Monday, June 27, 2011

More dresses from top patterns

Another dress from the Ebb Blouse pattern

Yesterday I finished this shirt dress in an Italian cotton shirting from Michael's Fabrics in Baltimore.    I bought this fabric when we visited him earlier this month.  This dress is an inch longer than the linen one - same length as the ponte knit dress I sewed from the same pattern.
Detail of fabric and buttons
A dress from the Pure and Simple shell pattern

Cap sleeve dresses and tops are the go-to style for me and a lot of other women of a certain age.   The cap sleeve covers your arm, and imparts a sophistication you don't get with sleeveless.   My favorite cap sleeve patterns include the Loes Hinse Princess Tank and Dress,  the OOP McCalls 5701 dress and the shell from Louise Cutting's Pure and Simple pattern

I cut out and sewed up this chic casual cap sleeve sheath using the shell from the Pure and Simple Coat and Shell pattern.    I really like the shell so I wondered how it would work as a dress under the coat since I planned an ensemble for this fall using some interesting silk fabric from Calvin Klein workrooms. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Shirt Dress from the Ebb Blouse pattern

I've been wanting to cut out and sew this dress all spring.   Neutrals are all over the place and I love shirt dresses.    

I can still hardly squeeze a tube of toothpaste but I got out my best dressmakers scissors that are very sharp and, using the pattern I had traced when I last made the dress in pattern ease, I pinned it and carefully cut it out.  This blouse/dress requires a lot of fine sewing and I used my various presser feet to get the accuracy.   I have hardly any feeling in my feet or lower legs and I can't feel the floor, but I have a tiny bit of muscle control left in my feet or I wouldn't be able to walk at all.   This enables me to use the foot pedals since they are very sensitive.  

Due to the lack of sensation in my fingers,  I didn't do so well on the buttons because I am not very good with pins and needles - lots of dropping, sticking myself and difficulty pushing them through fabric.   It's also hard for me to feel the edges of the fabric and hold them together at the machine so I made a few mistakes and had to do some ripping, but no major slips that could result in a wadder.    But -- I'm not letting that stop me from sewing!  You'll hear no excuses or whining from me.

Those are Teva Tirra sandals that I found at a local store about a month ago.    I have them in black and beige leather.   The great thing about them is that they have 3 Velcro straps that I can adjust to keep the shoes on my feet.  They are very comfortable, especially for people with plantar faschia issues.    I can't stand very long without cushioning before I am in pain under my heels.

Shirt tail hem is slightly curved

This is the 5th time I've sewn a version of this pattern because the silhouette is so flattering, and the details aso stylish.  I sewed this one using a linen blend with some crinkles in it.   It's a ravelly fabric but this dress is completely finished inside and out.     I bought a dusty pink/gray Italian shirting from Michael's Fabrics while in Baltimore that I intend to sew up in another one of these.

Finished vents at sleeve and dress hems

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I'm Back and a neat hooded jacket sewn last spring

Hi everybody.    Back from Johns Hopkins Medical Center where I spent an entire day last week undergoing tests and examinations in their Neurology Department.    I referred myself to JH in May since I was told by local doctor the end of March that I did not need to be seen again until the end of July.   JH told me that the reason I was seen so soon is the seriousness of my condition given that the GBS was active again and quickly destroying my nerves.   Without going into details, they performed much more extensive and sophisticated tests than I have had during my 11 month battle with GBS.   I only had to  be there that one day.    After all the tests results are in,  they will convene a board of highly experienced specialists who will discuss my case, and determine a plan and course of treatment to make me well since this is reversible with the right treatment and timely intervention.   This will take a few weeks, then they will contact me.     They want to make it easiest for me, so depending on what they recommend,  they said that I may be able to get the treatments at facilities in Asheville rather than driving up there.     I feel like I have stabilized for the time being, so unless I get worse quickly,  I wait.  

Visited Michael's Fabrics

My husband and I stayed in the Johns Hopkins University area, north of the medical complex.   The evening before we left, we visited Michael at Michael's Fabrics, an easy drive north on Falls Road.     We had a nice visit and I bought some of the new Italian fabrics he had just received.    More on those later.  

