Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays!!

Well, this year is starting to wind down and none too soon for me.

I am breathlessly waiting for 2011.

My goals for the last few days of 2010 are to finish some unfinished (argggh!) sewing projects and write a few more blog posts that I'll launch in the new year. I also have more fashion designer profiles to write for the Colette blog, including quartets on the great houses of couture, Hollywood costume designers, American female designers, and the designers that epitomized the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Well, I have some holiday baking to do tonight and some driving to do tomorrow. So, please be careful, be patient, and arrive safely to your destinations and have a happy holiday with your family and loved ones!! No fighting!
See ya in the New Year!

Check Out Chuck At Colette's

The architectural master of fashion, Charles James is profiled on the Colette Patterns blog today. Please enjoy!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Get Your Holiday Cheer On!

How about doing it in a new dress you made yourself? Here are some lovelies available at the Dragonfly- Metamorphpursuit shop on Etsy. Why not try one of these?

Vogue 1110 SOLD
An Emanuel Ungaro design

Style 2005 $4

Vogue 2065 $5
A Badgley Mischka design

And here is a two-for-one deal, two patterns for only $8:

Vogue 1285
A Scaasi design

Vogue 9971

Robin, Robin, Come Back!

Years ago I used to buy all my clothing zippers from one fabric store. At the time, I think it was either Hancocks or Minnesota Fabrics that carried a smaller brand called Robin. I preferred this brand (still do) to Coats and Clarks, whose zippers are heavier and very stiff in comparison. The Robin's can be wrapped around your little finger, they're so flexible. However, from what I could find on the internet I don't think they're still in business. :(

Luckily, in my stash I have a few left. At some point I must have been into buying in bulk because I was able to find two zippers perfect for my two upcoming dresses and what I have left are some assorted colors in 7-inch lengths for pants and skirts. Which means in the not too far future Coats & Clarks will loom over my future projects.

There may be salvation, in close-ups on the web, the Ziplon coil zippers by YKK look pretty similar to the Robin brand. If I can find them in a store, I'll try them out. It seems you can order them on both the Hancock and Jo-Ann websites but my local stores do not seem to carry them. Do any of you use YKK zippers and how do you like them?

Also, does anyone know why Coats & Clark seem to have a monopoly in Hancock and Jo-Ann?! Why don't they sell a variety of zippers from multiple companies?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Madame Gres at Colette

Prepare yourself for a treat!
The fantastic and unique designs of Madame Alix Gres are examined at the Colette Patterns blog today. I hope you enjoy, as she is now one of my favorite designers.
Images: Turandot, 1967 and silk gown, 1984.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


Over the next few weeks I am going to try to load up my Etsy shop, Dragonfly, with all of the patterns that I have to sell. There will be even more as I am going to ruthlessly go through my personal pattern stash and sell the ones that I would never see myself wearing EVEN if I could afford to pay someone to make them for me. See? That's the real test. If that garment is not appealing to me at no effort on my part, then why keep it around?!

Not that there's anything wrong with them, it's just that I probably bought them so long ago that they don't fit my image of myself now.

So check out Dragonfly-Metamorphpursuit throughout the holiday season. There will be seasonal patterns, patterns for the warmer months, designer, non-designer, older 1980-era patterns, and ones from the last few years. All at lower than average Internet pattern prices too.

Happy Holidays!!!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Book Review: Little Green Dresses

The book is called Little Green Dresses: 50 Original Patterns for Repurposed Dresses, Tops, Skirts, and More* by Tina Sparkles.

Not only is it about repurposing old items of clothing it is also about taking a pre-existing garment, calculating a pattern, and using it to cut a new shape into the item. And when I say a "pattern" I'm not kidding. From pencil skirts to shift dresses to haltered full skirted dresses these are real patterns you are creating by using your own measurements (always a plus!) and then modify to create other options. It is the nitty-gritty way to learning how to draft patterns. That way every pattern in the book comes in your size! Who could want more?

Why this book has not received more hard copy, Internet, and blog press I really don't know? I discovered it by chance in a big box bookstore and wanted to read the whole thing right there. From beginner to intermediate sewists, definitely check this out when you have a chance! While the styling is definitely geared towards the 1980's (uber-trendy with loudly colored, patterned fabric choices, and glitter makeup) you can still see how the instructions taken on their own could be used to make more subtle designs.

A review complete with a look at some of the pages is at Whipup.
Author Tina Sparkles' own website

And, no, I did not receive a free reviewer copy...I wish! I have still only looked at this book (though pretty extensively) in the store but hopefully after the holidays this little publication will finally come home with me!

