Sunday, April 13, 2014

Vogue 1175, the Donna Karan dress/jumper

We may have hit 70 ยบ today so I figured let's do some outside pics and my handsome photographer gladly accommodated. Of course he wanted pictures close to the river, which is way over its banks right now, but getting there required sinking in the mud a near foot with every step. So outside the kitchen door it was!

 I did have fun with the picture taking today and actually used Caroline's technique of dancing to my favorite music for the interior shots.

I love this jumper. It's a jumper for now and when all was said and done the back did not come below my bra band after all but the front still was pretty low. I can see wearing it with a tank underneath on a hot summer day. I think it is pretty versatile and hubby really liked it as well.


This is Vogue 1175, an out of print pattern but one that can be found on Etsy and Ebay with a bit of patience. All the patterns for sale that I found ran from 20 - 25 dollars but I managed to find this one, uncut, still in factory folds, in the right size, for 5.00! Woo hoo!

The pattern description says, "Close-fitting, above mid-knee length, pullover, lined dress has contrast bodice back, seam detail, pleated front and back, side front in-seam pockets and puffed hem." Whew... that exhausted me, but there is a lot going on with this dress. The good news is there is no zipper, no buttons, lots of angles and some very interesting seaming. It is unique. It really is not hard to put together as long as you follow the instructions closely and mark it well. You can make this dress with 2 1/2 yards of fabric. You have to be careful here. Karan has designed this with a back bodice in a contrasting fabric. If you are going to do it all in one fabric, no contrast, you will need   2  1/2 yards, not the 2 yards specified for dress.

This dress is not hard to make. It is just different. And that is what makes it special, IMO! I chose not to do the "puff hem" and liked it long as well so "above mid-knee" didn't happen either. I also did not do the in seam pockets. Why? Maybe someone needs pockets that badly but in this dress, it's not me so I left them out.

I stinkin' LOVE the back of this dress!


While this looks like denim, it is actually a cross dyed linen and I love it. This dress MUST be made in a lightweight fabric and this fabric is just a bit heavier than handkerchief linen, not quite a pantweight. There are seam angles where many layers meet, particularly at center front and back. I did some serious grading , not mentioned in the pattern, as well as understitching to get things to lie flat. This would be wonderful in a lawn or voile, so floaty and pretty. There is no interfacing but I may be tempted to interface the strap area on the lining if I make this one again.

That wrinkle isn't really there. I am just dancing! I think it works better for Caroline than me!

The lining is the anti-static poly from Joanns. I find it relatively breathable and very available to someone needing lining fast. This is lined very differently with the lining for the back skirt being hand stitched to the back bodice.


This is definitely not a pattern you can make without reading. There is nothing really difficult about it but you do have to pay attention. Marking is extremely important and I have discussed that in a previous post here. Big squares, little squares, triangles, big and little circles, pleats, it's got them all so pay attention to the marking if you make this.

My first challenge with this pattern was finding out how it would fit. I ended up doing a pivot and slide to get some extra width for a C cup bust. I show that here. The muslin looked good after that. But every fabric is different and this linen really wanted to stretch a lot on all those bias edges. What was a good fitting bodice ended up gaping at the armhole edge once made in the linen and that was despite the edges being stayed with selvedge. The neckline was perfect. It was the armscye that had a tiny bit of a gape. So I added a small dart in the side seam which barely even shows when worn.

 I really think this is because the bodice is pretty flat with the only bust adjustment being the one pleat at center front.  I raised the height of the neckline about an inch and that allowed me to add a second pleat at center bust for  boob accommodation. From the waist down everything fit just fine so no alterations there. I like the length of this without the puff hem. But I am five feet tall so if you are taller  and want the long hem you will definitely have to add yardage.

The pattern does not mention grading or understitching. I recommend both. If I made this in a casual fabric again, I would also definitely topstitch. I think it would emphasise  the unique seaming as well as keep all those edges down. There is serious bulk at the angles and I did not use a mid weight fabric. I also recommend serging the seams as you go along if you are going to leave your lining hanging free at the hem like I did.