Hooded Jacket from November 2007 Burda Style Magazine

I wanted to share this interesting hooded jacket I sewed up last spring  in french terry as a wearable muslin to test Burda Style #126 from the November 2007 issue.   After reading reviews on Pattern Review, I was intrigued by the one piece pattern,  excluding the sleeves.    I looked through my Burda Magazines but was missing this issue.    My friend in Massachusetts, Denise M,  kindly located it and had the friend she gave it to send/loan it to me.    That was during a time that I was not doing well but,  pacing myself and taking my time,  I traced it and sewed up a size I thought would work -  hard to determine the fit with a one-piece pattern like this.   The photo in the magazine article showed it as semi-fitted, so I used size 42 for my test since I wanted to wear this over sweaters.   The 42 is way too big, especially in the shoulders,  but gave me the info I needed to determine the correct size.
Shoulder seam runs under the hood across the back

I pressed it out yesterday and gave it to my son's girlfriend to give to her mother.    Here are some photos.   The jacket front is not asymmetrical but looks that way hanging on a size six mannequin.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Altering the Poppy Vest by The Sewing Workshop

I made this Poppy Vest in the spring of 2008 out of a pale yellow linen. I didn't wear it much because the exaggerated yellow tail in the back made me feel like a duck.

So, thinking about the pieces I wanted to sew out of the black and white checked rayon knit that looks so good with yellow, I thought,  "What about altering this vest to make a sleeveless swing jacket to wear with those?"     The back of the vest is entirely on the bias so I went to work.    When I don't wear something, it either goes to the thrift store or the consignment store, depending on what the consignment store will take.   I had nothing to lose, so I cut the tail off my ducky vest, measured and pinned it up on my form,    The bias in the back makes it swing out nicely.   The asymmetry and bias was a challenge, but I'm not deterred by challenges in sewing or what life hands out.    Here are photos of it pinned up.    The bias hung out over the years, so that wasn't a problem.   After I got it looking fairly symmetrical,  I pressed and trimmed the hem,
Here is what it looks like now,  hem trimmed, top-stitched and pressed after I put the vest in the laundry today.   I'm happy with how it looks,  and will be getting a lot more wear out of it with my black and white coordinates.    I also replaced the button with a pale yellow one.   Before I started, I called The Sewing Workshop to see if they had any suggestions for doing this.   In my  conversation with Kathy,  coincidentally she said they were playing around with this pattern, doing exactly what I did,  except using knits to make this vest.    You don't even have to finish the hem...  Hmmmm.....

Striped knit dress from Anthropologie

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Simple Dress but what's with the pattern ink?

Hi everyone.   I'm feeling confident that I am regaining my strength and the neuropathy in my hands isn't as bad.   Interested in a simple style and checking out the "new" patterns.  I ordered the new Loes Hinse Studio Cap Sleeve Dress and Top pattern from Casual Elegance with a piece of aqua/black rayon slub knit.      I received the pattern and fabric Friday.  I like sewing rayon knits because they're easier for me to cut out,  they feel good and breathe, and hold a press. 

Front and side with CF dart only
I bought this black and white rayon/lycra knit with big checks from   It's probably the lightest weight fabric I would use or recommend for this dress.   The design is abstract twist on a classic and I knew it would be easy for me to use the checks as grain lines to test the pattern.   I did not pre-wash but will wash this test dress to see how it behaves.
This afternoon I decided to take the pattern out, press and trace a couple of sizes since the ease was not provided.   This is a heavy white paper with black ink.    The minute I set my dry iron on the paper, the heat lifted the ink off the paper and onto my iron --  YIKES!    I started at the front neckline and it was so smudged I could hardly read the lines so I stopped.   I cleaned my iron off and tried again using a piece of tissue paper between the pattern and the iron.  This time the ink came off on the tissue paper.  That was it.  I couldn't press it at all and was left with a smudged pattern on heavily creased paper.   The deep creases and smudged lines gave me additional challenges to those I already have,  with my hands being the way they are in, in terms of tracing the lines accurately using my pattern ease tracing medium.     You can see photos of what I'm talking about on my Flickr set for this pattern.

My technical husband said the ink was clearly not heat set,  and that it must have been printed on a drum printer.    I'm wondering if Loes told the printer that women are going to heat press the printed pattern.   It's ridiculous to pay $20 plus shipping for a pattern that the ink comes off on your iron and then you have to fudge the lines.   Has anyone else had this problem with these "new" patterns?    I think I should call CE tomorrow and tell Sharon what happened. 

*Update:   I left a message on the CE phone line and received this response by e-mail that attests to Casual Elegance excellent customer service:

The heavy paper patterns are not intended to be pressed. It is not like the thin tissue paper. Loes always suggests copying the pattern so you don't lose the original as a reference - especially when tweaking a pattern. We have found that most experienced sewers do that. The new patterns can be flattened enough to copy. I have traced copies of all of the new patterns and have had no problem. I work with a ruler in my hand (what Loes does) when copying which helps keep the paper flat as well as tracing a more accurate line. I also use weights along the edges to keep the paper flat. We have sold a TON of these new heavy paper pattern.  We have had some people request to get the 'old' patterns in the heavy paper form!


