And the winner of the embroidery pattern…

… Gothic Grandeur by Sublime Stitching is… [drum roll please] …


To select the winner, I used to generate a number based on the number of entries. The number that popped up was “2.” So that meant the second person to comment was the winner.

Sublime Stitching - Gothic Grandeur - Craftcation 2016 -

The giveaway was mentioned in my Craftcation 2016, part 2 post.

Congratulations, Carol! Please send me your mailing address and I’ll pop it in the mail to you. 🙂


Drape Drape 3 thoughts…

I was on the waitlist for Drape Drape 3 by Hisako Sato at the San Francisco Public Library for weeks. And finally the book was available for me to check out last week, which means I better get going on sewing something before I have to return it! There are 15 patterns in this book. I absolutely love the creativity and imagination of the patterns, but there are only a few of them that I would consider wearing. They’re either just not my style or I think they would drape in areas that wouldn’t look very good on me.

Drape Drape 3 by Hisato Sako - book cover

Some of the styles seem more flattering on slender figures, not curvy ones. So far I’ve only made one thing from the Drape Drape series – the asymmetrical top from Drape Drape 2, which I just realized that I have not blogged. I think I posted a photo on Instagram (@csews) last year. I need to dig it out of the closet. MaciNic of the Somnolent Dachshund inspired me to make my own DD2 asymmetrical top. I saw her post last year on her fourth version of this top (see her other versions here). I just loved the way it looked. I need to make another one. I bought the fabric for it a while ago – a beautiful rayon jersey from Britex Fabrics.

Meanwhile, I flipped through DD3 and picked out the few things that I think I would actually wear. For me, many of the things in the Drape Drape books are outfits that I would not wear. BUT I can usually find at least one or more things that are really unique and wearable. I do love the draping on many of the garments but some are just too low  (or high!) cut or not really suited to my figure. (I usually have to grade up a size in the hips and go down by least a half-size in the waist.)

You can see a lovely version of Drape Drape 3‘s No. 12 Wrap Dress by Sew Busy Lizzy here. She jokingly calls it a “wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen.” Heheh. When I saw it in the book, I could tell that it was really revealing. It goes way up on one leg, beyond thigh-high to nearly hip high. Whoa. Sew Busy Lizzy pulls it off with her great legs but I don’t think she plans on wearing it in public again without pairing it with trousers. 😉

So here’s what I might sew and wear, in no particular order. (The fabric behind the book is a blue print remnant I got from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics last week for $7.)

No. 7. Two-piece v-neck blouse
This top looks wearable, doesn’t it? Though you can’t tell from this photo, what it would look like when your arms are down.

Drape Drape 3 No. 7 two-piece v-neck blouse -

Luckily, there are two more photos of this top later in the book. The model seems fond of having her arms up. This blouse was made from a very lightweight linen. I’m not sure how it would look on me but I’m intrigued enough to make a mock-up. I’d like to use really lightweight fabric too but I wouldn’t want it to be transparent. Maybe a lightweight linen in a bright color? What fabric would you use?

Drape Drape 3 - No. 7 two-piece v-neck blouse -

No. 11 Three-piece Sun Dress
This is a lined dress made using a woven print. You can see the edge of the lining at the hem. There’s an invisible zipper in the center back. I like the look of this dress – even the bow – and I’m not big on bows. For some reason, this dress appeals to me. Plus I’m sure we’ll have some scorching hot weather this summer so I would have the chance to wear it. The one drawback is that you can’t wear a regular bra with this dress so if you don’t have a small bust, you’ll probably want to get one of those “adhesive backless bras.” (Just do a search on those terms and see all the different styles. I had no idea there were so many variations – backless thong bodysuit anyone? I guess if I were a backless, halter-top wearing gal, I would know this already.)

Drape Drape 3 - No. 11 three-piece sun dress -

No. 13 One-piece Boatneck Tunic
Yes, this is actually made from one big piece of lace fabric (width: 1 m 40 cm, length: 1 m 60 cm). It seems sort of a hybrid cape/tunic. It could be casual or dressy – depending on what you wear with it. Beach coverup or add a bit of elegance to an evening outfit?

Drape Drape 3 - No. 13 one-piece boatneck tunic -

Jen of Grainline Studio made it in 2013 and wore it at the beach. You can read her blog post here, plus see a few more photos from the book as well as her version of this tunic.

Amy of Sew Well made No. 3 Three-piece Cowl Neck Top, which she blogged about here. The cowl neck dips quite low so you need to wear a cami with it unless you’re daring and don’t mind revealing your bra. 😉

Sizes in this book go from S to XL. But some of the patterns have just two sizes -S/M or L/XL. According to the book’s chart, the largest size is for someone who’s 168 cm, which is about 5′ 5″ – not very tall. I’m around 172 cm (5′ 8″). But Japanese patterns usually have a lot of ease so I’m not worried that the patterns won’t fit. It also helps that I have a small bust. If you have to do FBAs, then you will definitely need to make some adjustments. (See my post on Japanese pattern book sizing for more info.)

Have you made anything from DD3?

Drape Drape 3 is currently $20.13 on Amazon. Considering that you can spend that amount (or more) on one full-price Vogue pattern, an indie pattern or a couple of PDF patterns, it’s a good deal.

If you want to see many images from the Drape Drape series, check out this Drape Drape Pinterest board.

Happy sewing!


[*There are affiliate links in this post for the books mentioned but I haven’t seen any money yet from it so it’s not exactly earning me any money. I’m experimenting with seeing whether it’s possible to make money.]

Refashion, Stylish Remakes book review and giveaway!

Hi, It’s hard to believe that September is well underway. I thought I’d sew more summer things but I didn’t quite have the time (or motivation) to sew as much as I wanted to.

In June, I wrote a post about my summer WIPs (works in progress). Out of the six things I mentioned, I finished two (my fourth Deer & Doe Chardon Skirt and my third By Hand London Anna Dress – for the International Anna Party). I said I was going to make the dress pictured on the cover of the Japanese sewing book Basic Black but I still haven’t traced the pattern (whoops). It was intended for the Sundress Sew-a-long organized by Handmade by Heather B. Maybe next year, Heather!

Did you do any summer sewing? What did you make? In August I started working on a refashion project for two reasons: 1. Tuttle Publishing asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing a couple of Japanese sewing books and Stylish Remakes Stylish Remakes by Violette Room (Tuttle Publishing)by Violette Room, was one of them. The other was Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori. I hadn’t heard of Violette Room, a Japanese clothing company, but the book seemed interesting.

2. I had just found out via Instagram about The Refashioners challenge organized by Portia Lawrie – create something from a men’s shirt. (See the impressive lineup of sewing bloggers who stepped up to the challenge on this Makery post.) So I was game and told Tuttle, “YES! Send the books!” [Note: I am not being paid to review these books. I was given the books with the understanding that I would provide an honest review.]

This super-long post includes my review of Stylish Remakes, my first men’s shirt refashion, and a giveaway of this book! Details on entering the giveaway are at the end of this post. (I’ll be reviewing – and giving away a copy of – Stylish Party Dresses in a later post.)

I took photos of this much-washed Brooks Brothers shirt that I got for free at a swap event in San Francisco a couple of years ago. As you can see, this size 17.5 “relaxed fit” shirt is quite voluminous.

