Friday, February 25, 2011

Sewing Gadgetmania: Tailor's ham and seam roll by the Cupcake Goddess

I followed up on Pammie's recommendation for the Tailor's Ham and Seam roll (she commented on these two tools for the Sewing Gadgetmania giveaway) and contacted The Cupcake Goddess for her set. I must say, I love it and if I didn't have one already I would have definitely bought hers!

Why would I buy it?

1. Even though you would pay less for Dritz tailor's ham and seam roll, her sets look adorable and are available in different designs. I noticed in her Etsy shop that she even makes custom sets.

Here are few examples:

2. They are made really well: quality materials, wool and cotton side, extra firm, filled with sawdust, and additional sawdust included (!). Here is the description of her set:
A colorful and whimsy twist on these classic pressing essentials. Handmade Tailor's Ham and Seam Roll set; pressing aids for the "hard-pressed" stitcher.  
These essential dressmaking aids are made from all natural materials. Each have a 100% cotton side, a 100% wool side and are lined inside in 100% cotton muslin. The cotton side is for pressing with high heat and the wool side is for pressing with low heat.  
This Tailor's Ham and Seam Roll set are hand stuffed, extra firm, with recycled white pine sawdust flour. Additional sawdust and a strand of embroidery floss is included with your purchase should you need to refill your Tailor's Ham or Seam Roll. Please note that depending on wear and tear and climate conditions, sawdust compacts naturally and refilling your pressing aids might be necessary. All fabrics have been pre-laundered and will not shrink or bleed. The Tailor's Ham measures approximately 6 x 9 inches wide and Seam Roll measures approximately 11 x 4 inches wide. A ric-rac hanging tag completes each ham and roll and is perfect for hanging when not in use.

additional sawdust is included in the set by The Cupcake Goddess

3. And, finally, I would rather buy handmade products by local and independent designers, artists and artisans rather than mass produced tools.

For more sewing tips and fun visit her blog: The Cupcake Goddess

P.S. I just want to add that I am not getting any fee or commission for this post, it's my personal point of view and I would love to hear your feedback on the topic of local artisanship vs mass production.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blitz Giveaway: Can you guess what it is?

There are two reasons for this Blitz Giveaway:

Reason #1: I am de-stashing my vintage patterns

Reason #2: Mr. Frabjous told me that my icon for the Sewing Gadgetmania is too abstract to be recognized AS....


If you can guess what sewing gadget this icon stands for, you may win this pretty pattern (size 12):

Just leave a comment with the correct answer by Tuesday March 1, 2011, and I will add your name to the drawing. (I will prove you wrong, Mr. Frabjous :-))

For more chances to win, read my initial post on Sewing Gadgetmania here.

Finished object #2: Draped Flared skirt.

I know, it seems I haven’t been doing any sewing lately. But this is not the case. In fact, I have almost finished three different projects, which I will be uploading one by one starting today.

The first one is a gray skirt, which was based on my ‘circular/gored skirt’ draping project I blogged earlier about here.

It was extremely easy to drape, but finishing this skirt took me ages. The main problem was making and attaching bias binding made of silk organza. It is extremely unruly and difficult to handle. After I conquered this one, the rest was much easier. I inserted a zipper and closed the side seam. Finally I serged the waist and attached a grosgrain ribbon.

I don’t know if this skirt makes me very happy. I mean, it's kind of cute, but not perfect. Or maybe I am tired of looking at it? What do you think, dear readers?


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sewing Gadget Mania: No.4 French Curve by Magda

And yet another nomination by Magda (http://magdamagdadesignstudio.blogspot.com/), - the French Curve

French curves are very helpful for perfecting curved lines on the pattern. There are different French curves available with a variety of shapes suitable for drafting curves for armholes, necklines, crotched seams, curved dart legs, lapels.  My patternmaking instructor recommended using a 17” French curve (as the one on the image) because, with careful shifting, it can draw all the mentioned shapes and more.

If you need to draw two identical curves on a pattern, make marks on the French curve where you started and stopped drawing the shape.  Use pencil (it can be removed easily by rubbing the mark with a finger). Flip or shift the curve to the new location. 