If your pattern is too damaged to use, let me know. I will send another one complimentary.

I responded last evening:  

Thanks for the response Sharon.    

I always measure the pattern pieces to compare to the fit of similar garments, then trace that size using Pattern Ease Pellon tracing medium,  preserving the original since I might need another size,  or to do a tweak.  Due to the deep creases in the folds,  I really had no alternative but to press those areas,  never thinking the ink would come off.     Recommend you put a sticker with a notice on the pattern explicitly saying "Do NOT Press"  this paper.

In this case the pattern was damaged with the lines blurred and smudged because most of the ink came off on the iron (dry of course) that I used to press it .  It's difficult to distinguish the different size lines now so I would appreciate the replacement that you offered, and that I will try to smooth out rather than press.


The pattern ease was not posted.  Since the ads, newsletters and women who sewed a version of it said these new patterns are more fitted (vs the model photos) I traced the size medium as best I could discern from the remaining lines,  and cut out the dress front and back.   I stabilized the shoulder seams with fusible knit stay tape and pressed them over my ham since the shoulders and cap sleeve is curved.   I serged the side seams together before stitching the seams.  I did this for two reasons -- first the serger acts as an even feed foot,  keeping the two layers of the rayon jersey together;  and 2) I could try the dress on and determine the width of the seam allowance I should use since this is my wearable muslin.   It was clear that I should have cut a size small so I sewed a larger seam allowance and then serged the excess off.    The dart in the dress center front is an interesting design element, but more needed to be taken in.    Note that the three photos above are with just the small dart at CF.

To take in the excess ease,  I used the checks as a design element and sewed up a tuck in the center.    I used 1/2" Steam-a-Seam lite on the neckline (also acts as a stabilizer) and fused the hem with it - no top-stitching needed.    Love that stuff!   I stitched the armholes from the inside using the 2x2mm zig zag.   Even with the larger seam allowances and adding the tuck at the front there is still too much ease for me.  Well I thought I was tracing the medium..... definitely next go around, I'll start with size small.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Fall Trends - You probably already have the pieces in your closet!

Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman are already sending out the e-mails about fall trends and trunk shows. The spring/summer designers are all marked down. It's always fun to take a look at the silhouettes and styling to see how this "new" season compares to current independent patterns and the pieces in my closet.   Seeing what Oscar or the others put together gives you a new "eye" for combinations you might not have considered.    Love the fall colors and textures.     For example, from Neiman Marcus, here is his  Dip-Dyed Embroidered Jacket, Cardigan & Leather Full Skirt from Oscar de la Renta's pre-fall 2011 collection ($7,070 plus tax)

Here's Oscar doing the same skirt in a blue/cream scribble plaid with the same short cardigan jacket/twinset look ($3,530 plus tax).

So what do I have to knock off these looks?  I bought this light beige cotton/linen/silk skirt by contemporary designer, Robert Rodriguez from,  a TNT eBay seller few years ago.   Take a look at his modern, clever designs for for ideas and inspiration to add to your sewing.   His skirt is the same shape, length - same panels, same channel top stitching on the ties and the hem silhouette as these two Oscar skirts.     I have a camel lambskin pencil skirt in  that looks great with many tops and jackets in fall and winter.    Oscar also paired the short cardigan with high waisted pants ($3,530) -- got it covered.   In my closet is this cotton sweater by Vera Wang for Kohl's that I bought because I liked the neutral splatter effect.    This coffee brown rayon jersey tank with a sheer insert and embellishment at the neck was the same season as the cotton cardigan, and has the look of the Oscar $2000 top.    I enjoy wearing them with a lot of things, including this Shapes Nine Lives Vest/top/jacket,  and it looks like his styling under the cardigan.    So here's me wearing "the look" interpreted for spring/summer that, as I recall,  cost under $60 for all 3 pieces.    Same tops work with a number of my slacks.   Who's copying whom?   In fashion what comes around, goes around,  especially classic shapes and colors.
Check out my new shades

I love the waistline of this skirt
What I cooked today:   Today is a beautiful day with a nice breeze.   I opened my kitchen window and door for a cross breeze to take the heat out.   Every room in this old granite stone house has windows on two walls for that purpose.    I like making impossible pies.   I don't use Bisquick any more but any all purpose baking mix will work.     The ingredients depend on what you have on hand -  lots of combinations.   Today I made my version of a a healthy quiche that makes its own crust.