Before - side shirtBefore - back shirt

I flipped through Stylish Remakes to see what ideas could be useful for the Refashioners challenge. The book features a total of 25 ideas categorized into six sections, labeled as follows: T-shirts, Flannel Shirts, Borders, College Sweats, Gabardine Coats, and Bandannas. “Borders” seems to refer to garments with stripes. Also included in this section is a detachable collar that you make and embellish with beads. “College sweats” refers to sweatshirts.

There are anywhere from three to six ideas in each category. Some of them are quite simple – shorten the T-shirt sleeves, add a bow, attach a skirt to make a dress, sew a scarf to the top to make a tunic (design no. 14). I’ve taken photos from the book so you can see some examples (excuse the poor lighting!).

Stylish Remakes by Violet Room - tunic

None of the ideas in the book are particularly complicated. Only a few designs approach the more radical transformations of Charity Shop Chic or Refashionista. BUT if you haven’t tried to refashion or upcycle a garment before, this book will give you some good ideas to get started – and then you can add your own design changes. The book seems aimed more at the fashionista than the sewist. The book flap says “With just a little cutting and sewing you can create fun and funky new pieces… Anyone can do it and anyone can wear it.”

T-shirt refashioned - Stylish Remakes by Violette Room -
Tank top and a t-shirt cut and sewn together (no. 3)

If you’ve made anything from a Japanese sewing book, you’ll be familiar with the format – photos of models wearing the garments, followed by instructions with detailed diagrams. There are only a couple of patterns in the book, a collar, a bow, and a cat, which you enlarge on a photocopier. There aren’t any patterns for the other projects because you’re refashioning existing garments (and bandannas) into something else.

Here’s an upcycled sweatshirt made into a mini dress (design no. 17) – not something I’d make or wear.

Refashioned sweatshirt - Stylish Remakes by Violette Room -

An outfit made from a striped long-sleeve tee and a Liberty print dress (design no. 12). A simple idea that I may use. I’ve got a RTW striped top and cheap skirt that may be more interesting as a dress.

Stylish Remakes by Violet Room - borders - csewscom

Here’s a coat restyled using different parts of a scarf as the collar and design elements sewn on the coat (“Coat with Scarf and Details,” no. 20). The horses are from the scarf. I really like the scarf-used-as-collar idea. I’ve got an old vintage coat with a rather dirty collar. I’ll try dry cleaning it first but if that doesn’t work, I’ll try this clever idea.

Gabardine coats - Stylish Remakes -

This tot is absolutely adorable in this camisole and skirt made from a bandanna (design no. 24).

Bandanna refashion - Stylish Remakes by Violette Room -

Both pieces are made from one 20.5 inch x 20.5 inch (52 cm x 52 cm) bandanna. The book recommends that you use an old bandanna that’s soft and drapey, which will feel nice to the little one. So cute!

The book has five ideas for refashioning men’s flannel shirts. They’re not complicated to execute but you need some basic sewing knowledge to understand the construction explanations, which heavily rely on diagrams as much as the words to explain the details.

This “Half-and-Half Dress” (design no. 7) is one of the more interesting and clever designs. You button the two shirts together (moving buttons if they don’t line up) and use the cut-off sleeve pieces to make the shoulder straps. The leftover sleeve pieces (still attached to the shirt) form pockets – very nice. I’m not a fan of flannel shirts but I really like this design idea. I could see making this with two (non-flannel) shirts.

Stylish Remakes - flannel dress -

Before I get into my project, here’s my conclusion about this book: I wouldn’t make most of the projects in it because they’re not my style BUT I really like the ideas for the flannel shirts and the coat collar. So it’s worth it for the sewing tips to create those garments.

I wanted to try making a blouse from the men’s shirt so first I thought I’d try the “Jacket with a Gathered Waist” (design no. 8), which wasn’t really a jacket (maybe a fault in the translation?). I liked the 3/4 gathered sleeves.

Stylish Remakes by Violet room - flannel shirts -

You remove the shirt cuff, shorten the sleeve and reattach the cuff to the shortened sleeves. Then you fold the hem up and sew a casing for the elastic. Pretty simple, right?

Stylish Remakes - shirt cuff -

Well, I made a mistake when I trimmed my sleeves. I cut them too short. After I sewed on one cuff, I tried it on and realized it was too tight on my forearm. Ack. I measured from my shoulder point to where I wanted the sleeve to end. However, I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that the sleeve is cut at an angle to give it additional ease so you’ll have more to gather at the cuff. Darn. I marked the sleeve on the fold a few inches below my elbow point instead of at the sleeve seam (below my inner elbow). Here’s what that sleeve looked like with the cuff attached.

Sleeve shortened cuff reattached - refashioned shirt -

If you make this top, put on your shirt, pull up the sleeve to determine what length you want it to be. Make sure the cuff is at a comfortable spot on your arm so it’s not too tight. Mark the sleeve at the length you want at the seam line, not on the outside of the sleeve. The book gives you a measurement for where to cut the sleeve but I ignored it because I have long arms and I knew it would be too short if I used the book’s measurement.

Now I had two cuffs that I wasn’t going to use. I played around with them, trying to see if there was another way to use them. How about a pocket? I liked this idea but didn’t reuse them for this shirt because the cuff was rather thick and didn’t seem right for this shirt. I’ve saved them though and may reuse them for something else.

Shirt cuff as pocket - refashion -

I had to change plans and decided to go with short sleeves. I flipped to design no. 9 – the “Big Bow Blouse.” I wasn’t keen on the bow but I liked the collar and sleeves so I thought I’d give it a try.

Stylish Remakes-plaid blouse with bow -

I removed the left front pocket and I made the sleeves shorter but the armholes were really gaping.

Sleeves trimmed - shirt refashion -

Clearly, I needed to get rid of some excess fabric. So I stitched a new side seam. The point of the pencil is where the new seam is.

Side seam - Get Shirty -

I trimmed off the curving parts of the shirt hem so I could have a straight hem all around. I saved those curving bits for later. Now the shirt looked like this. The hem is pinned. As you can see the sleeves stick out a bit.

Refashioned shirt - WIP -

The book says that if the sleeve opening was too wide (hell yes!), to “overlap the sleeve under the arm and stitch.” Hmmm. The translation is a little awkward here but the diagram offers a better explanation.

Sleeve diagram - Stylish Remakes - Violette Room -

This makes the sleeve fit more closely to the upper arm as you’ll see in the photos below.

Cutting off the collar left a slightly frayed edge, which I wanted to hide. Also, the collar seemed rather plain because I wasn’t using a flannel shirt with more visual interest.

Shirt collar removed - frayed edge -

So I looked at the collar I removed, then I trimmed off about 3/8 inch (1 cm) to remove the top-stitched edge. This left me with the top and bottom collar pieces and its interfacing (note: not a fusible). I joined the two pieces together in the middle with a flat felled seam to make one long strip with curved ends. Now I had a long strip of fabric roughly twice the length of the collar stand, which would make a nice ruffle.

Collar before gathering -

I finished the curved edge with a 1/8 inch (about 3 mm) hem and the straight edge with a zigzag stitch. Then I sewed two lines of gathering stitches on the zig zag side.

Here’s the collar gathered and attached reattached to the shirt. I don’t usually wear anything with ruffles so this was a fun experiment. The ruffle is a single layer of fabric but the gathering makes it stiff enough to stand up. I stitched it right on top of the collar stand, which is a bit of a sloppy finish but I didn’t feel like ripping out the stitching on the collar stand to open it up and insert the ruffle.

