Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday Morning Diary Bits ~ April 2014

First I made it through!  Didn't kill anyone. Didn't get fired. Didn't quit. Made it through two extremely stressful weeks of work. I knew I was reaching the end because I've started to think of sewing again...always a good thing!

Second ~ spring is coming as evidenced by the trees in my complex which are budding.  I've exhaled because the cold and the snow are definitely in my rear view window and I can now look forward to warm breezes, sunny days, a lot of green scenery and wearing a dress, skirt or maxidress for months and months! To say I'm thrilled is an understatement!

I am in the sewing cave right now...putting winter fabrics back onto the shelves and new patterns away that were purchased during the last Club BMV sale.

Speaking of patterns - the spring McCall's Patterns showed up online this week. I've pretty much stopped doing reviews on the collections but the plus size patterns in this collection are soooooooo fugly that McCalls needs to be called out on this!

McCalls 6970 - seriously a belt is not going to help this fugliness.
There is nuthin' stylish, cute or trendy about this outfit!  It just
says bathe me in fabric because I've given up!

McCalls 6971 - Why? I'm totally befuddled by this bigass
top with a tie in the middle and those highwater pants? 
Oops those are supposed to be cropped pants?  Huh????

...and the accompanying "dress" because no one
I know would be caught dead outside the house in
this hospital gown! All it needs is some ties in the back!

Lay on the ground, make a snow angel and have someone
trace you...then use a quilting cotton...a fugly quilting
batik cotton to make a top. Yeah that's McCalls 6292.

If these were the only patterns available to me as a plus size woman, I would be arrested in the street for appearing nekkid because I wouldn't wear this crap! Truly McCalls should have left these on the drawing board...*sigh*

Which is really interesting because I do want to purchase a pattern...McCalls 6969...I really want a jumpsuit. Let's be clear here, a jumpsuit...NOT the romper that's also included in this pattern!

Now truly I should know better because I've worn this style before...back in high school...and you know that rule about if you've worn it during it's first incarnation you really shouldn't wear it when it comes round again...but I wanna go there...yeah I really want to go there! I mean I wear platform pumps! *LOL*

Which brings me to Jenny of Cashmerette and Mary of Idle Fancy who have joined forces with six other plus size bloggers to form the Curvy Sewing Collective.  This is such an awesome idea and it features six amazing sewists who revel in their body type and sew beautiful clothing. Hopefully you will follow their sewing adventures because I know I will be!

Next up is the pattern alterations for the OFCG Challenge but I have to tell you that I want to sew something from each of the new Vogue patterns using fabric from the collection. Actually I want to sew from quite a few of the new patterns that have accumulated in the sewing cave in the last couple of months.  So that is my goal for the upcoming months - use as many of my new patterns as I can and to use my TNTs sparingly.  Now this should be interesting!

Well the sewing cave is calling... always more later!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

OFQC: Prepping the Fabrics

I knew the minute I touched my fat quarters that I would be making dresses with them. One ~ some days it does feel like spring will eventually arrive and my pants get shelved during nicer weather. Two ~ I agreed to make wearable garments - that means dresses in my book.

After sketching out my ideas and pulling fabrics, I knew that I would have to add additional steps to prep my fabrics. I'm using linen as my base fabrics and I machine wash my linen dresses. So to pretreat linen I usually wash and dry it two or three times. That left me making a decision about the cotton fat quarter inserts. Now I know most quilters do not pretreat the quarters before making their quilts, but I would need to do so. I didn't want to deal with the possibility of the cotton shrinking and the linen barely doing so. Because of that everything ended up in the washing machine with two Shout color catchers.

Recently I'd bought a box of the color catchers after a reader recognized a ponte I'd bought from Fabric Mart and she left a comment saying that her piece had run in the washer. I still haven't pretreated that piece but I knew that the dye in the deep red linen would run and I didn't want it ruining the fat quarters I washed with it.