*Published by Taunton Press, publisher of Threads and Sew Stylish.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Good & Plenty Twist Top - Butterick 5429

Pattern: Butterick 5429 (2009)

Pattern Description: Sleeveless close-fitting top with front neckline twist, dropped shoulders, and stitched hem. (Note the nipped-in waist in the pattern illustration at left.)

Pattern Sizing: It came in (8-10-12-14) and I made a size 12.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Not really, as it was not as fitted as the illustration would have you believe.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, very.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I was intrigued by the twist detail at the center front. I liked the idea of a very simple top but with interest.

Fabric Used: A lovely knit gifted from Kyle that reminds me of Good-&-Plenty candies. I think it is a nylon and spandex blend meant for swimsuits. However, it was fine for this and I used it before to make this dress.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: At first, I made no alterations. There was a construction change because of the fabric I used. Machine stitching was difficult, my machine kept skipping stitches. I ended up going over every stitching line twice, I couldn't even risk doing a zig-zag stitch. Because of this difficulty, all raw edges (neckline, sleeves and hem) were hand stitched in narrow 5/8 " hems.

If I altered the side seams it would look like the sketch.

After wearing this top for a while I realized that it was just too big and shapeless. The illustrations on the pattern were very deceptive, this top came out an almost perfect square (as seen here). There was no waist shaping like in the drawings so I decided to scoop in the side seams for more shape.

Would you sew it again? I think so, but in a smaller size and in a woven or a sturdy knit. I will still hand sew the neckline edges because it's neater and they do show at some points during the day. Also on knits I would be afraid of those edges stretching and causing ripples.

Would you recommend it to others? Yes, with those easy alterations mentioned above. This could be quite interesting with a different color, a sheer fabric, or a similar but different sized print in the upper bodice/sleeve area only.

Conclusion: An easy but interesting top.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Sewing Plans This Weekend

  • Hold a photo shoot for my latest two projects, Butterick 5429 and vintage Butterick 2564.

  • Make up the McCall's 5686 bodice muslin in a larger size.

  • Make up a muslin of the Vogue 8701 bodice. Yes, I'm buying it tonight, I couldn't help it. The pattern is still on sale and I just can't stop thinking about that dress . Also, wouldn't it be better for the gray plaid since it has darts instead of princess seams?

  • Make a pair of flannel pajama pants. Why put those off just because they're easy?!

That's it. I'm not going to push my luck. See ya next week and happy sewing!

By the way, the Colette Patterns blog posts for December are focusing on four of the great fashion innovators of the 1930s and 1940s, so don't forget to check those out every Wednesday.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Ahh, The Bodice Muslins And Some Cheating

First Try at the Muslins:

McCall's 5686

I can't show you the "real" first try because it would be scandalous because it just wouldn't fit! I had cut this one out as a size 10 at top and tapered out to a size 12 towards the waist. In order to get these pictures, I had to remove the waist darts completely and shorten the neckline darts just to close the back. You can see it is still too small because of the strained direction of the neckline tucks which should be almost vertical. Oh, and also the fact that I can raise my arms only so high...

As far as they will go...

I still like this neckline and the general idea of what this could look like, so I will be attempting a size 12 muslin of this same pattern before jumping off to use something completely different like the lovely Vogue 8701.

McCall's 4052

Here's the only decent photo of the first McCall's 4052 muslin, also in a size 10 tapering down to a 12 at the waist. Between the time I made this muslin (and it fit perfectly!) and when I posed for this picture, I had gained some weight, which is evident in the horizontal stretch marks and mono-boob situation. I also do not remember that much gaping in the neckline before.

Therefore, because of my frustration with both muslins, I then moved along to two other projects during Thanksgiving weekend. I will probably also work on a third top or bottom before returning to these dresses. Hopefully, in that time, I will get answers for this bizarre weight thing.*

How I cheated: I didn't want to trace the pattern again or paste paper to the tissue pattern to regain the size 12 seam allowances that I had cut off making a size 10. So, I used a regular office copier. Voila! Instant white borders around the pattern pieces that I could use my curved design ruler on. I will be using this technique from now on for any small pattern pieces.

*No, I did not gain the weight during the holiday weekend, but before it happened. Weird, right? I've since lost some of it by walking more.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Six Interrupted Hours of Handstitching...

and this is what I have to show for it:

Butterick 2564 and the Butterick 5429 twist top

All hems, sleeves, and one neckline were slip stitched into place. More (better!) photos and pattern reviews to come later.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Coco at Colette's

This week at the Colette Patterns' blog I explored the designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. It is illustrated with more of these pictures by Karl Lagerfeld. Really!!