I recommend this pattern to any novice sewist who is interested in a fun but doable challenge and a unique garment. It may not be the best choice for a beginner.  This dress can be very dressy or casual, like my version. It is cut very low in front so if you don't want unwanted admiration  of your mammaries, cut  it higher or wear a cami underneath. Remember to lengthen the center front piece if you do add height to the neckline.  I think the hourglass shape of this is very flattering. I have a narrow torso and didn't have to make any adjustments there but I can see where others might have to. That could be a bit of a challenge. I highly recommend muslin or two to get the fit down. I would definitely make this again and may but not real soon!

I am making some design changes in the blog and will be adding some pages as well as I try to clean up the layout. My goal is to make things readable, easy to find, and kind to the eyes. It's also just time for a bit of spring cleaning! Hope you like it when it's all done. 

Our raging spring river today:


Saturday, April 5, 2014

V1175, DK jumper #3

The shell is complete and all that is left is the lining which I hope to finish tomorrow. I will try to answer the issue of how I fit the bodice here. But first some things to be aware of. This pattern is amazing. Most bias edges meet straight grain edges. While that will keep the bias under control once it is sewn together, it doesn't help before that.

I have barely touched this pattern piece and look how this bias angle has grown. It's a good habit to place the pattern on your pieces before stitching them together but it is critical with this design. Another suggestion is to use a natural fiber to make this dress. I can't imagine dealing with all this bias and a synthetic fabric at the same time. This angle above is the hem edge so I just cut it to match the pattern, again! But other pieces I steamed back into the proper length after checking them and before stitching. That won't work well  with synthetics. The armscyes and neckline edges were stayed with thin selvedge from the lining. I didn't do that for the other pieces because they  met up against straight grain pieces which will hold them in shape once sewn.
All of those pleats in the front were marked by simply folding back the pattern and using the tailor's chalk that disappears with ironing. It worked great

I've have a request to show how I adjusted  the bodice. First, the front:

You can see how I pivoted out from the shoulder seam a half inch at the underarm. Then I pivoted back to nothing at the bottom. I also added height to the front neckline, starting with nothing at the shoulder seam and raising the center front a half inch. What this did was give me the ability to add another pleat with that extra half inch at CF, a way to add more shape for a C cup. Now for the back:

You can see once again how I pivoted out from the shoulder to the underarm and then back in at the bottom. Because of linen's ability to be steamed and stretched, as well as the bias, there was no problem fitting in the additional length on this seam. Every thing pressed out with the seams looking like they were the exact same size to begin with.

I got the shell finished tonight and have not tried it on yet. It's just too late. I have my fingers crossed  that it fits and we will find out in the morning when I do a try on.  In the meantime, I am hoping for a good night's sleep and a fresh start with the lining bright and early in the morning! More to come.......Bunny

ETA: I tried it on this  morning and it seems to fit much better and I am pleased. I want to add that the same adjustments need to happen to the lining. I did this by simply laying the adjusted bodice pieces on top and matching up the notches. For the center front this meant moving the fold placement over a bit to accommodate the additional width on the bodice front. The lining fits with very little extra ease in the skirt so I morphed that out from a 12 at the hem cutting back to the original cutting line at the underarm. This gave me the extra I needed in the hips for the lining. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing

Another sewing book review! I had wanted to read "Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing"  by Gretchen Hirsch for quite some time and finally got it at the library.

The book is divided into two sections. Part One is on skill building and Part Two is on sewing the wardrobe. Gretchen Hirsch has a very popular blog with the emphasis on sewing vintage styled garments. This same vintage vibe is carried throughout this book. As I made my way through the first six chapters on skills I really liked what I read.  The artwork by Sun Young Park is fabulous and makes the reading experience quite enjoyable. I hope we see more of Park's work in sewing literature in the future.

