. Sodo (South of Safeco Field) houses their headquarters.

I will definitely be back!

On Tuesday, I had plans to lunch with Maris, of Sew Maris. We had met briefly at Puyallup, but this was the first time we were able to hang out. After lunch, she mentioned needing to run over to nearby Nancy's Sewing Basket and did I want to go.

Did I? Did I???!

Lunch at Google Seattle with Maris

She had a car, so I grabbed my purse and off we went!

She looked fabulous!

I enjoyed petting the fabrics... It rained during our visit, so it was easy to think "fall."

I purchased the wool on the right

Thanks, Maris!

Overall, it was a great (but quick) trip...even at work.

I mean... puppies! Colleague Jacob brought his new puppy to work. Cause... PUPPIES. (Jacob knows that Kathy and I like puppies. Especially Kathy. Bailey normally spends the workday in doggie daycare.)

Meet BAILEY! She liked Kathy

Bailey liked Terry, too. So nice to have a foot warmer as you work!

They call these "breakfast cookies." ' know, they're healthy. ;)

Bye, Seattle!

Now that I've completed the chiffon wonder, my next project is a wool boucle from Britex. I am also planning a trip to Ashland for Design Outside the Lines, and a trip to Japan later this fall. It's a busy time!

Have a great weekend, and join me on Patti's Visible Monday and Style Crone's Hat Attack!


  1. Oh My! What a buzy woman you are - love the chiffon topper, and thanks so much for the explanation of what you did to tweek the pattern. Yes, it does look lovely in the final transformation. That fabric is awesome and the buttons - love! Makes it a little lingerie like, really nice!
    I'm so bummed I missed Artistry in Fashion as it's always a pleasure and such cool things - unfortunately this year it comes right as I'm mounting a show. Sandra Betzina is so interesting and I so wanted to hear her.
    Puppies ! What a great place to work that has puppies, that was the topper to your wonderful blog!

    1. So sad you missed AIF, Kathleen, but I understand! In all the years I've attended, this one had the nicest weather!

  2. I do love the floaty topper with the structured pattern on it as a contrast. And interesting it works at work! I wore a floaty chiffon top with quite a long back hem to work the other day and sure enough the darned thing kept getting caught in the wheels on my chair, between the wheel and the hweel cover, requiring a gentle reversing of the wheel to untangle it, while still wearing it. Ad I drove to a gig last night with the side of my chiffon dress hanging out of the driver's door most of the way! A charming motorcyclist pulled up beside my car and with hand gestures I quickly worked out what his message was. I am a menace to delicate fabrics hehe.

    1. LOL, Maryanne, what a challenge!!! I hope to avoid such obstacles!

  3. Love the chiffon topper-but why do you use purchased patterns? Seems to me you might just draft your own? Reading about your process is educational, however, the mention of your frozen shoulders pained me. Worst pain I've ever had! And you had two??

    1. You know, Jeanne, that's an interesting question. When I took pattern drafting back in the early 80s, I decided to hand draft ALL of my patterns. But after a few months, I decided it was too much work. I have developed some TNT patterns (tried and true) and I like to start with one of those, when possible. It really shortcuts the time spent and lets you get right to the fun stuff - the design. That's why I was so annoyed to lose this jacket pattern - I had spent a lot of time altering it for fit! But fluctuating weight also means developing new TNT patterns. And that would also be true if I drafted from scratch. It's a dilemma, I tell you!

  4. Always love your posts! So many fun things to see (and wish I could enjoy in person too). The "revised" topper looks fabulous. Glad you came up with solutions to save it. Re: Sandra B., I hopped on her monthly sub for Power Sewing and binged watch the episodes. After 4 months, I stopped it but not before buying more of her patterns! In 6 months are so, I'll sign up again for a few months and see what she has new! I think it's a great deal!

    1. Thanks, Linda! It IS a great deal! I may also subscribe for awhile.

  5. I'm so glad to hear from you again and such a wonderful post too. The chiffon topper is wonderful and you really made it look great with your changes. Glad you informed us about Sandra Betzina's videos. I think I will give that a try. Of course you love puppies everyone loves puppies. The pup looks like a golden or labradoodle.

    1. Thanks, Connie! Bailey IS a doodle, but I can't remember what kind of doodle! I've never owned dogs and don't know that much about dogs, but Bailey is ADORABLE. My lifestyle these days isn't very conducive to pet ownership, but I can enjoy other people's pets! ;)

    2. Connie, I asked Jacob and he got right back to me! He says: "Bailey is a Golden Doodle. Her percentage poodle is unusual. She is 62.5% poodle and 37.5% Golden Retriever. Typically Golden Doodles are 25% Golden Retriever or 50% Golden Retriever."

  6. Great post, again, Shams! At the museum exhibit, I enjoyed reading about the life of the hat makers and the various jobs they held, and the health risks, too. Thanks, again, for taking the time to share so many interesting things with us!

    1. Thanks, Glenda! Yes, that was a very interesting perspective! When I take a photo of a museum exhibit, I also take a photo of the placard. So I do have that info for some of the pics. There's also a book that goes with the exhibit that looked interesting.

  7. Love your post! The chiffon topper is fantastic. The print on the chiffon gave it a bit of an edge so there was no girly quality. Also love how you are dressed in all your pics. The plaid wool dress is amazing. I am very allergic to wool and of course I love it, sigh. If you are in Tokyo there is a fabric street with Tomato (a four story fabric store) in it and many other interesting stores that I hope you can see. I went last year and had a hard time leaving. Thanks again Shams for a great post.

