Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ten Reasons why you should get a copy of the revised Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer

Couture Sewing Techniques, Revised and Updated

The new and revised Couture Sewing Techniques is finally released and here is my list of  ten reasons why you should own it:

1. Better layout:
The layout is so much better! Text is set in different colors to differentiate the content, tips, pull-out boxes, blurbs. This dramatically improves the book navigation!

2. More Content:
over thirty more pages of content added as a result of the author's recent research.

3. More images:
Claire added more images to illustrate instructions, and they are invaluable!

4. Improved instructions:
Clearly marked step-by-step instructions for all processes of couture construction. If you own the previous edition, you know how the instructions were presented in run-on paragraphs making it difficult to use the book as a quick reference.

5. More how-to illustrations:

An example of a new illustration in Blouses and Dresses Chapter explains a step
in the construction of a blouse/skirt dress
6. Claire’s Hints:
Excellent short tips, mostly absent in the previous edition.

7. contemporary couture techniques from the worksrooms of Ralph Rucci and James Galanos

8. techniques by Mainbocher and Charles Frederick Worth
Shaeffer says in her acknowledgements that she worked on a research project that focused on Mainbocher and Worth. She seems to have added some of the new techniques as a result of this research

9. New chapter “Designing with Fabric”

Shaeffer introduced this chapter to demonstrate “a variety of design ideas and specific techniques to inspire you to use fabrics more creatively”.  A master of observation, Claire describes techniques used in haute couture garments by Antonio Canovas del Castilo,  Hubert de Givenchy, Chanel, Worth,  Hanae Mori, I. Magnin, Balenciaga, Victor Edelstein, These techniques are not necessarily obvious, but so easy to learn and to apply in your own garments. She focuses mostly on lace and stripes, but also covers other tricky fabrics which require special techniques to enable undisturbed design.

Seaming Lace to Lace: Lapped Seam, Buttressed Seam, Ribbon Seam
Seaming Lace to Fabric: Lace-on-fabrique Appliqué Seam, Applied Appliqué
Finishing Edges: Neckline Edges, Hems
Designing with Allover Lace Patterns:

Rearranging Stripes
Shrinking and Stretching
Pleats and Tucks
Cutting and Seaming

Wrong Sides and Selvedges: for fabrics with attractive wrong side and selvedge
Designing with Prints and Patterns: Matching Fabric Patterns
Designing with Appliqué
Sheer Fabrics

10. Affordable price! 
Amazon's $15 for this most unique resource is a steal! I got my copy yesterday!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Sewing Gadgetmania 9: Sock Darning Mushroom

Mending on the Royal Wedding Day?

Well, it's Sewing Gadgetmania Friday, and we have a fresh gadget nomination, and I am at my mending... and we all watched the Grace Kelly - inspired wedding dress, and, ooh, it was beautiful! and, yay, we know that there is an almost identical Vogue Pattern  on sale for $4.99 on VoguePatterns. Yes! The Royal Wedding Dress for $4.99! So, go snap it asap; it will become the next collectible soon...

Now, allow me to bring you back to earth - here is today's...

...yes, a sock darning mushroom nominated by Magda of MagdaMagdaDesign. Yay, you go girl! You will get a special loyalty prize for your indomitable contribution to this series* :-)
*Magda is the winner of the Little Black Dress book by Simon Henry.
No lengthy descriptions this time, because there is a great sock darning tutorial on Knitty.com.
For real darning aficionados, here is a Wikipedia Darning Page.

By the way, if you decide that you can't live without the mushroom, check out eBay or Etsy; or, as Magda suggested - a more frugal alternative - the lighting bulb.

Happy mending!

a propos, my couture mending pledge! Any ideas what couture techniques to use when mending socks? I thought about it all night... applying alencon lace? beads?... I need a break!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mending + Alterations à la Couture

Please, meet my mending pile:

I've deliberately put it in the middle of our library / sewing room to finally start mending these clothes. Some of them have been in this basket for a year, ouch.

So, I decided - truly a sewing exhibitionist - I will mend these garments using finest couture techniques, and keep you, dear readers, updated on my progress with tutorials on the techniques I used. Stay tuned for the first project tomorrow.

Socks à la couture, anyone?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Project Necktie

I apologize for the lack of finished garments this week - I still need to photograph them, which is the most challenging part for me. However, I would like to compensate for it by introducing a new project that makes a perfect Father’s day gift... custom neckties! 