The writing style here is definitely one of having chit chat with the girls but it still gets across the techniques really well. Gertie doesn't shy away from challenging her readers with hand picked zippers, bound buttonholes, circular hems and more. I love that. The look and writing style are there to appeal to the next generation of sewists. It is  filled with techniques that definitely aren't newbie but also good basic information is there. There are wonderful photos and directions for doing all the basic handstitches, something many patterns and books assume you know. Chapter Four is devoted to "Stabilizing and Tailoring"  with sections that vary from boning a bodice to pad-stitching a lapel. Chapter Six is all about Fitting. Here Hirsch describes her own fitting process. I like that people see that she, like almost all of us, has to make pattern adjustments. That fitting is a part of sewing is something that has to be established from the beginning in the learning curve of new sewists and I like how Gertie has written about that in Chapter Six. I really liked all that I saw in Part One of this book. It has much more than what little I have shared here and covers a very broad range of techniques and knowledge.

In Part Two, "Wardrobe",  we are introduced to the patterns that are included with the book. There is a Pencil Skirt, "Portrait Blouse", the "Sultry Sheath", the "Wiggle Dress" and more dresses, and additional skirts, blouses, a suit jacket and coat dress, PLENTY! One thing I found confusing here was the instructions were all numbered, much as you'd see in any pattern, but the illustrations were all lettered. For example, I am looking at Step 11. in the instructions for the pencil skirt and at the end of the sentence is the letter "J" in parenthesis. Why not just label the illustration 11. like the step that it is. The letters add a bit of confusion, IMO.. Some vintage techniques are used in the patterns, for example, boning a waist.

Hirsch lost me in this section, lost me as a fan who so enjoyed Part One of  the book. Why? Many of the garments have issues with fit and technique. I felt like I was given all this information in the beginning of the book but when I saw the efforts resulting from all that information in the second part of the book I was very very disappointed. I really expected better. Many of these issues are the same ones visible in garments made and modeled on Hirsch's blog, bodices too long, armholes too high, darts past the apex or spot on, pointy horsehair hems, etc. It always bothers me, no matter who is doing it, when someone is teaching something and can't pull off what they are trying to teach others.

In conclusion, I wouldn't recommend this book. I know  many like it and Hirsch has scores of devout followers, many who look up to her for the right way of sewing. She is in a position to set a standard for new sewists but for some reason was not able to pull it off with her own garments and patterns that came with the book. I have to say that in my  research I have seen many make her patterns and fit them properly with excellent skills and they look really great. She just didn't do a very good job. This book would have been much better once Gertie's skills matured to a higher skill level. That comes with time and experience and this book was before it's time.....Bunny

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The DK jumper, #2, V 1175

Isn't this a fun shape? I really like the hem at this length without the balloon effect., at least for now. If that continues I will just hem the dress and lining separately and leave it long. 

I decided on the pivot and slide which I think will work out the best for my shape. I added to the underarm and center seams this way for an additional 1 1/4 inch of width to the bust. I tried the slash and spread method, the remnants of which you can see on the muslin. It pulled things all awry and made big gapes as well. I think it just didn't work for my particular shape but I thought it would as it did for others. Pivot and slide it was! 

At this point I have the bodice pieces all on. Let me tell you, this pattern IS ALL about the marking! I used a legend and colored threads to mark things properly. 

It is really necessary. For the pleats I used a wax marker, the kind that disappears nicely when you iron. I drew in the direction of the pleats as well. That was VERY handy. I also made sure I laid the pattern out  for cutting exactly as shown in the directions. On my recent draped back tee, I ended up with a fine top but it was "backwards" from the directions in the pattern. With such odd looking pieces and such critical marking I just didn't want anything to vary from the pattern. So far it has all gone together really well.

I will say it has been bulky. I am using a light to midweight linen. And yes, it does look like denim. But it has that bit of linen glow which I love, and of course the wrinkles. This pattern has way too  many layers of fabric in places to make out of a denim and really needs a lightweight fabric.

At this point the fit looks pretty good and as I see this design unfold I think it will be flattering. The back hugs my narrowest part and that's always a good thing. 