Some instructors recommend using the Fashion Ruler. “It combines the functions of a hip curve, ruler and French curve”, claims the description for one available on Amazon. I, personally, find the French curve to be more versatile, and also own a hip curve

P.S. If you missed the original post on Sewing Gadget Mania and the opportunity to win the Little Black Dress Book, read it here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sewing Gadget Mania: No.3 Tailor's Ham and Seam Roll by Magda

This nomination is submitted by Magda of http://magdamagdadesignstudio.blogspot.com/

Tailor’s Ham, Dressmaker’s Ham, or just Ham, this tool is essential to preserve a curved shape when pressing or shaping any curved garment section. It is especially helpful for pressing darts, curved shoulder seams, princess seams over the bust, and the hip area of side seams.  It is essential, in my opinion, for shaping the sleeve cap or the collar roll.

I have added to the submission a seam roll since a ham and a seam roll are often sold together, and, in addition, they are made in a similar way, with wool on one side and cotton on the other. The wool absorbs moisture rapidly, facilitating any shaping or pressing process.

In addition, the seam roll is narrow enough to fit into a sleeve and pant leg. It’s shape prevents a ridge from forming when pressing seams open, provided seam allowance is wide enough (at least 1” - 2.5cm in couture garments).

I would recommend buying the ham and the seam roll. It is readily available in many US online stores, or on Amazon. However, if you want to make it yourself, there is a Kwik Sew pattern for both pieces available again on Amazon. Finally, there are helpful instructions on making the ham VintageSewing.info (great site for vintage sewing techniques) 

Thank you, Magda!

P.S. If you missed the original post on Sewing Gadget Mania and the opportunity to win the Little Black Dress Book, read it here

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sewing Gadget Mania: No.2 Point Presser & Clapper by La Inglesita

Thanks to La Inglesita for submitting the second nomination for 'want-need-must-have' sewing gadgets:

She writes:
"I´ve been trying to locate a presser clapper in Spain for some time but my research proved it is not used or even heard of over here. I then asked professional tailor makers how they pressed collars and most of them said they used only the ironing board. I also learned from them they use just a few of these tools. BUT I still want-need-must have a clapper."
For those who need an introduction to the Point Presser and Clapper, Threads Magazine describes it as 'an invaluable piece of equipment that sells for around $20'.
"It's a classic, hardwood pressing tool that's really two tools in one. The top, narrow-surfaced, point presser side works like a tiny ironing board for pressing hard-to-reach seams and enclosed corners, like those on collars, lapels, and cuffs. 
A point presser is invaluable for pressing hard-to-reach seams. Slip the seam, wrong side up, over the point and press open.
The bottom, clapper side is used to apply pressure to set permanent creases, form crisp edges, and flatten bulky seams. To use it, first apply steam to the area with your iron, then press with the clapper, leaning on it and applying as much pressure as possible. Hold this position until both the fabric and wood (which presses the steam into the area without adding heat) have cooled. "
La Inglesita is a runner up for this great book:

If you want to nominate your very special must have gadget and win this book, read more here.  A poll will decide the best nomination!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Win a Book! --- Sewing Gadget Mania: No.1 / The 'Lady's Knife'

The Lady's Knife by Bernina, a.k.a. Swiss Sewessential
Every man ought to own a great swiss army knife, right? I also have one and I love it. Mine carries just 15 tools, but it can have as many as 85 tools (no joke, an 2lb/1kg pocket knife)! It is, no doubt, a cult object for men, but how about us, ladies???? 

Well, Bernina would not be a swiss company if they had not offered this ultimate Lady's Swiss Knife:
"The versatile tool, dubbed the 'Swiss Sewessential: the ultimate Swiss sewing accessory', consists of 17 superbly crafted individual tools, including a special rotary knife, awl and hem-measure, and combines outstanding BERNINA quality with WENGER's tried-and-tested precision. The practical pocket sewing tool's 'multifunction tool' represents a further sophisticated innovation launched by BERNINA: the universal tool encompasses a handful of individual gadgets that are a breeze to remove and reinsert. This smart sewing machine accessory will be available for purchase from all BERNINA stockists."       
Special rotary knife? hem measure? awl? so, now I am obsessing about the Swiss Sewessential!!!! I am such a sucker for gadgets. If you want to buy it, google for 'Swiss Sewessential' - I found one in Germany for 85 euro, not cheap, admit, but isn't it a fun gadget to have ?

Sewing gadgetmania: win a book!!!

Ok, this knife made me start a new series here, on my blog, Sewing Gadget Mania (that is, sewing gadgets that can beat men's swiss army knives, or even iPhones?).

So, for the following 10 weeks, every Friday, I will post a new gadget here, and this Lady's Knife from Bernina is #1 on the list.