Ruffled collar - detail - refashioned shirt -

I nixed an elastic waist like design no. 8 (above). So I trimmed the bottom and I used the leftover sleeve pieces to make a belt. They were huge sleeves! I didn’t have enough fabric for one long piece so I used two pieces of fabric for each side of the belt. You can see the seam just to the right of my fingers.

Fabric belt seam - Get Shirty project - Refashion -

I had a belt kit I got from the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse and used that to make the belt. It came with the belt backing, buckle and eyelets.

Fabric belt kit -

The shirt fabric was pretty thin though so it didn’t quite lay flat but one side looked better than the other so I put that on the outside, attached the buckle and inserted the eyelets, which are really huge and not too attractive. Oh well.

Fabric Belt - Get Shirty - Refashion project -

I tried on the shirt again but it was still too big because I didn’t take out enough from the side seams. Oops. But I liked the sleeves. I followed the instructions from the diagram above and now the sleeves don’t stick out as much. Nice, eh?

I posted this image to Instagram (@csews) wondering if it was too long and I received some helpful comments from several people. Mari (@ddisciplines) of Seamster Patterns suggested fish-eye darts and others suggested inverted pleats or tucks. Of course this meant I needed to remove/replace the pocket. Gee, I had done such nice top stitching on it! Poo.

Refashioned shirt belted -

I had finished one side seam with a French seam and I didn’t want to unpick it (lazy). Thus I decided to go with fish-eye darts, which would provide some waist definition. I decided to take an incremental approach so the dart was no more than 3/8 inch at its widest point (measuring from the center of the dart). And at some point in the process, I decided to go with a curving hem so it’s shorter in front and is longer in back as you’ll see in the finished photos below.

Fish eye darts added to shirt refashion -

Here’s the shirt with a total of six fish-eye darts. I started out with just two on each side but that wasn’t enough. Then I sewed six inverted pleats in the back, which brought in the waist a bit more and then it looked like this. Still a bit roomy but I decided to call it quits.

Fish eye darts sewn - shirt refashion -

By this time, I think I’d been tinkering with this shirt for a couple of weeks. If you follow me on IG, you may have seen some of my WIP photos. I didn’t expect to get so involved in it but I was having a lot of fun changing it as I went along.

OK, you might remember that I mentioned cutting off the curving parts of the original shirt hem. Here they are.

Shirt hem trimmed -

I took one of them and gathered the edge…

Fabric flower with gather -

… and made it into a flower, which I pinned to my hat.

Fabric flower for hat -

Now, drum roll please….

Here’s the final version without the belt. (Note on the pose: I’m trying out a “shoulders back, hips out” pose here  – not realizing that it makes the shirt stick out in front. Whoops. It I were standing normally, it would lay flat.)

Refashioned Shirt - front view - Get Shirty -

And here it is with the belt.

Refashioned shirt - left view 2 - Get Shirty -

And all those inverted pleats! I should have taken more fabric out of the back. It’s a little puffy there. I used the width of the original pleat sewn in the back yoke to set the width of all the waist pleats. I started out with three and ended up with six! There’s another photo below without the belt.

Refashioned shirt - with belt - back view - Get Shirty -

And a few before and after photos.

Before-After - front view - Refashion - Get Shirty -

Before-After - side view - Refashion - Get Shirty -

Before-After - back view - Refashion - Get Shirty -

And a full frontal view with the belt….

Refashioned shirt - front view with belt - Get Shirty -

… and a final shot here.

Refashioned shirt with belt - Get Shirty -

I think I like it better with the belt. What do you think? I wore it to work last week and when I told people that it had been a men’s shirt, they couldn’t believe it. I showed them the before pictures and they were amazed.

To see other refashion projects, use the hashtags  #therefashioners2015 #therefashioners #refashfest #getshirty. Ceck out the official Pinterest board for The Refashioners 2015 and see some lovely tops and dresses. And it’s not too late to enter the Refashioners 2015 contest! You have until Sunday, Sept. 27 to submit your project. See the rules (and prizes!) here.

Last but not least, if you’d like to be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Stylish Remakes, just comment below by September 30, 11:59 pm, Pacific (California time). UPDATE: This giveaway is open to everyone around the world. Tuttle Publishing will be shipping it so if you win and live outside the United States, you’ll just need to give me your address and phone number for the customs form.

If you don’t want to be entered, just say, don’t enter me. Have you done any refashioning? What did you make?

Thanks so much for visiting and happy sewing!

Fall sewing – Vogue patterns preview – sailor pants, tops and a vintage reissue

Hi, I know summer isn’t over (!) but fall is just around the corner. Summer clothes at retail stores are all on sale, which is another sign that it’s not too early to think about fall sewing. A preview of the Vogue patterns fall 2015 collection is now on its website. So I decided to take a look at the offerings. Here’s what caught my eye, in no particular order:

I like the top from this Donna Karan Collection outfit V1465, which includes an unlined jacket with princess seams and a pencil skirt. I’m not a fan of the jacket or the pencil skirt. I like A-line skirts, not pencil skirts or closely fitted skirts. I would seriously consider getting this pattern (on sale at Joann’s) just for the top.

Vogue pattern - V1465 - Donna Karan
Donna Karan top – V1465 – Vogue Fall 2015
Here’s the line drawing of all pieces of this suit. The jacket lapels remind me of Grainline’s Morris Blazer (minus the princess seams). The back of the top looks interesting. You can see more photos of the model wearing the entire ensemble here.

V1465 - Donna Karan - Vogue pattern

Here’s a Vogue reissue from 1947 – V9126. I love the pleats and gathers in this dress, which has a side zipper. The recommended fabrics are “Silk Crepe, Rayons, Wool Jersey, Lightweight Woolens.” This could be a really slinky dress in silk. It could be fun to make and I would wear it to work but I can’t see myself wearing it more than a couple of times a year. Though I love vintage dress patterns, I don’t actually wear the vintage dresses I’ve made very often.

V9126 - Vintage Vogue - 1947 reissue
V9126 – Vintage Vogue – 1947 reissue – Fall 2015
Here’s the illustration…

V9126 - Vogue Vintage reissue - 1947

And the line drawings…

V9126 - Vintage Vogue reissue - 1947
V9126 – Vintage Vogue reissue – 1947
This Marcy Tilton top (V9131) has some interesting color blocking possibilities. It could be a nice stash buster and it looks comfy and flattering. This is a pattern for lightweight, two-way stretch knits.

V9131 - Marcy Tilton
V9131 – Marcy Tilton – Vogue Fall 2015
This knit top has a few variations and necklines as you can see from these line drawings.

V9130 - Marcy Tilton - Vogue Fall 2015

I’ve always liked sailor pants. Here’s a version by Sandra Betzina – V1464. But I’d make the legs a bit wider. And I have the perfect striped top for it – the one from the Japanese pattern book She Wears the Pants (you can read my review of the book and see photos of my top here).

V1464 - Sandra Betzina - Vogue  Fall 2015
V1464 – Sandra Betzina – Vogue Fall 2015
OK – so now it’s time to look at a few of the not-so-interesting or odd patterns.

This top (V9124) seems rather unflattering – maybe it would look better with a belt? Definitely not one I’ll be making.

V9129 - Vogue Fall 2015

Is this a cheerleading dress? This is a DKNY pattern (V1461) – I guess you could characterize this as the sporty, fun Donna Karan line.

V1461 - Vogue Fall 2015

OK, this dress (V9124) makes me think of the TV show Little House on the Prairie.

V9124 - Vogue Fall 2015

Check out this Vogue illustration that goes with the dress. Am I right?