Terri's BLT impossible pie recipe:

Place the following in a large pyrex pie plate lightly greased with olive oil:
(quantities, salt and fat content are your choice)
  1. quality turkey bacon cooked and broken into pieces (I use Applegate brand)
  2. ripe tomatoes cut into slices to cover bottom
  3. low fat swiss cheese thinly sliced and cut into ribbons – (about half cup)
  4. one cup chopped fresh spinach (if you don't use the creamed spinach below
Blend the following ingredients in a blender for two minutes and pour over the above:

½ cup all purpose baking mix  (can also use a gluten free mix)
1 serving (approx one cup) defrosted Tabatchnik frozen creamed spinach (this is the lettuce part and this brand has onions and seasonings in it)
1 cup milk (2 cups when using chopped spinach) 
4  large eggs
your favorite seasonings and salt/pepper if desired
* if you like the taste of mayonnaise, add about 1/3 cup to the blender mixture
Note:  whatever you use in the blender,  you need two cups liquid with the 4 eggs - lower amt of milk when adding mayonnaise

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 55 minutes.   Note: I turn the temp up to 375 and cover for the last ten minutes when these have a lot of liquid like the tomatoes.    It's done when a knife inserted comes out clean.    Let it sit for about 10 minutes before cutting,   It's even pretty to look at.    Enjoy a slice!

Friday, June 3, 2011

End of week accomplishments

Everything is early here in western NC.    It's the tail end for local blueberries and I eat all I can in pancakes, salads and just plain.    I also grow herbs and wanted a recipe for a blueberry sage sauce.     I found this recipe for a

Wild Blueberry, Balsamic and Sage Sauce Reduction

You can read it and my review with modifications on the Food Network site (link above).   It was easy to prepare.   The fresh sage and blueberries with the balsamic vinegar is an amazing combination and really goes well with roast pork or on pork chops.     It's great on beef as well.   You can adjust the fat (olive oil and tablespoon of butter to finish)  and salt content as well.    Also your house smells divine.   My mailman had to come in for a taste this afternoon after I told him about it. 

Finished the stretch lace Pure and Simple top in an hour or so this afternoon.   I should have picked another fabric to play with because the chunky black knit embroidery on this fabric actually ravels.   No wonder it was hard to cut -  I need an image for gnashing teeth here.    Hint to self -- no more cheap fabric, even if your DH likes it at an Expo.    No this did not come from Louise's booth. 

I fused some light interfacing on the shoulders and sewed/serged them; then fused bias tape to the edges of the armholes.  That's as far as I got yesterday evening.   I only fused the bias knit tape to the armholes that you can see here.  This afternoon  I serged the neckline and hem edges and used a 2 x 2 mm zig zag to top-stitch down the 5/8" seam allowances from the inside, being careful not to stretch them out.  

I used differential feed to serge and draw up the curved hem edges prior to turning over and top-stitching.   Here's a photo of the hem that curves at the sides.   I used the same sewing sequence as the pattern instructions,  just omitted the facings.   I used a straight stitch to sew up the side seams.  

Making this gave me an opportunity to test this type of fabric in this pattern and also see where I was and what I could do at the machine.   The zig zag top-stitching worked out well and didn't require the precision of straight stitching that I'm not so good doing right now.   I think it turned out quite nice.   I've got black pants on that show through but the photo shows that it fits and drapes nicely.  More photos on Flickr.

While up in the sewing chamber I could hear Joe the tree frog croaking outside my window.     We had lots of toads and many frog species on our wooded property in MD.    Our house was at the top of a hill and we had a big pond at the bottom that you passed driving up the hill to the house.   In the spring you could hear a symphony of frog calls down there.   Some nights I would walk down with a flashlight to see who all was there.    If I found a huge bullfrog -- we had them the size of the old black telephones,  so we called them telephone frogs,  I would shine the flashlight in their eyes, catch them with a net, then take them down the road to a creek the next day.    This was our bullfrog relocation program because those guys will eat anyone bigger than they are, i.e. other frogs.   I also had a snapping turtle relocation program but that is another story.    Tree frogs like to hide in trees during the day but at night they sit on the edge of ponds/water and call for mates.    We had a bridge across the narrow part of the MD pond and I use to find many of them sitting on the bridge calling.    They have such big voices for their size.    I've heard this one in the gutters and trees during the day and then on the edge of our small fish pond, on the side where my sewing room windows open,  at night.     Frogs are our friends.