    1. Thanks, Paula! Yes, I totally plan to visit the Nippon fabric district! I have a HUGE list of things I want to see! I'll have to narrow it down, unfortunately!!

  8. Great post. I love your chiffon topper and such a great save. You bought the fabric without a pattern in mind, certainly what many of us do, so how much fabric did you buy? I know how much to buy for pants tops blouses but a chiffon vest? Not so much.

    1. Thanks, Nancy! When I bought that fabric, I was planning on having it mushroom pleated, so I bought quite a bit. I have some left over. I'm sorry to say I don't remember how much I bought, but it's probably close to what the Zandra Rhodes pattern suggests.

    2. Thank you. Buying without a pattern is such a crap shoot but even if I buy for a pattern I'm never guaranteed to make what I bought it for.

  9. great post! one of these years I will have to make it to AIF but I am always busy on the weekends in Sept. Hey I don't recall seeing that plaid dress which you wore at the museum - probably I did but it is Fantastic !!!! LOVE! it looks so great on you. that painting of the woman "at the milliner's" is my fav, we can all relate to that shopping moment.

    1. It's a fun event, Beth! I definitely posted that dress last December, but it really pops with Sue's hat!

  10. I so appreciate your tours. I don't get to the Coasts much anymore, yet I don't feel quite as left out whenever you share all those photos and descriptions.

    I LOVE your chiffon vest on you. I wonder if the difference between it and the blue paisley is how freely it falls. It doesn't emphasize either the uber bust or whatever curves might or might not be underneath. The blue paisley is more nipped in at the waist, drawing one's eye to the bust as well as pointing out that you're super skinny through the hips. (I can only imagine that "problem" as mine is the opposite.) Would you like it better if it were shortened some and let to hang freer? They are both gorgeous pieces and must be fun to wear regardless.

    1. Thanks, Charade! Yes, I've been wondering that myself - if the fact that the duster doesn't flow the same. I really really love a duster length, but I'm to sure it loves me back! Thanks for your thoughts!

  11. I love your chiffon topper. Love your black shoes in the photo. Also love your orange straw hat. It looks like it is collapsible. I would love to see the hat show. I have hats from my grandmother, great aunt, grandmother, mother, and my own. Too many to wear, but I love them all. On one of Marcy's trips to Paris we went to the silk flower maker who makes flowers for Chanel and museum exhibitions. Very intricate and so real looking. Thank you so much for more photos of Artistry in Fashion. I want to come out sometime to attend. It looks amazing.

    1. Thanks, MaryHelen! I bought that straw hat, gently used, from someone local. I bought it several years back but immediately looked up the name of the hatmaker, which I can't remember. But she is now out of business. I found some similar hats at another place, so now I have black and white, too. They do pack perfectly flat. I didn't pay this much for my used hats, but here is something similar: (I saw the same silk flower maker last fall when I traveled to Paris with Marcy. It was amazing!)

  12. Ah, Bad Woman Yarn! Love those folks!
    There used to be more Pacific Fabrics (formerly Pacific Iron, scrap dealers. The flat folds were the only fabrics they sold when I was a young'un) but they lost their leases in Puyallup (just up the hill from SewExpo site) and Everett. Love love love em.

  13. Those leather "buttons" are part of the JUL collection. You can see more of Laura's wonderful closures at Laura is Nora Bellow's twin sister, in case you are familiar with Nora's Noni knitting patterns.

  14. Okay, before I forget...your voice is not weird at all. And it's nice to hear it!

    My favourite segment of your post is the HATS! I'm really into hats right now and I LOVE yours! I can think of nothing better than seeing an art exhibit featuring all those lovely paintings...AND THOSE GORGEOUS HATS!

    1. You are too sweet, Sue. Thanks! Yes, I am feeling hats lately, too! I really enjoyed wearing one to the exhibit. The weather is still a bit too warm on most days for a wool hat, but winter/fall is coming!

  15. You never fail to entertain, Shams, which is why I look forward to your posts and stop what I'm doing to read them. Colorful, stylish, informative and friendly, you bring it on in a great way!
    Love your style - keep it coming!

  16. Fabulous newsy juicy post! So sorry to miss AIF this year...which boots do you have on with the plaid dress? (the red ones, of course)

    1. Thanks, Margy! Those are the Papucei boots that I purchased on sale from All Clad.

  17. I finally tried your tiny hem technique and it was amazing! Tiny hems everywhere! (And this garment had a LOT of them.)

    1. WOOT WOOT! So glad, Meg. I adore the results of that technique, though it can be time consuming. :)

  18. Your changes to the chiffon topper made it MUCH better! I really love to read your blog, there's always fun & inspiring things!

  19. Hi there - Love to read your blog. I am always amazed by the work you put in. Also, wanted to say thanks for the reference to the Louise Penny books. I'm always looking for a new mystery author and I love all her female characters. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Sheila! I mentioned this series to another friend and she's LOVING it. She's now in book 3. She mentioned "licorice pipes" several times, particularly in the early books. I had never heard of these, so I found some online and ordered the black ones. They were... interesting. I think when it comes to licorice, I prefer regular twisted licorice whips. Let me know what you think of Monsieur Gamache! :D

  20. I really love your blog post and the way you simplify the chiffon dress procedure. Just amazing. All the very best for you and keep posting more!