Let's see if I can make it through the next steps, Wowsa!...Bunny

Friday, March 28, 2014

"The Colette Sewing Handbook"

Some of you may know I work in a library. It's a wonderful job and one of the perks is ordering for our library pretty much anything I would want. I recently requested some sewing books and will be reviewing them as I go through and read them. "The Colette Sewing Handbook" by Sarai Mitnick is one I have wanted to have in my hands for a long time. I was not disappointed. I am sure many of you have this book and certainly have heard of it but I am late to the game. I am in a situation in my studio where I have so many sewing books that it is rare I buy one any more. That's where the great library position comes in. We can just order them for the library and I have them at my disposal pretty much whenever.

The author of this book also is the founder and designer of the wonderful "Colletterie" sewing blog and "Collette" patterns. Her prior life in the tech world and as a specialist in User Experience makes a wonderful foundation for the her more recent years as a pattern designer and author. I found the "user experience" of reading this book very positive and enjoyable.

Mitnicks style is methodical and thoughtful as she carefully unfolds the knowledge needed by a beginner sewist to have a great wardrobe and a positive sewing experience.  She tackles the fundamentals with the goal of your sewing project being successful AND satisfying. Can we have more nobility like this , please?  This  book , with its signature soft colors and clear photos has a calming effect and you definitely want to sit with a cup of tea or wine to really savor the contents. I did!

photo courtesy of

The book is organized around five concepts,

  • a Thoughtful Plan
  • a Precise Pattern
  • a Fantastic Fit
  • a Beautiful Fabric
  • a Fine Finish
  • Bringing it all together
I personally gained much from reading through Chapter Two, a Thoughtful Plan. To quote Mitnick in the start of that chapter, "My approach is to focus on quality over quantity." She advises how to find inspiration, edit for your own style and dressing for yourself, your lifestyle  and your shape. She helps you develop a plan and make a croquis, all in that one chapter and there are seven chapters in all. At the end of the book you will find a glossary, index and a size chart.

 There are projects and patterns supplied with the book and with each project skills build freshly as well as upon previous skills learned. Each sewing project has a "skills checklist" with page numbers you can quickly refer to. Tools and supplies needed are very clear. I like Sarai's fit explanations and the proof is always in the garments. They look fabulous on the models. Unrelated to sewing but important to me, I really like the diversity of the models used in the book. It is refreshing and emphasizes how an updated classic can look wonderful on everyone if fit and skill are practiced with care. Thank you, Sarai, for that. 

If you are a new or more novice sewist, you will really enjoy the projects and patterns in the book. The inclusion of the five patterns makes this a true bargain for just the price of a great book. If there is a young budding sewist in your family this book would make a fine gift and set the person on the path to quality sewing. You all know how I feel about the garbage out on the internet that our next generation of sewists is being seduced with.   This is the information we want our new sewists to get. Sarai Mitnick presents it in a youthful, non threatening, methodical manner. As for more experienced sewists, buy this book for the patterns and savor every moment of your reading. It's really that lovely as well as informative and encouraging.....Bunny


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Vogue 1175, the Donna Karan Dress

This project has begun and I am having a quandary over fitting the bust. But first, Let's take a close look at this pattern. 

The upper bodice is basically shapes meeting in a point in the back and in the front being separated by a center panel of fabric. There are two "cleavage" pleats at center front between the left and right bodices. That is  it for fitting the bust. If you look at the model on the right, there is gaping in her armpit. I am thinking that is because she even needs an FBA.  So I made a muslin. The muslin does not have that large pleated area of fabric between the two back bodice pieces. I was pinned that together so I could get it off and on. The rest of the muslin, other than the bodice pieces, are short versions because I knew the bottom skirt would fit. It is the bust I am worried about.

You can see this is very low cut, enough to show a bra band. Every version I saw on the web was worn with a cami or tee underneath and that is my plan as well. It really should be called the Donna Karan jumper. The armscye is cut VERY low as well. So a jumper it is.

This is pinned shut in the back. The neckline and armhole seam allowances are cut off. I am debating adding more height to the neckline but as I think it will always be a jumper I may just keep it the way it is. So far so good, right?