That was the first challenge.  The next was to stabilize the fat quarters.  After taking them out of the dryer, I stabilized the back of each one with some lightweight fusible interfacing. I wanted the two fabrics (the linen and the cotton fat quarters) to be about the same weight. Now to be completely honest here, all of this pretreatment shrunk my fat quarters. This won't affect the way that I use them, but I don't know if it affects the rules. I don't think it should but you nevah know with those margarita challenges! *LOL*

Finally, here is a picture of the quick sketch I made to use for the basis of the red dress.

Originally I was going to make a skirt for the second piece but I've decided upon another sketch for this one. I'm walking around with the idea burned into my creative mind. Next up will be the pattern alterations for the Red OFCG dress. always more later!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Sewing Machine Maintenance ~ Do you or don't you?

I think most sewists know the basics of sewing machine maintenance - changing your needles often, keeping your tension disks free of lint and thread, checking your bobbin casing and adding oil if your machine requires it AND if your machine requires it oiling it on the regular.

But do you do that?

One thing I've learned now that I'm sewing & serging with top of the line machines, is that I need to stay on top of my maintenance.  Which means removing plates on my sewing machine that I never did on the others, making sure that I change needles and insert them correctly or don't use a blunt one, removing lint with a tweezer and make-up brushes...never using canned air on them.  Even constantly wiping them down to remove the inevitable dust.

But do you do this?

When I was younger - read less experienced - I cut corners.  I had limited funds so I would use a needle until it broke.  I removed the bobbin case only under extreme duress.  I was so afraid that I'd never get it back in and then what would I sew on?  I rarely played with the tension on my sewing machine - Gawd forbid that I couldn't get a straight stitch again!  And I used canned air on my machines like it was adding gas to my car...*sigh* I'm surprised that my machines didn't quit on me earlier than they did!

So how about you?  

Are you crazed about your sewing machine and serger maintenance?  Do you have a healthy attitude about changing your needles and oiling your machine or are you loosey goosey?  This is the Question of the talk to me. How much maintenance do you do to your sewing machine?!  Or is that a matter for the sewing machine repair guy?  I'm the comment section is open! always more later!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A Quickie ~ The Blue/Black Print Skirt

When I work the hours I've been working lately, my sewing mojo hibernates...and an involved project just irritates me.  If I'm going to sew, I need something quick and easy.  Something I can sew up in a weekend but brings a little ooomph with it. This piece of fabric arrived in the last Fabric Mart haul and I knew I wanted to make a quick skirt as soon as I pulled it out of the box...even though that's not what I bought it for!

BTW, it's still on the site, here.  Now to be perfectly honest, this fabric looks better than it's hand feels.  It has a lot of polyester in it with a slightly brushed back...and even though it's not a natural fabric, the resulting skirt is kewl...which reminds me of this black dress made from some very poly fabric from Fabric Mart too. However, the fabric was perfect for what I needed to sew this weekend. Plus it will be hardworking as well as hard-wearing!

I really did make this pull on skirt as simple as possible.  There is no lining. The only complicated thing was that I bound the hemline and the elastic casing. I couldn't totally toss my "couture" ways to the wind! *LOL*

Full inside view

Binding on the elastic casing

Binding at the hemline

So here's the skirt...

The stats ~
*1 yard of Ocean Blue/Black/Multi Zig-Zag Weave Abstract Suiting
*TNT elastic waist skirt pattern 
*1" wide non-roll elastic
*2 yards of black cotton bias binding

More Construction Details ~
I did peg the hem of the skirt by taking in an additional 1.5" on both sides of the skirt.  The hem was machine stitched down.  Believe me besides pressing the binding in half, this was the easiest sew possible.  It only took me two weekends and all day to do, though! *LOL* But I wasn't rushing this, I just needed to sew something.

More pictures of the skirt...which as you can see are taken out on the porch. It was pretty warm today and my youngest daughter was around and volunteered again to take pictures.  I think it's because she is enthralled with my camera.