V9124 - Vogue Fall 2015

And in case you need a reminder, here’s a photo of the Ingalls family on the show.

Little House on the Prairie

Calico fabric and tiered, gathered skirts are not my thing. There is a shorter version of the dress, which is cute and more contemporary. Here’s the illustration – still not my style but definitely more palatable than the long-sleeve version!

V9124 - Vogue Fall 2015

Thus concludes my brief look at a few of Vogue’s fall 2015 offerings.

Are you thinking of fall sewing yet? What are your plans? I’ve had the Sewaholic Robson Coat on my list for a while (fabric already purchased!), a 1970s vintage Vogue knit dress with princess seams (one muslin done, which you can see in this post), a vintage Vogue cropped jacket, and wool pants are a few other possibilities.

Happy sewing!

My Vintage Weekend

Last weekend was my vintage weekend. On Saturday I stopped by the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, which was having a sale of vintage clothes, shoes, and other accessories. This place  occasionally gets vintage goods from its estate services.  The next day I went to the Alameda Flea Market a.k.a. the Alameda Point Antiques Faire (its official name), where hundreds of vendors convene on the first Sunday of the month, selling a huge array of vintage (and not so vintage), upcycled, and funky items, everything from furniture and toys to clothes and jewelry. I’ll write about that fun experience tomorrow.

The Depot is a nonprofit organization loaded with donated art and craft supplies, vintage goods, fabric, furniture, and more, which it sells. Its mission is “to divert waste materials from landfills by collecting and redistributing discarded goods as low-cost supplies for art, education, and social services.”

I looked at the clothes at the Depot but they were either too small or the styles weren’t what I was interested in. But I was thrilled to find some vintage patterns for $1 each. I spent many minutes looking through two small boxes of patterns from the 1950s and 1960s.

Here’s what I bought. All the patterns included the original instructions but I haven’t checked yet to see if any pattern pieces are missing. They patterns are for bust size 30, 32 or 34, smaller than my 36 but I’m hoping it won’t be too difficult to grade up. I’ve only graded up one size when I made a dress from a vintage Vogue pattern.

I might start with the blouse below (Vogue 9961). I’ve been assured by Melizza (@mujerboricua) via Twitter, that it’s “totally doable.” She had a vintage pattern that she graded up from a size 40 bust to 44. She told me that she used the book Fit for Real People as a guide and she kindly offered to lend it to me if I’m ever in the Peninsula.

This Vogue 7034  dress pattern is size 14, which back then, as you can see, meant a 32 bust and a 35 hip. No vanity sizing back then!

1950 Vogue dress pattern
Vogue 7034 dress pattern from 1950




















Vogue 1955 coat pattern
Vogue 1544 coat pattern from 1955 (apologies for blurry image!). One of the recommended fabrics is “wool hopsacking,” a loosely woven wool.




















Vogue 1960 blouse pattern
Vogue 9961 blouse pattern from 1960. For this pattern, a size 12 meant a 32 bust, 25 waist, and a 34 hip. This top has a waistband.





















Vogue 5380 dresses - no copyright date listed
Vogue 5380 dresses – no copyright date listed



Vogue 6419 dress (no date but looks very '60s)
Vogue 6419 dress (no date but looks very ’60s)























Vogue 7282 dress pattern (no copyright date, 1960s)
This Vogue 7282 dress pattern says “new sizing” on the front. Here a size 12 was 34 bust, 25 1/2 waist and 36 hip. No copyright date but looks ’60s 


Vogue dress pattern 5968, 1960s (no date)
Vogue dress pattern 5968. I like the buttons on this dress.


I love vintage patterns of the 1950s and ’60s. I’ve also bought some Vogue reissued dress patterns from the 1950s. Have you made any clothes from vintage patterns? Did you have to grade the pattern? How did it turn out?


Tracing Patterns with the Pilot Frixion Erasable Pen

My Pilot Frixion Clicker Eraseable Pens
My Pilot Frixio Eraseable Pens

I first heard about the Pilot Frixion erasable pen from milliner and period costume maker Lynn McMaster, when I took her hat finishing class in May at Lacis. (I need to write about the hats I finished in this class.) At some point during the workshop, she told me that it was an erasable pen and that if you used the ink on fabric, it washed out.

I made a note of it and then promptly forgot about it until I needed to meet a $50 minimum to get free shipping on my 8-drawer storage cart (with wheels!) $45.99 from Office Depot‘s website. I had been looking for a storage cart for my sewing stuff for a while. I wanted something with multiple drawers that cost less than $50. I searched Joann’s website as well as art supply places but their offerings were rather pricey or the drawer units didn’t seem very sturdy.

I remembered the pen that Lynn mentioned and I ordered a three-pack of the Pilot Frixion Clicker Erasable Gel Pens for $6.79 from Office Depot.

I started using the pen last week to trace Sewing Cake‘s Hummingbird skirt pattern. The pen skips a little (see the red lines below)  but it erases very cleanly as you can tell from the photo.

The "eraser" is the tip on the end of the pen.
The “eraser” is the tip on the end of the pen. I’ve erased the middle part of the black line.

I’ve pointed the “eraser” part at the line where I erased the middle of the line.

The eraser isn’t like the eraser on a pencil. I’m not sure what it’s made of but it’s hard and has a rubber feel but nothing comes off the eraser so you don’t get those messy little pieces of rubber. The “clicker” part is not the eraser on the end but the clear plastic piece that you can hook on to a notebook.

This is nothing like the erasable pens from years ago that came with a rubber eraser and didn’t erase very well.

I like how you can be very precise with a pen. I have NOT tested whether it washes out on fabric but I’ll be doing some prewashing this weekend and let you know what happens.

I am still very fond of the tactile experience of using drawing pencils (see my post “Tips on Tracing Sewing Patterns“), but you do have to sharpen them often, which can be a little annoying on occasion.

BTW – I’m very happy with my cart. The drawers don’t fall out and there are six shallow drawers (perfect for storing scissors, pattern drafting tools, pins and needles  as well as other notions) and two larger ones on the bottom for larger things.

What do you like to use when you trace a pattern? Pen or pencil?

UPDATE 7/10/13

The pen does wash out from fabric. I tried it on some cotton shirting over the weekend. I could see the pen marks fade as I ran water over the fabric. I’m sure if you use soap/detergent it’ll wash out completely.

However, it’s not such a good pen to use if you’re trying to trace a pattern on fabric; it tends to snag it. So you have to hold down the fabric to prevent it from moving as you mark it. I’m sure it’ll be fine to use for small marks like dots or darts but for longer lines, I wouldn’t recommend using it unless you’re got a hefty piece of fabric that stay put as you mark it.



A Review of Sewing Patterns I’ve Traced

Last week, I wrote about tracing patterns (see “Tips on Tracing Sewing Patterns“). In that post I was going to include some of my thoughts on the sewing patterns I’ve traced over the past few months but it got too long. So here’s my brief review, which covers patterns from three books: Alabama Studio Sewing + Design by Natalie Chanin; Shape Shape: Sewing Clothing Patterns to Wear Multiple Ways by Natsuno Hiraiwa; and BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern by Jamie Lau as well as a PDF, the Sassy Librarian Blouse by Christine Hayes from her Craftsy class. Here’s the rundown:

Alabama Studio Sewing + DesignI really liked the clothes in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design so I bought it last fall. (See “Book Review: Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.”) This was my first experience with patterns that you had to trace, not cut out. The patterns were printed on both sides of the paper and some of them overlapped each other. Granted this saves paper and space but I was used to buying traditional patterns printed on tissue paper that you cut out. But I was game – this was a chance for me to use that Swedish tracing paper that had been sitting around for a couple years. (For more on the book seeBook Review: Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.”)