Check it out here.

Images: blue silk evening dress 1927, red chiffon day dress 1922. From Chanel by Harold Koda.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Still Trying...UPDATED

I have a dilemma with M5686. I'm not so sure about the fit even if I do re cut another muslin in size 12. I let out the bodice pleats and the waist darts and it was still strangely small. It has something to do with the shoulders and armholes. So, how could adding only a quarter inch to each seam (1" total) make it fit? Also, the fact that I could not find online even one person who had made this dress without problems doesn't help it one bit. Such a cute design but discontinued so early makes me wonder too.

Remember, I had already cut the pattern so when repairing it I had to fudge a little bit and be creative about what I cut off. The pattern is now out of print so I can't just go and buy the next size up. I checked the Internet and the only copies of this pattern up for sale are the same size I have.

Does anyone have M5686 in a size 14-16-18 that they want to get rid of? If so, I will send you any pattern in my Etsy store that you want in exchange.

I looked through my pattern stash to see if there was another dress I wanted to use instead. Unfortunately, not in this fabric. I really wanted a Mad Men-like dress in this print and most of my other dresses are more loose and shift-like.

M6011 M5686

McCall's did bring out another dress pattern, M6011 (in the same collection, Easy stitch 'n save) with almost the same bodice and I'm tempted to go buy that one and frankenpattern it with this skirt. What do you think? It's only $3 or is it not worth the trouble?

Vogue 8701

UPDATE: Now I'm thinking Vogue 8701 for the bodice? Closer still, but not as cheap a replacement.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sewing and Draping Classes in Richmond, VA

A year ago, I wrote about a draping class that was being offered at our local community art center, the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. Well, this coming Winter/Spring semester has a few more incredible sewing/fiber arts classes available. Lucky for me I have already been volunteering for them so I am eligible for a discount off the class price. Check these two out (there are more here)!

Beginning Pattern Making & Drafting

Can’t find generic clothing patterns at stores in Richmond that fulfill your needs? Want to make your own clothing patterns from your own designs with your own personal measurements? This class teaches beginning pattern makers how to make the basic “sloper” pattern from your own personal measurements. The sloper is then manipulated to create any clothing design. Students will leave at the end of class with their personal slopers, a muslin mock-up to insure fit, the patterns they draft from those, and a simple sewn garment if time allows. Sewing skills are a requirement due to the amount of information learned.

Dress Forms 101: Pattern Drafting & Draping - Intermediate/Advanced

In this class students will learn the basics of flat designing and draping (the oldest design method) and the interaction of the two through construction techniques. Students will learn how to take personal measurements for drafting accurate patterns and how to adjust industry patterns and for personal fit. Students will construct one garment from a foundation pattern and use the dress form to support proper fitting. Although this is a technical class, demonstrations will help students convert techniques for quick and easy sewing in and out of the classroom. Students will be introduced to tools of the trade for drafting and draping and discussions will include how to “pad-out” the dress form for personal fit. Fashion design and textile usage will also be reviewed.

The prices range from $180 for eight 2 1/2 hour-long sessions to $220 for ten 2 1/2 hour-long classes. That makes the price per session only $18 to $22. Very doable. The original draping class from last year(which I couldn't afford at the time) was $140 has now increased to $180 but it would be worth it, right?

So, if you are in or near enough to Richmond, please sign yourself up for one of these classes. I'll be sitting them out this semester because I'll be taking two night classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays already. However, if no one signs up for these they might not be offered when I CAN take them.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hanging at Colettes

Hey, guys!

I have great news. I've been reading a lot about fashion designers lately and I've found a way to put that knowlege to great use. Perhaps you already know but I've been submitting little posts on certain designers to the lovely Sarai of Colette Patterns and she has graciously published them on the past two Wednesdays. Please join me as I learn more about the heavy hitters of fashion's past.

Tomorrow's entry will be female designer, Madeleine Vionnet, most famously known as the developer of the bias cut.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Muslin Is A Very Very Good Thing

Well, this weekend I finished my McCall's 5686 bodice muslin. I did my normal change where I cut the bodice out as a 10 (I was assuming excess Big 4 pattern ease) and tapered out to a 12 at the waist. BIG mistake. It was WAY too small! I felt like I was trying on a child's outfit.

It seems someone has been in denial about how a few pounds weight gain has effected her figure. Not only do I have pants that I can't button but it seems my fairly modest bosom has enlarged as well. Funny how something I would have been estatic about in junior high is no longer good news. Nothing fits or if it does, I at least can tell that it's straining.