I did cook today and I also got the fabric pretreated for my OFQC dress.  All in all a very successful day.  I won't be wearing this skirt until later this month...this week I will be in my black suits with my new black 'n white slingbacks.

Finally, these pictures were taken by my youngest daughter who makes me laugh really loud and act silly so here is an outtake...

I've scheduled a few posts for this week so I won't be leaving you alone like I did last week. Next weekend I will be working on my OFQC dress because that April 30th date is fast approaching!  I've decided not to make an Easter Dress this year instead I'm going to wear this one because I've only worn it once...

Last thing...Jenny who writes the blog, Cashmerette, wrote an awesome post called, "One stop guide to sewing pattern sizes" that compares all of the sewing pattern companies (Big 4 and Indies) in one chart so you can see what size range you fall into, which is especially helpful to my plus size sistahs. But it was really wonderful of Jenny to do this and I think we all can benefit from this knowledge.  So bookmark the page and reference it whenever you shop for patterns!

Oh sorry, one more last thing...I received a book in the mail to review so that will show up on the blog shortly. always more later!

Saturday, April 05, 2014


It's been a long six days full of 12-13 hour days and absolutely no thoughts of sewing.  So after sleeping late this morning, then having lunch with my Mom and daughter, doing a little shopping and sneaking in an afternoon nap...

I was thrilled to enter the sewing cave for the first time in a week.  I actually have no plans to desire because I'm still so tired...but I'm sitting in my favorite place at home... sewingcave just as it clean ups here...though I probably should!!!

This is what's laying on my sewing table...

...a simple skirt from the last Fabric Mart haul.  Finally these shoes, followed me home from shopping...they match a handbag that I bought from QVC (yes it's as treacherous to me as Fabric Mart is! *LOL*). I've wanted a pair of black and white slingbacks for awhile because black and white is hot for spring. I actually have a few black and white outfits planned to sew. that's been my day.  Tomorrow I'm going to cook a big dinner for the family and prep for work because I have another week of 10-12 hour days. If I feel like it, I'm going to prep the fabric for my Oona Fat Quarter Challenge. Of course, I'll keep you updated! always more later!

Saturday, March 29, 2014


These 17 pieces of fabric have shown up from Fabric Mart and in the last six weeks.  They are a mixture of ponte, wovens, maybe a knit piece or two, and denim.  Kristin asked about my fabric purchasing in a couple of posts back since I hadn't posted many fabric acquisitions lately.  So I thought I would share that I'm still addicted.

Oh and let's not forget these two pieces recently purchased from Metro Textiles...

I'm trying to make a conscious decision to buy less...skipping more of Fabric Mart's sales...though it's been hard lately since they've been running so many amazing sales. I try to tell myself that I already own some of whatever I'm looking at, because usually I do. But every once in awhile I'll find pieces that either call to me or are what I've been thinking about using and they aren't in the I buy them.

Mostly though I wrote this post for me. This week at work, I was handed our meeting schedule for April and May. Let's just say that I'm going to spend a lot of time at work during the next 8 weeks, which has caused me to cancel my vacation in May, and may mean that I will be sleeping more on the weekends instead of sewing. I even have to work tomorrow...*sigh* So I wrote this post to remind myself NOT to buy fabric since I won't be sewing. Hopefully being able to look at these photos will help me not to load my cart on my favorite fabric internet sites and pull the trigger...hopefully!

BTW, Fabric Mart is having a wonderful sale on linen 40% off and an additional 20% off their 50% off category.  Do me a favor?  Go over there and buy up the yardage so I won't be tempted to! *LOL* always more later!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Deer & Doe Plaintain Top Experiment

I don't purchase the new indie patterns.  There are several reasons for that. 

1.  Most of them don't grade up to plus size ranges thus eliminating my size group. Many times I just don't feel like spending the money to size up a pattern.

2.  Most of them are for a more casual lifestyle - I sew for my work life which is considerably more conservative and tailored than these styles.