What about you? Do you like it? Would you pay so much for this tool? And, what are you favourite sewing tools? Let me know if you have a great tool you wouldn't want to part with, and I will post your suggestion on my blog. How would it qualify? Ask, what makes the tool so valuable? Is it the producer? An outstanding quality? Maybe, it is not produced any longer? Is it antique, or vintage? Is it innovative? But, at the end, it's a judgement call, so just submit your suggestions.

I would love to hear from you!!!! Leave a comment here or send me a mail at mvk.fashion at gmail dot com.

A poll will determine the most popular gadget, and the winner will get this great sewing book featuring another cult object...

To win the book, submit your gadget proposal by April 28th, 2011.

vintage pattern giveaway!

Finally, even if you don't submit a gadget proposal, but like the idea, feel free, if you like, to grab this badge and display it on your blog. If you display the badge by March 1st, I will add your name to a Vintage Pattern Giveaway drawing (I am de-stashing my 300+ vintage patterns and will post three giveaway patterns shortly, shipping is free).

Below is the html code:

Don't forget to post a comment letting me know that you added the badge. I will draw the winner on March 1st.

Good luck everyone, thank you and hope you enjoy the Gadgetmania!

P.S. I had to add this note after today's trip to the Garment District: The Bernina Dealer actually had the Swiss Sewessential, however, he had no idea what it was. So, if you want to splurge ($85) ask authorized dealer in your area for the Swiss Sewessential - you may be lucky!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Me-Made-March 2011

"I, Marina v.K. of Frabjous Couture,  am very excited to sign up as a participant of Me-Made-March '11. I endeavour to wear at least one self-made or refashioned item each day for the duration of March 2011! In addition, I endeavour not to buy any ready-to-wear clothes for the duration of March 2011 and after. Le consumérisme est mort! Vive la viabilité!"

I have to explain: Zoe of "So, Zo... What do you know?" started this challenge. The idea is mainly "to encourage those of us who make and/or refashion clothes to actually wear them in their everyday lives"

I decided to take this opportunity to achieve few more goals. I regularly go shopping hunting for the perfect shirt, or skirt, or pants, wasting hours and not finding the one I want. Occasionally I do find what I want and spend $$ for it. I do like J. Crew, for example, and Anthropology, for that matter. But when I took a closer look at clothes I bought at Anthropology they were not all that great quality - yes, nice designs, but the construction is not that great. Besides, finding something that fits and flatters you is really a pain. 

Or look at J. Crew. They had great pencil skirts in silk twill or brocade starting at $300.  I tried one on: it didn't fit - the waist was too wide and there were few other fitting issues. Went to Mood Fabrics and got silk twill at one tenth of the cost, used my tried and tested pencil skirt toile - et voila, the skirt is done. 

But it is not only about the cost - I also don't like the idea of wearing something that has been produced in hundreds, or thousands. What about my own style, my mood, my personality. I'd rather go and select the fabric I know is going to fit the rest of my wardrobe and my favourite shoes. 

Finally, I am a 'green' person in many areas, household, work. But in fashion, I used to buy things at stores and donate them after wearing them only few times. I just wasn't that attached to those garments. There are garments in my closet I worn only once or twice because I've never really changed that collar, or hemmed those pants. Such a waste, really. So, I do hope to change these habits by participating in the Me-Made-March '11.

Now, with a full-time job and three kids, it will be very very very challenging, but I will try to do my best.  My goal: to minimize consumerism by living a sustainable life! 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Colette Spring Palette Challenge: Mood Board

This is my (somewhat late) inspiration board submission for the Colette Patterns Spring Palette Challenge

Grand Palais, Paris, the setting for the Chanel Spring/Summer 2011 Ready-to-Wear show, and the 1961 movie Last Year at Marienbad (which inspired this Lagerfeld’s collection for Chanel) made me want walk the streets of Paris on a sunny spring day, visiting museums and taking a break in one of the city’s beautiful parks. A lazy day I can only dream about right now. So, I decided to translate this dream into a mini-wardrobe...

Image Credits:

Top Left: Grand Palais Paris, the location of the Chanel Spring-Summer 2011 Ready-to-Wear Show

Top Centre: View through the Louvre Pyramid, Globe Hoppers.

Top Right: Packaging shot for the 1961 movie Last Year at Marienbad, film costumes designed by Coco Chanel.

Bottom Left: Lily of the Valley Mandala, by Shirley Two Feathers, Flickr 

Bottom Centre: Chanel Flower Ring as seen on Zhush 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Grainline marking: á la Dior

I had to add this very brief post to my last entry on grainlines and fitting.