When I say a few pounds, I really only mean a few, five to be exact. Which means that my clothes were probably already close to not fitting last fall. So, where I thought I was a Big 4 size 12 I am now a 14. Size-wise I have no problems with that, in fact my proportions fit that size much better at waist and hip. However, those 109 patterns that I already own and have always held out that one day I would make for myself? Hello! Not all of them go up to 14. I am the queen of patterns sized (8-10-12). When you only have to widen the hips a bit, no problem, but my new measurements (as of this morning) seem to suggest FBAs will be in my future.
Dum Dum DUm DUM
So on to muslim number 2, right after I tape some paper to my already cut pattern and redraw those size 12 lines. Wish me luck.

This is a great example of why a muslin is important. Also a warning that you should take your measurements every few projects or so.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Answered My Own Sherlock Question

Since the first episode of Sherlock, I've been intriqued by Dr. Watson's (Martin Freeman) military-style jacket. Because of the dark scenes, I couldn't figure out what exactly was on his shoulder. As it turns out, he had leather patches on both elbows and on only one shoulder. I posed a question to the internet about the jacket, not knowing that the show's costumes had already made a splash in England. Honestly, the only thing I noticed was that one jacket! Well, I got my answer from Sarah Arthur, costume designer for the series:

Where did Watson's coat come from? The black jacket is from Haversack... I wasn't overly keen on Watson's original coat from the pilot - but [the character] had just come out of the army so I knew where they were coming from. I wanted to keep him old school, with check shirts, but make it a little bit more interesting.

However, a clearer and lighter picture shows that the jacket isn't as I imagined in my head. It's a regular canvas shooting jacket (much like the Barn coats that L.L. Bean is famous for) with a corduroy collar and the three leather patches. I had imagined it in wool melton, with somewhat pea-coat styling. Oh well, it's not like I was going to buy it for myself anyway.

Note: I think I found it: Haversack Style: 470928, Black cotton shooting jacket with black corduroy collar, leather shoulder guard, two chest pockets, hammered press studs, button front, two large bellows pockets and buttoned, vented cuffs. £725.00 ($1,170 US)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Why, Sherlock, Why?

How many were shocked and somewhat disappointed by the lack of conclusion to the three episode series of Sherlock?

I know that they are planning on another series but still, according to Masterpiece Mystery scheduling, we'll have to wait until this time next year to find out what happens. And you know something amazing must happen because it doesn't look like our heroes have a chance at all of surviving, even if they do take down Moriarty.

Oh, and speaking of James "Jim" Moriarty? That actor, Andrew Scott, was amazing. Now, that is the way to play a diabolical genius that is capable of anything. His great acting, mannerisms, and strange voice inflections were all working for him! He may not have gravitas, but I sure would be scared in a small space with him, wouldn't you?!

So I still love this series but to wait a year...

Flashback to Coraline Goodness

You know I loved the movie Coraline when it came out. The 3-D version was lovely, still can't forget the fireflies. I even admired the plastic figurines that were available. However, what I loved the most about the film is that it was stop motion and therefore, every little prop or costume was real and hand made. Here is a great interview with Coraline's costume designer, Deborah Cook from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) Museum's blog. Enjoy!

Deborah Cook Interview

Just look at those little clothes AND the shoes! I could seriously squeal right now.

Image: FIDM blog

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Observations From My Past

About nine years ago, while visiting California, a friend and I were exploring Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, CA. My friend decided to step into a nearby Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf shop. I was still checking out the area when I decided to follow her in. Coming around the corner, I almost ran right into a woman walking to her car with coffees in her hand. We both smiled at each other and said ‘hi.’ The weird thing is I said 'hi' in the tone of voice I would use for someone I knew and was surprised to see there. It took a minute for me to realize that the woman was not really someone that I knew but actress Patricia Wettig of thirtysomething, Alias, and now Brothers & Sisters.

  1. Having met or been in the presence of celebrities before in my career history*, I had never experienced feeling that I “knew" them. However, I did spend an hour a week, for years with her. In fact, I still am. That is more time than many of us might get to spend with some of our closest friends.
  2. She was naturally beautiful in real life. What I remember is that her whole face seemed to be glowing, from her eyes to her smile. I have always held to my impression that she looked better in person than she ever looked on TV and in magazines. To this day, you can see that she’s taking to aging naturally and gracefully.