I was looking at The Sewing Workshop's web site.   They have really done a nice job of updating their site.   I enjoy seeing what's new on the blog and the facebook page that they update frequently now.    I read on TSW facebook page that a new pattern is due out in a couple weeks!    I found some really nice photos taken during the October sewing retreat in Orlando and at Louise Cutting's house on the facebook page.    I've never been to one of those events, or to Louise's home where she entertains the participants, but when I recover,  I intend to sign up for one.   Check out the photo of Louise's garage where she sells the fabrics.    Here's a nice photo of Linda Lee and Louise Cutting and their assistants, Kathy and Sandy on  Louise's deck.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hot weather dresses

We're having our first wave of hot weather here.   I like to wear dresses on warm days.    Here are three favorite silhouettes: 

Very Easy Vogue 8486 Dress  -   This is a well designed pattern with pleats secured by well engineered facings to hold them in place.  The pleats fall softly open up for an elegant look with  the benefit of wearing ease created by the open pleats.    If you don't do sleeveless, this pattern includes a  view with sleeves, which I've also sewn.   It's a very flattering style and you'll notice that Vogue has kept this pattern in the inventory for that reason.    I made this colorful one a year ago from a poly buttermilk and have had women come up to me and try to buy it!    The style is great for all ages.    I shortened it last week and gave it to my son's girlfriend who looks darling in it and loved the style -- and she's only 20!  

Vogue Pattern photo
McCalls 5701 Dress (now OOP)  If you have this pattern and haven't sewn it, what are you waiting for?   This is a knockoff of a Kors classic dress that is so flattering.   The shape, the structure, the cap sleeve, the back yoke and soft pleats make this a winner.    It has great wearing ease like the Vogue pattern.    No wrinkles when you stand up from sitting!    It is both stylish and comfortable and looks great under jackets.    More photos on Flickr.

McCalls pattern photo








Striped cotton voile dress by Maeve from Anthropologie    I tried this dress on at the Charlotte NC store early spring of 2010 and decided to buy it.   This  dress has an amazing shape and is lined in soft cotton batiste.  Soft pleats give it  the same comfortable ease as the dresses above.   I've gotten my money out of this one.    Note the way they used the stripes in the design.    Even the bottom bias band has a tuck at the top that creates more interest and the neck band is twisted bias.    At the shoulder, there is a ribbon/snap to hold your bra straps in place.   These photos were taken May 2010 in Black Mountain NC.   I wore an orange cotton swimsuit bra and orange wedges.   I like orange and gray together so it didn't matter if the straps showed.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I'm trying

Today I had every good intention of cutting out a dress using my already lengthened version of Louise Cutting's Ebb and Flow blouse pattern.     The hard work is done because I have all my master patterns traced on pattern ease,  rolled up/ and ready to go.     My hands and fingers were doing well all the way into April when I cut and sewed all the black/white knits.   The spinal tap in early April confirmed the elevated protein for the GBS and it was active.     It goes fast and this time did more damage to the nerves in my hands than last fall.    I'm finishing up a prednisone taper to suppress my immune system, but the damage is done.   I can still type,  but now it's  harder to squeeze things together (less strength in finger muscles) like scissors and the sensory feeling you need when dealing with layers of things is poor.

I planned a couple of cap sleeve knit tops using the Pure and Simple top pattern.  Using this fairly cheap piece of stretch lace from a vendor at the Atlanta Expo,  I cut one out to see what I could do,  and how accurate I could be.   I  cut it on the stretch/cross grain and kept the curved hem.    I intend to just serge the edges and use some fusible knit tape for stabilizing at the neckline and armholes, turn under and top stitch -  no facings.  

For this, I probably should use a rotary cutter but that has risks of cutting with my current lack of strength and coordination.   I folded out the dart and used my big heavy tailor shears.   It was very difficult for me.
 I will stabilize the shoulders and sew it up this evening when it cools off.      After that experience, I'm hesitant to mess up this nice crinkled linen pinstripe fabric for the Ebb Dress.    I may experiment some more with another pair of good scissors.    

I posted one of my online snoop shopping finds on the sewing board Cutting Line Designs topic.   I usually copy a couple of photos, the measurements ( if available) and put it into a text file that I print out and file with my patterns.    Here's a blue gauze fabric I plan on using for a summer version of this drawstring cardigan using the tabard (view B) in the Of the Moment pattern.  

Here's another interesting idea for a jacket from a vintage Geoffrey Beene I saw on eBay a while back -- Might as well copy the best!   Here he used an abstract textured/embroidered silk fabric and lined it to the edges with a coordinating stripe, enclosing them with bias black silk with tiny stars on it.    Lovely, simple as it gets,  and another idea for the Of the Moment jacket above -  curve the lapel point and omit the hems and facings -- that's it for pattern changes.  Click on photos to enlarge or go to Flickr.