Here's the problem: I need more room in the bust. It looks fine in the front but that is because it won't pin shut in the back. I need additional fabric width directly across the fullest part of the bust, which lines up with those sharp corners.

But I need that extra in the front for my boobs. On me, with the bodice pinned shut, I have pulling where you see the red lines in the side view. 

So what I have done so far is pivot and slide out the front and back bodices to provide me with another inch all around. That should be enough to relieve the pulls as it has on Ms. Dumdum. BUT, there is another option, that seams foolproof and easier. I could simply widen the triangular piece of fabric connecting the two bodice fronts at the cleavage. Here's where you come in dear readers. Do you think if I simply add to the center front panel it will disturb the design too much and have an odd "widening" effect on my bust? Or do you think I should go with my Pivot and slide FBA which will add the needed  width at the underarm without affecting the design? What would you do or suggest? 

I hope to make some major headway on this on the weekend and look forward to your responses before I cut. From what I have read it goes together pretty quickly. The fabric is a cross dyed linen that looks like a denim color, really nice....Thanks in advance for any opinions.....Bunny

Vogue 8636, the Marcy Tilton Tee

This is one of those garments where the fabric and look are much better in real life. I think this top is really pretty and I love the fabric.

This is Vogue 8636, a Marcy Tilton design with raglan sleeves and a relatively wide neckband on what I think is a pretty high neck. I used the Extra Small size and petited the garment, taking out length in the sleeves and upper bodice. I morphed out to a size 12 in the hips, my usual.  The neckline needs a bit of fiddling to lay flat and it is actually part of the design. You are instructed to make little darts in the neck band, after installation, until it fits. I think that's a bit vague for most people and could be flummox for some. I handled the extra band width in a way not in the pattern which I will show below. I have seen others interface the neckband as well, something not called for in the pattern. I didn't need interfacing for the way I finished it.

 This is another ITY knit and I think this one is rayon with lycra. I love the color and very slight sheen none of which is as pretty in these photos, I had to give thought to the placement of the stripes but that was pretty simple for this design. The fabric does show every detail and clings enough in the shoulders to show the indents from my bra straps from carrying around the girls for a lifetime. I have some bras with wide straps and will make sure  I wear those when I wear this top.

This was pretty simple tee shirt construction other than handling the collar band. Rather than make the suggest darts I gathered the neckband up at the sleeve/bodice seam and used navy embroidery floss to stitch that up as you see above. But while cutting out this pattern I noticed this:

Crosswise strips of fabric, when pulled, curled into these perfect little non ravelling strips. Eureka!  I decided to put a little bow at each corner. Here is how I make perfect little matching bows:

First, you need one of these.

That is a potato masher you see  with a pile of those strips.
Wrap a length of tube around the potato masher.

Cross over the loops.

Pass one of the tubes under the part of the tube that is behind the potato masher.

Tie a knot.

Voila! A bow with both side perfectly matching . Slide off the potato masher and stitch to your garment.

These were attached in those spots where I did the embroidery floss which now can't be seen and the looseness of the collar band is under control.

All in all, this is a great raglan tee. I need to finesse the fit some more and think that is simply a matter of making it out of the envelope with a bit of FBA. I will definitely make this again. I am pretty sure next time will not have the collar band and I will scoop the neckline lower. Most who made this the second time around, per PR, did that. Once I get this to Tried and True status I can see myself making it over and over. Nice pattern!....Bunny

Monday, March 24, 2014

Simplicity 1463, a Tons of Tops pattern

Simplicity 1463 is a great wardrobe builder pattern. It has six distinct tops in one pattern and I chose to start with View B, a back wrapping, shaped hem number.


Simplicity 1463 consists of 6 different tops. There are dolman sleeves, raglan sleeves, shaped hems, cuffs or not, etc. So you get six distinct tops in one pattern, great bargain! What you can't see here and only notice if you look at the tech drawing for View B is that the back is quite elaborate. It consists of two bodice pieces, on for back left, one for back right. They provide a lot of drape and a v neck held up by a tie around the back neck. It's hem is slightly shaped to be a bit longer in the back than front, not trendy looking as it is rather subtle, IMO. 
The back feature really caught my eye and was why I bought the pattern.