3.  I've been sewing a long time so many times I already own a pattern that's similar to one of these styles.  Finally...

4.  I really don't believe that I'm their target audience. 

But I was intrigued about this Deer & Doe Plaintain t-shirt because a new to me plus size blogger, u & mii, that I've been following (stalking) made several very pretty versions of them, that got me thinking. I printed the pattern out at work and left it on my desk. One of my co-workers saw it and wondered if it would be hard for me to make it for I got this idea...make the pattern changes for her, myself and my boss. We are all different shapes and sizes and I thought it would be a really interesting exercise to see how it fits three different body types.

However, I have to tell you that after taping the pattern together it's going to be so much easier to make this top for my co-workers than for myself. I would have to totally hack this pattern apart to make it work for me...*sigh*...and I realized yet again why I don't use indie patterns.

Here are the pattern pieces taped together...

A full shot of the pattern pieces on my sewing table to show just how small these pieces are.  See all that stuff on the side?  It takes up a quarter of the table.  My pattern pieces usually take up the entire table...

Here are my co-workers who will benefit from this exercise because I've decided that there is just too much work involved in sizing this pattern up for me.

I now have even more admiration for T! I love her versions but I have absolutely no patience or time to mess with this pattern for me.  So I will make up two samples this weekend for my co-workers to try and then I'll work on the pink wool crepe dress for myself.

I'm disappointed but not very surprised that this pattern won't work for me. Whenever I see one of my plus size sistahs making one of these indie patterns work, I'm filled with awe and admiration! I'm looking at you Mary and Jenny!

So I will share the finished tees I make for my coworkers but for myself I'm moving on... always more later!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Vogue 8343 Five Easy Pieces Pattern Dress

I've probably had this pattern in the pattern stash for seven years since the copyright date is 2006.  Of course it's now out of print, but the reason I purchased it was because it's one of the Five Easy Pieces patterns. You know the patterns that come with a complete set of wardrobe coordinates.  I bought it because I wanted to make the skirt, top, dress and jacket. It's a great pattern for the corporate type workplace I live in.

I started with the dress. The fabric I'm using has been in the collection for a minute.  How long though I can't tell you because its missing the information tag that I usually place on the fabric.  

Materials List ~
Medium weight brown knit

22" brown invisible zipper
lightweight fusible knit interfacing strips
3.5" black faux leather strips

Pattern Alterations ~  
First, I added an inch to the turtleneck portion of the dress. I wanted to insure that the dress had a true turtleneck not a mock one.

When tissue fitting, I realized that the dress was midi length on me so I cut 3" off the hemline of the dress.

All of the pattern pieces were laid on my TNT front and back dress pieces to insure that there was enough width to the pattern pieces. In various places a half inch or more was added in the waist or hip area so that the V8343 pieces would work on my body.

Construction Techniques ~
The main thing about this dress is that it's a knit dress with a good bit of stretch and I wanted to tame portions of that stretch so that it would play well with the non-stretchy fabric.  To do this I added 1" strips of fusible knit interfacing to the side seams and the center back seams of the knit fabric.  It stabilized the fabric and allowed me to insert the invisible zipper, as well as, add the leather bands without a problem.

My non-stretchy fabric was the 3.5" faux leather bands that I added to the sides of the dress and to the sleeve hems.  I was a little short on fabric after cutting out the main dress pieces. So when I cut the sleeves out, I knew I was going to add something to lengthen the sleeves. 

After stitching the princess seams together, I realized that the dress would fit but it would be really tight. Now I know that tighter fitting garments is the new norm but I'm not comfortable in too tight clothing, not only because I don't believe in sharing my rolls with other people but also because it's not a good look for a corporate office like mine. 

That's when I came up with the idea to add the 3.5" faux leather bands down the sides of the dress, as well as, the sleeves.  Of course when I first pinned and stitched the bands to the sides of the dress, I did a straight 3.5" from top to bottom, which made the top of the dress too loose.  So I went in and took the excess you can see in the picture below...