The best thing: Even though she probably read my tone of voice as “Oh, I recognize you!” she still seemed genuinely friendly and had no trepidation or “fan fear” in her eyes. Thanks, P.W.!

*Strangely, on another business trip to California, I not only met the late Tony Curtis but also ate dinner at the table next to Carol Kane, Danny DeVito, and Rhea Pearlman as they held some sort of celebration for Carol. Danny was videotaping the whole thing, so it’s weird to know there is a good chance I am in Danny DeVito’s personal home movies?!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Fall Wardrobe Progress Report

I'm done with my muslin of the McCall's 4052 bodice. Though I'm made this dress before, I always though the shoulder and bust area of that one was too loose. So this time I cut the bodice pieces as a size 10 and tapered the side pieces out to a 14 at the waistline. Yep, a difference of two sizes, but it fits perfectly now. I have to figure how to work with this plaid on the six separate princess bodice pieces. I'd like to play with the bias but I'm scared how that might effect the fit. I'm thinking only the middle pieces on the bias and matching the side pieces (on grain) at the side seams. Any advice? Any images that you can direct me to on what I can do with the plaid?

Before I start on the final version of that dress I am first going to do a muslin of the bodice on McCall's 5686. I'm scared that the neckline might be too wide for my shoulders. So then, once I fix any kinks there I can cut out both dresses, finish up one dress, and then immediately move on to the other. Or, at least that's the plan.

However, the very first finished project out of the pack will be a wearable muslin (I hope!) of the Butterick 5429 twist top. I'll be using my wonderful polka-dot gift from Kyle since I want to make these in knits instead of wovens. I think I might make the short sleeve one as I think the long sleeves might be too much polka-dotted goodness on me. So, woo hoo for me, using up some of my stash!

Friday, October 29, 2010

What That Fabric Is For


This fabric is destined for a possible fall wardrobe plan consisting of a duster jacket, two retro dresses, and a semi-peasant blouse. The first three fabrics were purchased recently for only $32 dollars! Even at that low a price I still felt guilty. Go figure. The red fabric is not in that total because it was bought over two years ago, so IF it does finally get made into something I'll consider it free. In fact I already used some of it a few years ago to make a red skirt from a TNT pattern so it's cost per wear is low to begin with.

We will see how this wardrobe plan goes because I still have to finish a dress from last year's plan and a top from spring (hopefully this weekend). After that, or at the same time, the next thing I am going to do is follow the steps in my Cal Patch book and make myself some knit t-shirts. I need a lot of them. While I have plenty pants and skirts I don't have enough tops to go with them and I will also need them for layers in winter. So that's a primary concern.

Then the goal is to get out these patterns below (most of them never used) and create a few pieces to supplement what I already have.

Vogue 7714

I am most excited about this one. It will be my statement piece, a black, grey, and white polka dot moleskin duster jacket. The fabric was originally $29.98(!) but I got 2 yards on sale for $7.49 per yard. It will add some pizazz to my many black items of clothing. Note: must get more white in my wardrobe!

McCall's 4052, McCall's 5686

Two fall themed dresses; the black, gray, and white plaid wool version of this dress and a short sleeved, self-belted dress in this vintage-looking autumnal floral (pumpkin blossom peachskin for $4.99 per yard), both to be be worn with cardigans.

New Look 6836

View A in red stretch suede but with the front petal-like detail of View C. This plan and fabric have been in the works for two years, so it's about time!

Kwik Sew 2529

For night time, I will make myself another set from this Kwik Sew pattern, either the sleep shirt or the tank and boxer briefs. My earlier sets no longer fit and they were so easy to make. Isn't that an incredible flannel design (ripple circles for $2.39 per yard)? So not typical of what you'd normally find.

And if I have more time or more motivation:

Simplicity 2560

An interesting cardigan design in brown, rust or purple to add a punch of color to every outfit. I am truly sick of my simple button-down black one, even if it does go with everything. Oops, I spoke to soon, that cardigan seems to be too small now and not warm enough for colder weather.

Possible dreaming for spring:
A pair of jean-styled boot-cut pants constructed from the pattern included in Wendy Mullin's Sew U book. The fabric was bought last year and is a really nice olive green twill with Lycra.

Simplicity 6529, Vogue 9745

Some full-legged pants using either New Look 6836 (above) or either of these two pants patterns. The Vogue pattern had been made before, in high school I think.

Butterick 5429

At least one of these twisted tops in knits and/or wovens. When I bought the pattern I had assumed the top was for knits, but no.

So, here's the fun part for you, waiting to see when and if I make any of these as planned. Remember, I have a project left from both last fall and this past spring!