The fabric is a rayon jersey purchased from JAs. It did not need lining. It was a bit fiddley but that's the nature of the beast. Once again, I used the fusible tricot "Batting Tape" to edge my hems and stabilize.


In these back photos I have on no bra. My bras don't ride up and the bra band was totally visible in the back. No worry, I will not go braless in this top! I love the way the back drapes. The outer right side is pleated and sewn into the left side seam. If sewn with a 5/8 seam it creates a big drape and very loose edge to the back neckline. It also makes the V neck lower.

 I solved this by putting in a half inch tuck (one inch taken out) right near the pleats in the left side seam. The tuck is in the neckline edge about an inch from the side seam. This caused the neckline to not drape open as much and raised the V. I do have one of those bras that can be converted to a low back so I can always wear that to be sure no wardrobe malfunctions occur. So my suggestion is to not automatically sew up the side seams in the areas that are left open for the  end of the back bodice to be inserted. Try it on and pull the bodice through the opening until you get your back the way you want. Then stitch up the side seams. You may not have the issue I had. My narrow back and shoulders gave no support so it all just fell and made a deep v neck.  As an aside, the colors in this photo directly above are true, no the dark version appearing in the other photos.

In conclusion: 

I think I have a pretty cute top here. Now that the deep back V is fixed I will be more willing to wear this top out and about. I can see it with some crisp white narrow slacks.  It is very comfortable with the draping back keeping everything loosey goosey. Elbow length sleeves are not my best sleeve look. If I make this again, and I more than likely will, the sleeves will be my preferred 3/4 length. 

I highly recommend this pattern and am looking forward to trying some of the other top versions soon. Next will be a review of the Marcy Tilton Tee.

I spent much of yesterday refining a muslin for the Donna Karan dress. Let's just say it was very challenging. This pattern, Vogue 1175, has more pleats, folds, squares, dots and unconventionally shaped pieces than you can imagine. Figuring out how to do a bit of an FBA was a challenge. I made a muslin and will have pics coming, but sorry, it will be on Miss Dumdum. There is some very serious decolletage in this pattern and you really don't want me to share a muslin of that with you.  You can see what I mean by clicking the link........Bunny

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Two tops today! Simp 1463 and Vogue 8636

Two knit tops got finished this week and I've learned a lot now that they are done. That ease thing is tricky. In both of these tops I "petited" the pattern, reducing length between the apex and shoulder. Now that I see the photos I am thinking not necessary. When I make these next, I will not "petite". It appears to give me negative ease around the upper bodice and wearing ease going down. I think it should be one or the other and since I am not a big fan of negative ease for myself I will make the pattern with no adjustments. I did not do a full bust adjustment on either of these. Next time I will do a small one so that things will fall a little better. Other than that I really like these tops, find them comforable, and consider them definitely wearable and at the beginning of my knit learning curve. Any comments are appreciated. I will do two separate posts about the pattern construction.

I like the look of this draped back which you can only find in the tech drawings on the pattern. There was an issue and that will come with the review. This was view B.

This is the Marcy Tilton tee shirt pattern. I really like it but it also did not need to be "petited" in hindsight. The fabric shows everything and you can see how my bra straps cut in and I don't like that.

All of this is livable but I can do better and hopefully will. But for now I am moving on to some linen pieces. It's muslin time!...Bunny

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Sewfari!

      photo courtesy of

I will be attending Claire Shaeffer's  "Chanel and that Suit" program of couture study in May. I AM SO EXCITED!  This week long sewing dream will take place in Palm Springs, California. The flight is booked, room reserved, and check sent!

I so wish and wonder if any of my dear readers will be making this trek to the land of eternal sunshine. Ms. Shaeffer always has an ad in Threads Magazine in case you would like to contact her for further information.

All of the fun and learning will take place at the beautiful Palm Mountain Resort. Is this not spectacular? I can't wait to report on friends made and lessons learned. Care to join me? ,,,,Bunny