Alabama Studio Sewing + Design - pattern
Patterns from the book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design by Natalie Chanin

The patterns were very easy to trace because each size has very distinct lines and seam allowances are included. So all you needed to do was trace and cut (no darts!). I just traced these patterns freehand. All the garments use jersey fabric and are rather fitted because you’re using fabric that stretches.

I made a hand-sewn tunic, skirt, and bolero jacket from this book as well as an embroidered wrap, which I’ve posted about a few months ago (see “The Embroidered Wrap“). I haven’t written about the outfit yet but here’s a preview.

hand sewn tunic, skirt and bolero all made from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design patterns (photo by Emily Loftis).

Shape Shape by Natsuno HiraiwaAbout a month after I bought Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, I ordered a copy of Shape Shape: Sewing Clothing Patterns to Wear Multiple Ways by Natsuno Hiraiwa, a graphic designer turned fashion designer. This was a bit of an impulse purchase. I liked the photos of the garments, lots of asymmetric cuts and of course, interesting shapes.

The patterns in this book are also printed on both sides but they are not that easy to trace – not only do many pattern lines overlap but the lines are all of the same skinny weight. It’s difficult to be sure you’re following the correct line for a particular piece and there is no differentiation among the pattern lines designated for each size. This means that the line is exactly the same for size small, medium and large. (Note: This pattern doesn’t include seam allowances so you must add them.)

The lines in the Shape Shape patterns are hard to trace - see all that overlapping? And no differentiation between the different sizes!
The lines in the Shape Shape patterns are hard to trace – see all that overlapping of pattern pieces? And no differentiation between the lines for different sizes either!

I made one garment from the book (the Free-Style Curved Stole) but it was a little small (and I didn’t forget to add the seam allowance either!). I think I’ll give it to one my sisters who’s about 4 inches shorter. The garments in the book are sized for petite Japanese women, which means that at 5 feet 7 inches I’m a giantess for these clothes. There are only three sizes (S, M, and L) but I must be an XL or larger – something to bear in mind if you make anything from this book. (Of course, if I had read the reviews on Amazon, I would have realized that the sizes run pretty small, large is more like a medium.)

If you want to see what some of the clothes from the book look like, check out the review of Shape Shape by Handmade by Carolyn. She’s made some of the clothes from the book.

BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern book coverFor my next adventure in pattern tracing, I turned to the dresses in BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern. With this book, I got more serious about tracing and finally bought a few French curves. (See my post “Tips on Tracing Sewing Patterns” for more on the tools I use.)

The patterns in this book are very easy to trace — even when many pattern pieces overlap — because some pieces are printed in black ink and others in red, plus the lines for different sizes are very clear. Seam allowances are not included, which makes it easier to adjust and/or modify the patterns. For many of the garments in the book, you need to take one of the base patterns and modify it to create a new pattern.

Let me tell you, after Shape Shape, it was a relief to trace patterns from this book!

If you want to see the dress I made from this book, check out my post “My First Fashion Photo Shoot for a Dress” or see the dress posted on my BurdaStyle page “Tea-Length 1950s Dress – BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern.” It was a finalist in BurdaStyle’s sewing contest earlier this year.

Patterns in BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern are printed in red and black ink.
Patterns in BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern are printed in red and black ink.

Sassy Librarian BlouseLast but not least, is the pattern I traced from a PDF. I few months ago, I bought Christine Haynes Sassy Librarian Blouse on Craftsy, which uses a PDF pattern that you download and print on letter-sized paper. The pattern uses more than 35 pieces of paper, which you then need to tape together, overlapping the edges to match the lines. By the time you’re done taping all the pieces together, the pattern is a bit bulky in some areas.

So I decided not to cut the PDF pattern and instead, trace my size on to pattern tracing paper. I’m used to those tissue-weight patterns. Seam allowances are included in this pattern. None of the pattern pieces overlap (yay!) and the sizes are clearly delineated.

Taped together PDF pattern for the Sassy Librarian Blouse by Christine Haynes
Taped together PDF pattern for the Sassy Librarian Blouse by Christine Haynes

I’m still working on this top. I traced the pattern pieces and cut the fabric and my woven interfacing. When I finish it, I’ll be sure to post about it! What have been your experiences tracing patterns?

Tips on Tracing Sewing Patterns

Pattern Tracing Tools

Over the past several months I’ve traced a few patterns for various garments I’ve made so I thought it would be a good time to share a few of my experiences. I’ve mostly been tracing sewing patterns from books but in once instance, I traced a PDF pattern.

I’ve mostly been using a 60″ wide roll of pattern tracing paper (10 yards for $22)  from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley (love this store!). But I also used a few yards of Swedish tracing paper that I bought online a couple years ago but never got around to using it until last year. This tracing paper is sort of like interfacing and can be sewn. However it’s more expensive than paper. I’ve also read that the paper rolls used in doctor’s exam rooms could be used as pattern paper. You can buy it medical supply stores – and it’s fairly inexpensive. I”ll have to look into that when I’m done with the roll I’m using.

I like using a drawing pencil to trace. I’ve been using a Derwent sketch pencil from an art supply store — grade HB. Drawing pencils are graded by H (hardness) and B (blackness) — 9H is the hardest and 9B the darkest.  An HB is right in the middle of the range.

If you use a pencil that is too soft, your line will likely smudge and your pencil would get dull pretty quickly. You need a precise line for pattern tracing. For example, if you used a 5B pencil, you’d have a nice dark line but you’d have to sharpen it constantly.

You could use a 1H or harder pencil but I personally don’t like the feel of H pencils. B pencils are great for drawing, the higher the number the blacker the pencil.

My favorite eraser is this white Mars plastic eraser by Staedtler. It erases very cleanly and gently. You don’t have to worry about leaving ugly smudges or tearing anything when you use this eraser. The company also makes a great metal pencil sharpener – the blade never seems to dull. It’s just the sharpener – it doesn’t come with a container to catch the shavings.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Before you begin tracing, be sure to find out whether a seam allowance is included. Some patterns don’t include a seam allowance so you must remember to add that a 1/2″ or 5/8″ to your pattern or you’ll end up with a garment that’s too small. (After you trace out the pattern, use a ruler to measure out and mark the seam allowance. I pencil in little dashes every inch or 1/2 inch so and then draw the cutting line.)
  • Pay attention to the lines for your size. Look closely at the pattern piece before you put your pattern paper on top to trace it. Though you can see through your pattern paper, sometimes it can get a little tricky on those multi-sized patterns, especially on curving lines. I usually end up counting out the number of lines to get to my size (for example, if a pattern is sized from 0 to 18 and you’re a size 12, then you count four lines over (18, 16, 14, 12) from the largest size to get to size 12).
  • When you’re tracing the lines, it’s very handy to use a transparent ruler with a grid and a french curve, which makes it easier to trace hip and armhole curves. You could trace pattern lines freehand but you might not be as accurate unless you’re one of those people who can effortlessly draw a straight line without a ruler.
  • When you’re done tracing the pattern piece (be sure to include darts and other markings) don’t forget to draw a line indicating the grainline. This is critically important. I forgot to do this on an asymmetrical pattern piece and there was no way I could approximate where it would go. So I had to take out the original pattern, lay my traced pattern on top, line it up, and then draw in the grainline (so annoying).
  • When you’re done with the tracing, copy the words listed on the pattern piece. For example, write the name of the pattern – or your shorthand nickname for it – on each pattern piece (for example, “Cool Cape”) and then identify the piece, such as Front Facing, Sleeve, Skirt Front, etc. Also, write down the cutting instructions, such as Cut 2 of Fabric, Cut 1 of Interfacing. Then if your pattern pieces get mixed up with others, you’ll know which pattern it belongs to.