As I found out during my recent trip to the Garment District, the idea of home-made ties is by far not an original one. In fact, there are literally swarms of well-meaning wives, girlfriends and boyfriends on a hunt for tie silk, interfacing and lining, snapping pictures of their finds and mailing them to their significant others for design approvals. 

Armed with the collective tie-making confidence level, I picked fabric for two new silk ties for Mr. Frabjous, which will be constructed using one of his beautiful but worn-out ties as a guide.

While sewing itself doesn’t take longer than an evening, there is some careful planning involved, especially if you are doing a tie for the first time. And since sharing the process with you, dear readers, is so much more fun, I decided to document it on this blog. I will start on Wednesday, May 4, and finish the project by May 20, which gives me two and half weeks to make two silk ties well in time for Father’s Day.

I will be re-creating a higher-end commercial silk necktie, using a standard tie construction method with a full-length interfacing, lined tip, and hand finishing.

Here is a quick breakdown of the upcoming necktie posts:

  1. Necktie types and the anatomy of a tie
  2. Notions & Tools
  3. Choosing fabric and interfacing
  4. Creating a pattern and a blade form
  5. Cutting silk, interfacing and lining
  6. Sewing: lining the tip
  7. Finishing: folding and hand stitches

If you decide to join me on my tie-making feat, leave a comment here and I will make sure we will have an appropriate forum to exchange ideas, ask questions, share the images of our self-made ties so we can all ooh and ahh over finished creations. Now, how cool is that?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday Inspiration: Sewing Studios

Another inspiration post today, and this time it is not about art, great performers or style icons. I wanted to talk about what triggers our creativity, in rather practical context. I am talking about our sewing spaces.

I discovered Studios magazine today. Published by Interweave Press as a special issue of the cloth-paper-scissors magazine, it features over 100 pages of organization and storage ideas for designers, artists and amateurs.

In a today’s newsletter from Sew Daily, 'an online community for sewing enthusiasts' hosted by Stitch magazine, the magazine editor Tricia Waddell says that one of the key things she had realized over the years was, that the way her sewing space was set up completely affected how much sewing she accomplished. Studios provided her with a lot of great ideas for creative storage and de-cluttering tips, she said suggesting that it’s time to do some spring-cleaning.

And even though she promotes an affiliated magazine I could not agree more with her. If my stash, notions and my sewing space was organized better I would have been more productive. For example, I would have been able to use every available 15 or 30 minutes to do some basting or cutting, or tracing. Now, I have to wait until the space is available...

... I followed the link to the most recent issue of the magazine, and here are my favorites from this month’s contents: 

  • 12 ways to De-stash
  • Storage Solutions: How to organize and use your inspiration articles efficiently
  • Make Your Own Thread Storage Unit
  • Color is Primary: A Designer’s Studio Makeover. Plus: Not Your Grandpa’s Pegboard

It is also possible to order past issues. I found the one from Winter 2010, which features studios for tight spaces and tips on how to maximize available space.

  • We Gather Together: Creative ways to assemble supplies and art friends.
  • Stay Sharp: Pointers for caring for your needles
  • A Tiny, Tidy Home Studio
  • Table Talk: Find the Right Worktable for you and your art
  • Yarn Tamers: How to store and organize your yarn and knitting supplies

Somewhat overpriced at $14.99 for both print and digital editions, the magazines nevertheless provide some contemporary and stylish studio solutions.

I am not sure I will purchase more than one issue, but I do need some ideas for organizing my sewing space. I desperately need a cutting table that can serve only this purpose. And it should have some storage options without looking drab. And, I want to hide my fabric stash, because right now it is folded on bookshelves, and even though it looks tidy it distracts me from ongoing projects. I could go on and on.

How does your sewing space organization affect your sewing? And what is the most challenging issue with your sewing space?

Monday, April 25, 2011

And the Winner of the Big Gadgetmania Giveaway is....

I always feel so energized after holidays, ready to tackle several projects at once! I hope you also had a wonderful Easter weekend.

Now, it's time for the big announcement that I was delaying for the last couple of days because of all the Easter preparations! 

Reader votes have finally determined the winner of the big Gadgetmania Giveaway! Magda of MagdaMagda Design Studio won the Little Black Dress book! Check out her blog: she is a very talented designer with a signature style, and she also shares many of her creative sewing techniques there.

Great book! and because I got two copies,
one has already been packed and is ready to go to Magda
Congratulations, Magda! I hope you will enjoy the book as much as I do!