Some time ago I bought this great out-of-print book on Amazon:
Kenneth, Frances. Secrets of the Couturiers. New York: Exeter, 1984. Print

So yesterday, reading the chapter on Dior, I came across his quote on grainline marking. (By the way, it is amazing, sometimes you just happen to come across specific information just when you are interested in it most):

"To facilitate the fittings, the dresses arrive at the studio entirely covered with guide threads. Those threads, in contrasting colours that show up clearly against the material, have been sewed through every one of the pieces that make up a dress. One follows the grain of the material, and the other is at right angles to it [crossgrain marking,  a-ha!!!]. The bias lies between the two. The guide threads, pitiless critics, reveal all the possible faults in the cut, and must find points of equilibrium in essential parts of the dress."

It sounds almost poetic dear readers, doesn't it? After reading this chapter I made connection with what i saw in men's bespoke tailoring where all jackets were meticulously marked for grainlines. And Dior used tailoring techniques to the extreme. Back to Shaeffer again, many of her Custom Couture patterns apply classical men's tailoring techniques. A whole new chapter...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Grainline and Fitting

How many times have I read about the importance of the grainline for the final look of a garment and for the fit. I take extra care when marking and cutting my garments, making sure that pattern pieces are aligned with the grain of the fabric.

But once the toile, or fashion fabric (when I skipped making toile), was cut, I ignored the grain line thinking enough had been done. I usually end up making several alterations, especially, when using commercial patterns. With all the individual figure issues (uneven shoulders, etc. etc.) my fitting was based on trial-and-error approach before: pulling fabric on one side, letting out on the other…

The result? DISTORTED BALANCE!!!! The garment pulled and twisted, especially after washing.

Why marking grain lines?

Hours wasted, garments abandoned, a stash of UFOs grew because of the poor fit. Are you familiar with this scenario, dear readers? I am, unfortunately!

What helps (and it is so obvious to me now) is the careful marking of the grainlines on the toile (and on fashion fabric).

A wonderful book, Fitting & Pattern Alteration (a little bit pricey but totally worth it!) explains in detail how to use grainline to evaluate fit. The authors caution that the grainline can be difficult to recognize, especially for less experienced dressmakers. “To simplify recognizing grainline during the fitting process and in the completed garment, it is advisable to transfer pattern grainlines onto fabric pieces with a marking tool such as pencil, transfer paper, or thread, depending on the type of fabric and the use of the garment… with practice, your eye will quickly identify grain position on the body and recognize even subtle needs for adjustments.”

an example of poor fit (Ben Chmura, a Project Runway designer, was eliminated for this design)

I realized all the advantages of marking grainlines when I started with draping. It took me less time to see where I had excess fabric, or where I needed to let out more. I believe this is possible because, once you have correct placement for lengthwise grain and crossgrain markings, you work on the fitting issues on smaller portions of garments enclosed by those marking lines.

“Recognizing accuracy or error in the position of the fabric grain or marked grainlines while on the body provides clues as to the success or failure of the fit. For example, if a crosswise grain curves up or down where it should be parallel, it is due to a body bulge or hollow directly above the curve of the grain,” explains the Fitting & Pattern Alteration book.

Draping guides are very explicit about the grainline marking and its use in fitting.  And in Haute Couture this is an extensively used technique according to Claire Shaeffer who writes in her Threads article “Sew your Hautes” that “garment centers and crossgrains are thread traced to be used as guidelines during the fitting.” (Issue 141, Feb/Mar 2009)

Why haven’t I seen this advice in many sewing books. Well, it seams it is not in the same league as home sewing… Ok, I agree, thread tracing, tailor tucks, and similar, do require additional time; but, at the same time, grainline marking IS a great fitting shortcut.

So now, I diligently trace my grainlines. And, Oh, dear readers, it is such a relief! 

Where to mark?

On muslin, I mark the lines with a fineliner and, if I need them to be visible on both sides, I tread trace them, (it really depends on the complexity of design).

If the muslin fits perfectly, great, just transfer the pattern to the fashion fabric. However, the reality is that the toile fabric and the fashion fabric drape differently, and, in this case, I often thread-trace grain lines and crossgrains on fashion fabric as well. One thing to be cautious about is the needle and the thread you are using for thread tracing – they should not leave marks on your fashion fabric. If you are not sure, use a scrap fabric to try a few stitches.

So where do you want to thread-trace?