Soon I’ll be writing another post on the different patterns I’ve traced. I was going to include that here but it was getting too long so I decided to break it up.

In the meantime, please share what your favorite pattern tracing tools are.

Sewing Contests – Updated 2/18/2013

I’ve never entered any sewing contests before but I hope to enter my first one this year – the BurdaStyle Vintage Modern Sewing Contest. It’ll help me keep to my sewing resolution – to make, not buy clothes this year.

I decided that if I’m going to make something for a contest, it needed to meet the following criteria: 1. I would be making something I would wear; 2. the garment would use fabric from my stash; and 3.  I would gain more sewing skills.

To help me decide, I flipped through the book BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern, looking at the designs and the recommended fabrics. I wanted something that would be relatively easy to make, allow for some creativity, and use my stash. (When the contest was first announced last month, the deadline was in early February so I needed to make sure I’d have enough time to make something. The deadline is now February 15 – yay more time!)

Clockwise from top left: cotton voile, cotton sateen, wool crepe, denim
Clockwise from top left: a pretty cotton voile, cotton sateen, “plaid” wool crepe, denim (really a dark denim, not grey)

I saw that some dresses used silk charmeuse so I crossed those off my list (only silk I have on hand is velvet or sheer, no charmeuse). But there were a few garments that would use some of my stash: a top (cotton voile), a 1950s dress (cotton sateen), 1960s dress (wool crepe), and a cool pair of bell-bottom pants (cotton denim).

At first I thought I would tackle the pretty top, which has a really nice lace detail. But it does require some pattern making. You use the bodice from a dress pattern in the book and then make several adjustments, following the step-by-step instructions, to make the pattern. (To read more about the book, check out my interview with its author Jamie Lau.)

I did start drafting it but then I decided I didn’t have enough time to complete that pattern, make a muslin to check the fit, etc. I don’t have any experience with pattern drafting – the most I’ve done with a pattern is take a vintage pattern and grade it up a size.

So decided to switch to the Jamie Shift Dress – a 1960s style dress with simple lines. I went to Loehmann’s and tried on a couple sleeveless shift dresses to see if that style would suit my figure. (The store is a block from my office and they have plenty of designer duds.) Most of them looked OK but the necklines on some of them didn’t look so great because of my broad shoulders. But I thought I could make it work.

I traced the pattern for the Jamie Shift Dress a couple weeks ago. Before I cut the muslin, I adjusted the waist a size smaller, which is what I usually need to do with patterns. (Depending on my mood, I view that as: A. my waist is too small for my hips or B. my hips are too big for my waist – at least according to so-called standard sizes.)

I have this very nice wool crepe with a black-and-white plaid pattern on it (see photo above). And I got very excited about making the dress half plaid and half solid black. I also decided that I would line it instead of using a facing. I would just use the pattern from the dress to make the lining.

Though I already have some black wool crepe it seemed like it was of a lesser weight than the plaid so I splurged and went to Britex Fabrics and bought a remnant of solid black imported from Italy (with imported prices too!).

MuslinLast weekend I put together a muslin – complete with invisible zipper and lining. However when I tried my muslin on, I was kinda swimming in it and it dawned on me that it’s really a style more suited to a thin person with no hips (uh, so not me). Some of the dresses I tried on at Loehmann’s had darts in them, which I should have remembered. (sigh) this dress only has bust darts, no curves.

Nevertheless, I really like the idea of color blocking so I want to make it work. I’m in the midst of adjusting the pattern to make it curve more to my body instead of being so straight up and down.

I also used some of the black wool crepe (not the expensive Italian remnant from Britex) in my stash to make a second muslin with an adjusted neckline – more of a boatneck showing all of my collarbone. I also wanted to practice sewing the invisible zipper and see what problems I could have with lining it. I’ve only lined vests and a jacket. I tried bemberg lining and no facing to see how that would work.

The problem is that I can’t understitch all the way around the neckline and because wool crepe has such a drape to it, you can tell where the understitching ends. I’ve been contemplating using a facing and lining, using a lining that’s closer in weight to the crepe, or using the facing pattern to cut out some interfacing and attach that to the lining.

On Twitter, @bydaiyami of Sisters Are Making It For Themselves told me “Facing+lining probably the official way. Lining has to drape similarly, but no need for same weight, IMO.” @Tantisis  of Tanit-Isis Sews agreed and added “Although I far prefer sewing a heavier lining. Facing will keep the lining from showing at the arms, too.”

@bydaiyami also suggested that I check out a Threads article on quick lining, which you can find here. After reading that article I think I’ll go with facing and lining – just sew the facing on the lining.

Now I need to draft a pattern that curves more and has back and front darts.

Napkin sketchI made these sketches on a napkin at dinner last night – trying to keep the ’60s flavor but make it curve more.  If it doesn’t work out, my backup plan is to make the Elizabeth Gathered-Waist Dress, which is more suited to my body.

Have you ever entered any sewing contests? What was that experience like? Did you like it? Love it Hate it?

UPDATE 2/18/2013 — I decided I didn’t have enough time to make modifications to the Jamie Shift Dress in order to finish a garment by my deadline of February 9. I gave myself that deadline because I found a photographer willing to photograph me in exchange for a garment I would make for her. I did make the Elizabeth Gathered-Waist Dress, which worked out really well. I made a few modification, which you can read about in my contest entry here.

Q&A with Jamie Lau, author of BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern

Jamie Lau at Britex Fabrics for book launch party (photo by Sarah Deragon)
Jamie Lau at Britex Fabrics for book launch party (photo by Sarah Deragon)

Fashion designer, sewing instructor, and BurdaStyle editorial and e-commerce manager, Jamie Lau is also the author of the new book BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern: Mastering Iconic Looks from the 1920s to 1980s (Potter Craft). The book includes five master patterns from which you can create 19 different garments – including several dresses, tops, and two pairs of pants – that evoke the various styles of the decades. There are even a couple patterns for men.

From what I’ve flipped through so far, the book has very clear step-by-step instructions and plenty of nice technical illustrations to go along with nearly every step. After I’ve spent more time with it and made at least one garment, I’ll write about it in a separate post. BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern book cover

Jamie, who’s based in Brooklyn, was in San Francisco last month for the Renegade Craft Fair and to attend the book launch party for Sewing Vintage Modern at Britex Fabrics (she also visited her family). While she was in town, she graciously agreed to meet with me at a cafe to discuss her book and her sewing experience. We chatted for nearly an hour so I’m breaking up the interview into two parts. This article will focus on the book and next week’s post will reveal how Jamie went from working full-time as a senior research analyst for the judicial branch in California to her fashion career in New York. —Chuleenan Svetvilas

Chuleenan Svetvilas: I noticed that you wore many hats for this book – co-author, lead designer, technical writer, art director –

Jamie Lau: Photo shoot producer. [Laughs]

CS: So can you tell me a little about each of those roles as you were putting the book together, how that worked out?