...this solved my problem with the fit in the top and the bottom of the dress. So you see those side gussets in the Olivia Pope top had its genesis in this dress.

One more thing about the sleeves is that I used the jacket sleeve pattern instead of the dress sleeve because I was to lazy to increase the bicep on the dress sleeve.  The jacket sleeve had enough room in the biceps but of course the sleeve cap was larger than the actual sleeve opening.  To solve this challenge, I added pleats to the sleeve caps. It worked but the shoulders are drooping down my arm.

At this point, I know that I need to take the sleeves out and reinsert them...but I'm about done with this dress especially since it fits like a tent. It's not working out the way that I envisioned so I'm trying to decide whether or not to finish and donate it or trash it.  Also, it's a reminder that winter just won't go away and I'm so ready for it to be gone.

A few pictures of the dress as it is now...

Full view of the dress with the princess seaming and leather bands

Neckline pinned with the elastics I was going to add as loops for buttons

I thought I would show a failure since my last make was such a success. Even I can produce a dog now and then! I think I'm going to let it sit through the summer and see if I want to finish it next winter because it will work with these pieces... always more later!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Inspired by Olivia Pope

Of course, I'm totally unable to make a simple garment.  I've made a few subtle changes to my version of the inspiration top which was highlighted in the last post.

After using the last week to think about the top, I decided that my version is too tight. I added side gussets to give myself 2.5 inches of ease and make the top fit more like a tunic. I also added black piping to the neckline. Finally I left the sleeves fitted...some because I was too lazy to take the sleeves out. They are perfectly inserted and I was loath to remove them. After trying the top on, I liked the slimmer sleeves, so they stayed.

A picture of me wearing the top with my little black dress...

TNT dress pattern shortened to tunic level

A satin finish silk/wool gazar lace print designed by Milly purchased from Elliot Berman

22" invisible zipper shortened to 18"
black piping
white bemberg lining
ivory rayon seam tape
white bias binding
(BTW, all of these items are from my notions stash!)

I thought I would share how I added the gussets to the sides of the top. I started by cutting a 17" x 2.5" wide strip. I made sure that the bottom of the strip was the same as the bottom of the top so that the print would match up. Pictures of the insertion are below...

I opened the side seams up to the bust dart

Added the 2.5" rectangle using 1/2" seam 
allowances ending in a triangle in the bust dart area

How it appears from the outside.

I can never leave a good thing alone so I added some black piping at the neckline. I just felt like the top needed an ending point for the lace pattern. The piping isn't on the designer's top. I just didn't like the neckline unadorned.

Black rayon piping from the top's right side

Bias binding used to finish the neckline

Inside of the finished garment

My final finishing touch ~ I covered the hemline seams (sleeves and top hem) with ivory rayon seam binding.

Adding seam binding pressed in half to one of the sleeves

Seam binding on the hem of the top prior to hemming

A few more pics:

Top worn with my little black dress

Side view of top with black pants from 
Crazy 8 Tunic & Pants outfit

Front view

Back view

Initially I thought this was a quick and easy top to sew. It wasn't. There was a lot of work to make this simple design look easy, so I'm understanding that costly price tag better now. However, it was worth my time and effort because the top works with most of my black bottoms.

I'd like to give a quick shout-out to my youngest daughter who was visiting and volunteered to take these pics. Just so that no one thinks I got these from my tripod/camera set up.

This has been a slow sewing month.  As usual I've had more plans than time to make them. I honestly don't know if I'm going to get to the red wool pieces now. I really want a pastel pink wool crepe dress and I have an idea for one that I'm aching to sew. Also, I downloaded the Deer & Doe Plaintain tee and I want to try that out. By the time I get these finished, it will be well into April and time to start spring sewing.

I know that I've made some great basics for fall/winter but I'm sad that I'm putting away my wools since I love sewing with them so much. always more later!


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