Generally, lengthwise grain markings on a pattern are a good guide, so transfer those to your fabric making sure the line is marked all the way from the top to the bottom of the garment piece.


On skirts, mark the hip line (easy one!).

On blouses, jackets and dresses, in addition to the hipline, mark the bust line, cross-chest and cross-back lines. Claire Shaeffer explains in her book Couture Sewing Techniques: “The cross-chest and cross-back lines fall at the narrowest part of the chest and at the midpoint of the armscye. The bustline falls at the base of the underarm and may not actually be at the bust point.”

For marking crossgrain on sleeves, Shaeffer recommends marking the cap line and the biceps line. “The biceps line connects the top of the underarm seam and marks the crossgrain... The capline is located on the crossgrain midway between biceps line and shoulder point.”

For pants, it is recommended to thread trace the cross grains at the crotchline and the knee. I was a little disappointed, however, to find out that there are hardly any directions on thread –tracing of cross grains in Shaeffer’s Custom Couture patterns. Only the crotchline was marked on the pattern. I guess you would have to measure the distance from the crotchline/ or waistline to your knee and mark a perpendicular to the grainline at that point.


Lengthwise grain should always remain straight and perpendicular to the floor, the cross grain should run parallel to the floor on all basic straight designs.

Claire Shaeffer explains how to fit the skirt toile (p. 107). I am quoting only the crossgrain related comments: “The crossgrain at the hipline should be parallel to the floor for several inches at the center front and back. As it approaches the side seams, this crossgrain will begin to drop on all skirts with any flare, but not any basic straight designs. On a correctly balanced skirt , the crossgrain will drop an equal amount on both sides.

For sleeves, she says (p. 137) that “when the sleeve is correctly balanced, the lengthwise grain will hang straight from the shoulder point and be perpendicular to the floor, and the crossgrain will be parallel to the floor.”

On pants, the lengthwise grain will bend softly over the curve, but going downwards, from the widest point of your hips, it should run perfectly straight. 

Claire Shaeffer Custom Couture patterns (cont.): V8489 bias dress

This dress (V8489) must look gorgeous. It is cut on bias, uses piecing technique and has a great neckline. The pattern is recommended for hourglass and triangle figures. The dress is evening length, but if I did it for myself, I would probably make it knee-length.

The pattern is still available on Vogue Patterns website for the regular price of $16,50. On sale, it can cost as low as $3.50. I highly recommend this pattern for anyone who wants to practice bias construction. As always, I love comparing couture and regular construction techniques. Have you made this dress? if so, please comment with a link to your blog, I will add it to the Couture Patterns page under  this design.

MISSES' DRESS: Close-fitting, A-line, bias dress, evening length has shoulder straps and left side zipper, using couture sewing methods. Purchased trim on shoulder straps and armholes.

NOTIONS: 14" Zipper, 1 3/4 Yds. of approximately 1/2" beaded trim, Hooks and Eyes.
FABRICS: Wool Crepe, Wool Jersey and Crepe Back Satin. For piecing, allow extra fabric to match design. Lining: Organza. Unsuitable for obvious diagonals, plaids or stripes. Use nap yardages/layouts for pile, shaded or one-way design fabrics. *with nap. **without nap. No provision made for above waist adjustment.
COMBINATIONS: AA(6-8-10-12), EE(14-16-18-20)

A great review of the pattern and construction techniques is on the And She Sews blog.

If you are looking for information on other couture patterns by Claire Shaeffer, check out my Couture Patterns page. I am constantly updating it with new patterns.

P.S. I have contacted Vogue Patterns asking them whether they had a list of all Custom Couture Patterns they printed, but the answer was a "No". Hard to believe that they have no records to refer to, but well... I will try to contact Claire Shaeffer personally. But meanwhile, I will just continue posting my finds, hoping that one day I will have full list.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Couture Patterns (2): V7540 Dress by Claire Shaeffer

I am so excited about my growing collection of Shaeffer's Custom Couture designs for Vogue Patterns!

So, the next on the list is V7540: Misses' Dress & Belt (OOP). I purchased this out-of-print pattern this week on eBay - for very reasonable price.

Fitted, lined, straight, sleeveless dress, mid-knee, has welts and back zipper. A: armhole shields (I've seen those on dresses with sleeves only - very practical) and pockets. Lined belt has button closure.

Ok, the design is basic, but I am really interested in couture construction techniques for the neckline and armholes. I am sure i will discover more when the pattern arrives.
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