Thanks to everyone for participating! Meanwhile, I wanted to remind you that the Gadgetmania goes on, and you can win some great vintage patterns from my huge stash if you participate. All you have to do is leave a comment telling me about one of your favorite sewing tools (just make sure the tool was not featured before). Check out the Gadgetmania page for the list of past entries. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Couture Techniques: finishing seam allowances

I wanted to share with you yet another step in the construction of my red wool boucle skirt. Without any intention, really, I ended up using several couture techniques. 

I used 1" seam allowance and underlined the skirt with matching cotton batiste to add some stability to the loosely woven boucle. This boucle is fraying badly so, in order to avoid shedding in public I had to finish the seams somehow. Serging was not an option - even though I normally avoid serging I did try it and, yes, it was too bulky AND stiff! I knew that a hand finish would be the best option, but I ruled out hand overcasting, because I needed a one-step finish that could accomplish both: finish the seams and tack them down to the underlining. I remembered Kenneth D. King and Susan Khalje using a catch stitch for precisely that purpose, and having had my inner couturier intuition confirmed by two major authorities in the couture sewing world, I decided to give it a try.

It works best if your garment is underlined, as in my case. Now, all I had to do is to sew through the seam allowances and the underlining and, voila, finished seams that won’t ravel or shift.

Seam allowances are finished and secured by hand without being stiff or bulky.
Here, the catch-stitched seam allowances provide additional support to a hand-picked zipper.
I also catch-stitched its edges to the seam allowances. 
Questions? Do you use a catch stitch in your sewing projects? 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Weekly inspiration – Do we want to look like a Parisienne?

Another book on how to look like a perfect french woman hit the American market just recently: “Parisian Chic: A Style Guide” by the style icon and a onetime muse of Karl Lagerfeld Inès de la Fressange.

Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange

An entertaining read, no doubt! Yet, only a few pages into the book and I thought: Do I really want to look like a Parisian woman? Or, actually, do I want to look like Ines de la Fressange?

She “offers 10 lessons to master the “offbeat look à la Parisienne.” Among them: wearing jeans with gem-encrusted sandals, not sneakers; a pencil skirt with ballet flats, not heels; an evening dress with a straw handbag, not a gold clutch; a chiffon print dress with battered biker boots, not brand-new ballet flats; a sequined sweater with men’s trousers, not a skirt; a tuxedo jacket with sneakers, not femme fatale stilettos.”

Well, I like this audacity and this certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ attitude! I also hate matchy-matchy wardrobes, love mixing styles and visual jests; but, entre nous, I would feel awkward in a chiffon dress with battered biker boots, or a tuxedo jacket with sneakers, really. She also insists that a man’s blazer should be a wardrobe staple if you want to look effortlessly chic a la Parisienne. Well, maybe a 6-feet tall former model can pull it off, but me (5.4, with distinct hips), ouch… What I am saying is that there are no ready recipes for style. And this is where the book fails: Ines IS a style icon, a chic Parisian woman, however, in her book, she mostly offers ready recipes on how to copy her style.

I believe that if your style doesn’t come from your heart, if it’s not how you feel about visual you, you will never look effortless. I believe in authentic, original, creative AND confident way of expressing your visual image. Personalities, or abstract style icons (such as a Parisian woman) may inspire, but copying their styles is good for a costume ball only.

What do you think about the ‘Parisian woman’ image? Do you have a fashion icon you look up to? And if yes, how do you express it in your wardrobe?

P.S.: stay tuned for a quick feedback on couture seams and my red boucle skirt this evening.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sewing Gadgetmania 8: Bias Tape Maker

Bias tape is perhaps one of the most versatile sewing notions, functional and decorative. And the more you sew, the more creative you are with styles or fabrics, the more difficult it becomes to find a bias tape in correct color or shade.  Having had this exact problem with one of my earlier projects I resorted to making bias tape myself, from silk organza. It was for a circular skirt and I spent hours until I had three meters of stretched and deformed bias strip. And then, I found out that there is a simple tool that helps make the tape in very short time.

There are different brands available, but the Clover bias tape maker seems to be more popular than the others.

It comes in five sizes, ¼ inch, ½ inch, ¾ inch, 1 inch, and 2 inches and is available from many online sewing supplies stores, as well as from Amazon. All you need to make a bias tape is the tool and an iron. It works great with cottons and linen. With slippery fabrics, such as charmeuse or organza, you will need to be very be careful not to move or to stretch the strips too much.

Finally, check out this great bias tape making tutorial from Colette Patterns. This method allows you to create a continuos bias tape without wasting a piece of fabric. (It may seem obvious, but for my first bias tape, I cut a one-and-a-half-yard long organza strip across one yard of silk organza fabric - ouch!)