JL: Sure – starting with project manager, it was kind of like assembling your crew. We didn’t have a very large budget to work with, so a lot of my previous job experience came in handy. I had experience doing contract negotiations, understanding contracts and business, how to hire people, how to interview people and build a project management chart for a timeline and goals…

I was doing everything from finding a fashion illustrator, a technical illustrator, to handling the budget. It was like, “OK, this is how much we have left in the budget so let’s find a fabric partner to work with. B&J Fabrics, which is also very amazing just like Britex [Fabrics], was the primary fabric sponsor we worked with.

Jamie at the book launch party at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco (photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas)
Jamie at the book launch party at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco (photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas)

Sure – starting with project manager, it was kind of like assembling your crew. We didn’t have a very large budget to work with, so a lot of my previous job experience came in handy. I had experience doing contract negotiations, understanding contracts and business, how to hire people, how to interview people and build a project management chart for a timeline and goals…

I was doing everything from finding a fashion illustrator, a technical illustrator, to handling the budget. It was like, “OK, this is how much we have left in the budget so let’s find a fabric partner to work with. B&J Fabrics, which is also very amazing just like Britex [Fabrics], was the primary fabric sponsor we worked with.

As lead designer, a lot of my job was doing the research on what styles to include, so I spent a lot of time at the public library looking at image archives. They have stuff on everything including pets, airplanes and transportation, and then there are costumes. The costumes are broken into different time periods. What I liked best about it was that the collection didn’t only include couture fashions. There were actually a lot of clippings from old magazines and catalogs, so it gave a more realistic view of what people wore on a day-to-day basis. It wasn’t just editorial, it was also everyday wear.

I also looked at old patterns. Most vintage patterns featured fashion illustrations on the cover – no photography – and they mainly included flats, so you could really see the garment details. A lot of my design process was spent gathering information and editing what looks would fill up this book and what was the best of the best from these different time periods.

From there I then had to consider what would be the five patterns that come with the book. What five garments can give us another garment? That was the major challenge because we can want all these things like a cool asymmetrical blazer dress for the ‘80s. But you also have to think about which pattern will it come from and how much work will the reader have to do to change that from point A to point B.

CS: That’s how you eliminated some designs as well, right?

'50s dress from BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern on display at the book launch party at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco (photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas)
’50s dress from BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern at the book launch party at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco (photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas)

JL: Yes. And I did a survey [of BurdaStyle members] for this book to find out what time periods people were most interested in and what garment types people were most likely to sew. Dresses and tops were the top two answers. Then we also asked, “Are you interested in men’s projects?” because we have male sewers on the site, too. We also have women who sew men’s garments, so we didn’t want to exclude that population.

The first BurdaStyle book [The BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook] didn’t have any men’s projects. It had a unisex bag. So the results from the survey also informed the final decision. I also looked at member projects because there’s new content every day that’s posted on BurdaStyle. I looked at what patterns people were buying, too. Dresses, of course, are super popular.

Then it was on to level of difficulty and having a good range of things. A shift dress is great. I use a lot of shift dresses in my collection. I think it’s comfortable and easy to sew and you can wear it all year round in different fabric ways. So I was looking at different [skill] levels, but I also didn’t want to alienate people who are experienced sewers with excellent tailoring skills who may want a challenge.

CS: Did you pick all the fabrics of all the garments?

JL: Yes. David Leon Morgan assisted with some of the male designs, too. He used to be BurdaStyle’s community manager. I primarily worked on the looks from the ’20s to the ’60s and ‘80s and focused a lot on the dresses. This was the fun part. And then there was the photo shoot, and I held model castings with many different agencies.

We looked for diversity in body types and were looking for “real” people. We also had a girl who was a fuller model. Model casting took a really long time in order to get the look we were going for. We also wanted to find someone who had a good personality to work with.

Jackie Dress from BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern (photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas)
Jackie Dress from BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern (photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas)

CS: And then you had to make the clothes to fit the models.

JL: Right. We had a sample maker help us who had worked with BurdaStyle before. She’s an experienced seamstress who’s very talented. Getting the fabric and sample garments done was the fun part about working on the book and I really wanted to have a good photo shoot. And then came the writing of the book…

I had already drafted some of the sewing and patternmaking instructions by the time of the photo shoot, but there was so much emphasis on getting the photo shoot done by deadline that it was really hard to do all of these tasks at the same time. Once the shoot was finished, I was finally able to focus on the instructions again. And I’m very detailed oriented, so I was checking everything down to what direction people needed to press.

Our technical illustrator, Rachel Rymar, is amazing. She and I worked very closely together and she was with me until the very end. The writing of the instructions was extremely laborious, and there were certain points in the process where I just felt so alone. We checked everything together closely, like if an illustration had to be serged because the garment was already serged in a previous step. There had to be consistency and I had a lot of project management experience from other jobs and was accustomed to being detailed and analytical, so I was noticing everything.

I decided to add more technical illustrations compared to the first book because a beginner, for instance, may not even know what a certain term is when reading the written description. I think it’s important not to intimidate the reader. So I wanted more pictures, more visuals.

We also had a fashion illustrator, Sarah Jung. We were brainstorming some initial ideas around the time of the photo shoot. I made a lot of mood boards in the beginning, too, as part of the lead designer role. I wanted to give her a feel for the mood of the book so we could really nail down the right illustration style.

CS: So what was the biggest challenge in putting the book together?

A spread from BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern (photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas)
A spread from BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern (photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas)

JL: I held all the responsibilities and oftentimes felt like I was being tugged in multiple directions for various tasks though I’m only one person. I honestly think the hardest part was writing the instructions. The creative fun stuff happened early on in the process (picking the fabric, selecting the designs, and producing the photo shoot). But no one can make a project unless there’s a good set of instructions. It was getting that part down and perfect and making sure that things were consistent throughout the book. For instance, if I’m saying you sew a zipper one way that it’s the same in another chapter.

CS: Do you think that this book would be good for people who have never drafted a pattern themselves? You’re giving people a basic set of patterns and then you’re telling them where to make adjustments in the shoulders or whether to adjust the patterns for different designs.

JL: Absolutely. I’ve looked through many patternmaking books before, obviously, and sometimes I just want to give up when I get lost and wish there were more pictures. Sometimes you don’t have another visual until five steps later, and you couldn’t even complete the previous steps to get you to that point.

This book is so visual and a lot of the adjustments are pretty subtle, such as changing a neckline, lengthening or shortening a hem, or adding a button placket.

I think the pattern manipulations are pretty easy for some of the projects while others may be a little more challenging, like the tuxedo shirt for men because there’s a lot of stuff going on such as the ruffled layers. The geometric top is easy to adjust because you’re just adding style lines on the bodice. You’re basically making a big X to color block!

CS: What would be your advice to somebody who wants to start designing their own patterns?

JL: Well, definitely have a dedicated workspace for yourself and try to be as organized as possible. Ergonomics are very important especially when you’re drafting and sewing. Also, do a little research and look into what your personal style is. Think about who you are dressing.

A lot of people say, “I can’t draw, I can’t sketch.” I was one of those people. You don’t have to be a fantastic illustrator necessarily. You can also collage images together. You can compose mood boards and gather fabric swatches. Do little naive sketches so you can at least document what your idea was.

Fashion inspiration for me isn’t just in clothing or literal fashion objects.  I really like color photography like William Eggleston, for instance. The bold colors in his work really inspire me. When I’m planning a photo shoot, I’m not just thinking about the garment but also the mood I want to convey.

Visit C Sews next week for more of my interview with Jamie Lau.

The Embroidered Wrap

In October I began embroidering a wrap featured in Natalie Chanin’s book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design (see my post “Getting Started on My “Alabama Fur” Wrap“). After a few evenings and about 15 hours of stitching spirals on this black jersey knit fabric, I realized that I was making spirals on the so-called wrong side of t fabric. Ack!

How did this happen? Well, I was sewing in the bedroom where the light isn’t so great – and I probably need to get reading glasses sometime soon. The weave on this fabric was rather tight and frankly I couldn’t really see much difference from one side to the other. The right side was supposed to have fine ribs and the other loops but it really wasn’t obvious.

So I just picked a side and began embroidering. Then one day when I was stitching again, I thought, hmmm, let me see what else people say about the wrong side/right side of jersey knit fabric. I found something saying that jersey fabric curls up toward the right side on the cross grain. So I looked at my wrap and realized “Oh, no, crap – I’ve been stitching my spirals on the wrong side!”

I felt my face get hot and I just there in a slight stupor. I’d already put in 15 hours on those spirals. What to do? I’d only covered about ten percent of the wrap, which meant I had many more hours to go. So should I rip out all the spirals I’d already completed?

I put it away for about a week. Then I looked at it and thought, well, the weave is tight, it doesn’t really look like the “wrong” side; I don’t want to rip out those stitches; I can live with the mistake; having the wrap curl up on the ends of the wrap is OK because that part will be over my arms.

I took a long break from it. I didn’t work on it for about a month (and I haven’t written new post since then). Also I really had no idea how slow embroidering can be. I haven’t embroidered anything since I was a kid. It takes a few minutes to stitch each spiral – and that’s not counting separating the strands of floss and threading needles.

I’ve got a system now: Cut several lengths of floss; separate strands; thread two strands per needle; knot strands. I usually thread about a dozen needles and then start stitching. My hubby and I have been reading aloud some nonfiction books to each other and when he reads, I stitch. He’ll read about 15 to 20 minutes and then it’s my turn.

I started embroidering again last week and now I’m a little more than halfway across the wrap. I’m not putting the spirals so close together anymore. Also, I’m not following the stencil provided by the book. I’m improvising and just embroidering spirals wherever I feel like it. I’m spacing them out because I don’t have the patience for more than that.

I like the space though. And I could always add more later if I really want the full “Alabama fur” effect. I’ll post an update when I’m finally finished with this embroidered wrap!

Note on photos: My Macbook Pro died last month (wah!) so I’m stuck using my iPhone for photos. I’m using a Chromebook until I can figure out what I’m going to get as my replacement laptop. 

Getting Started on My “Alabama Fur” Wrap

Photo of Alabama “fur” from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design

When I got my copy of Natalie Chanin’s Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, which I reviewed in September, I was all fired up to make a wrap embroidered with spirals, or what designer Natalie Chanin calls “Alabama fur.”

The “fur” is created by leaving one-inch tails of embroidery floss on the right side of your fabric. You knot the thread and leave a tail at the beginning and end of each spiral. It’s an amazing look, isn’t it? This is a photo from the book.

The Fabric Outlet in San Francisco was having a 40 percent off sale that week so I was determined to find some jersey fabric and embroidery thread and get going. All of the clothes in the book are made from organic cotton jersey.

I really haven’t made very many things using jersey fabric so I as I browsed, I just kept in mind what I’d read about knits: jersey curls up on the ends, interlock and ribbed knit stays flat.

I found some black jersey and it seemed like it was cotton (or maybe it was a blend). But hey, it was $9.99/yard and it was on sale (40 percent off!). (Yes, I am a sucker for a fabric sale.) It had a nice medium weight so I bought a few yards.

Then I hunted for embroidery floss and got several skeins of black, very light grey (DMC 3024), and dark grey (DMC ultra dark beaver grey). My spirals could be stitched using those three colors.

Next I had to enlarge by 342 percent, the spiral stencil pictured in the book. I did a test page on 11 “x 17″ paper but that only got one small part of the stencil on the page. So I went to a copy place in San Francisco that did large-scale enlargements. The finished printout was poster-size 24″ x 36”. Whoa – I didn’t know it was going to be that big. It cost about $11 for the enlargement.

Now I had all my materials and was ready to get underway. I used freezer paper to create the pattern and cut out two pieces of fabric 21″ x 30 inches. The books says if you are going to add embellishment, to use a double layer of fabric.

But how was I supposed to get that spiral stencil on the fabric?

There was no way I was going to cut out the spirals with an exacto black and then trace them on the fabric. I could see that that could take f-o-r-e-v-e-r.  So should I use tracing paper? I really didn’t know what I was supposed to do and the book didn’t really address this as it referred to all the designs in the book as stencils, which mean cut them out. Ha.

I posted a photo of the stencil on Instagram and Twitter and said: “OK I enlarged the @AlabamaChanin spiral design. Now how shd I transfer it to #fabric?”

Lo and behold! I got an answer from Alabama Chanin via Instagram! “We use textile paint but you can also use a marker or a pencil and trace them.” I was thrilled to get a response. (Yay for social media!)

However, I couldn’t see myself tracing all those spirals. I’m impatient and that just seemed really tedious. So I put the fabric on top of the photocopy of the spirals and started drawing the spirals in marking pencil on my fabric. But before I began doing that, I had to figure out what was the so-called “right side” of the jersey fabric.

The book had close-up photos illustrating what the wrong and right side looked like but I couldn’t really tell from my fabric because it was a rather tightly woven jersey and there really didn’t seem to be much of a difference so I just picked a side and began. Also it really hot that week because we were in the midst of an unseasonable fall heat wave and I didn’t have any bright (hot) lights on. Plus I just wanted to get started. (Did I mention I’m impatient?)

I was essentially freehand drawing – looking at the spirals and trying to draw them as they appeared on the photocopy. I drew spirals on one corner and then I began embroidering using two strands of embroidery floss doubled, which meant that each stitch would have four strands.

This is a backstitch endeavor, per the book. (If you don’t know what a backstitch is, here’s a nice explanation “How-to: Back Stitch” from Sublime Stiching.)

I knew it was going to be slow going but I didn’t realize how slow until I began making the stitches. After a couple hours, I hadn’t finished very many spirals. I stitched for a few hours every evening for three days straight. But I quickly realized after I made one black spiral, that black wasn’t going to work because it completely disappeared against the black knit fabric. Duh.

I don’t know why I thought black would work. I thought I would at least see a texture but it’s like those spirals aren’t even there (see spirals circled in red). Darn it!

So I stuck with the greys. By the second day, I was more efficient at making the spirals and I had my own assembly line going – I threaded six needles so I didn’t have to keep stopping to separate the strands and thread the needle. I just used the grey, threading needles with two strands of dark grey, two strands of very light grey and then one strand each of dark and very light grey. I tried a strand of black and a strand of grey but the black still disappeared so I just stopped using black altogether.

Then I decided I needed another color, maybe a grey that was in between the dark grey and black. So I went to Lacis in Berkeley, which carries many embroidery flosses, including every single DMC color available. I looked at all the colors but didn’t see a really dark grey.

Then helpful store clerk pointed out DMC 399, very dark pewter grey (right). It’s a grey with more blue in it. It still wasn’t as dark as I would have liked but it was subtly different from the other dark grey.

My Alabama fur wrap is underway! When I’m further along, I’ll write another post about it.

Three days of embroidering