Do you own a bias tape maker? What do you think about the tool?

P.S.: don't forget to vote for the best reader nomination! The poll is on the right sidebar. Or, nominate your own tool for a chance to win a vintage pattern from my stash.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Haute Couture attempt of a blouse :-)

Burda 9/2010, #110 - was my trial run for an Haute Couture Silk Blouse. I doubt the Chanel House would hire me after seeing this blouse, but I am happy nevertheless :-)

Pattern Sizing:
I went one size smaller. I always do, with Burda patterns. For some reason, if I go true to measurements, pieces turn out too baggy.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
It did, more or less.

The original style
Were the instructions easy to follow?
It is a relatively easy style, but I did follow instructions, which were ok, except for the closures. I had to guess how the closures work. I used self-fabric selvedge to reinforce the stitched edges underneath the buttons; and, instead of making buttonholes, I decided to make loops on the outside, and small snaps inside.

I reenforced the side seam allowance (1" / 2.5 cm wide) with a selvedge strip.
The buttons are sewn through the seam allowance and through the strip.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I liked how the blouse drapes, as well as the style. I don’t like the height of the collar - it collapses. Therefore, for drapey fabrics, I would either reduce the height of the collar, or reinforce the collar with some interfacing.

the neckline
Fabric Used:
I chose silk charmeuse, and it feels really wonderful against the skin!

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I have already described some of the changes I made above.

More importantly, I have sewn the entire blouse by hand! I also hand-overcast the entire blouse, following an example of an Haute Couture silk blouse featured in Claire Shaeffer’s PDF “Behind the Seams: Chaeffer on Chanel” 

Two reasons:
(1) I wanted to learn and apply couture techniques I learned recently, and
(2) I wanted to have more control over the slippery charmeuse. I was watching Netflix movies while I was sewing, because the sewing process took several long evenings.

Hand-overcast shoulder seam.
Seam allowances are about 1" (2.5 cm) for all seams

I also made self-fabric bias binding for the sleeves. 

Lessons learnt:
Shoulder seams: even though I hand-stitched, then pressed-open the shoulder seams and then hand overcast each section, as in the Shaeffer’s example, I would have rather used a narrow French seam. It would have added more stability to the seams. 

This reminds me of Roberta Carr’s Rules of Couture (from her book Couture: The Art of Fine Sewing) " "Sew with your head... Understand that couture requires judgment."
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I would recommend this sleeveless version, but I won’t sew it again- there are enough other styles I am looking forward to.

I really like the final result, even though there were few things I would have done differently for this type of fabric (marking, shoulder seams, hem). But, all in all, it makes a great wardrobe builder that works well with cardigans (which I love), jackets, or on its own.

paired with a cardigan
Apart from the garment itself, I really enjoyed sewing charmeuse. As Ms. Carr said: "Enjoy the process as much as the result." Which I definitely did!

Superstitions from the House of Chanel revisited

I took sick leave today.

The positive side of it is that I got to work on the skirt that I featured in my latest couture technique.

The material I chose, as you can see on the image, is plaid boucle and so I decided to hand-pick the zipper on the center back to insert it inconspicuously. Invisible zipper seemed too fragile to me for this somewhat bulky fabric. While I am working on it, I am watching a movie on Netflix pricking my left index finger with the needle continuously. I remembered there was some meaning to it - Chanel seamstresses deciphered the signs in the great documentary Signe Chanel. I blogged about a while ago, so I went back and checked.

The result: pricking the left-hand index finger means boredom at home :-) partly true...

I wish it was middle finger, or the ring finger! If you want to know why, check out the original post with all the superstitions from the House of Chanel.

And if you want to watch this episode from the documentary, enjoy it (the part I am talking about is at 6:25 min after the start):

Do you know any sewing superstitions?

Now, back to my skirt zipper... And stay tuned for pictures of my new all-hand-sewn charmeuse blouse this evening!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Couture techniques: converting darts to ease

If you have a chance to compare couture garments with their ready-to-wear counterparts, or commercial sewing patterns, you will notice absence of many darts in the former, as if the fabric was shaped around body curves by some subtle magic.

Those who sew from commercial patterns know the inevitable bust or waist darts, for example. Those darts are inserted to ensure proper fitting for a variety of materials.

After some research on the subject, I found out that in Haute Couture, the darts are often converted to ease. This technique is especially effective with plaids and prints, because it helps preserve the uninterrupted pattern of a fashion fabric.

To use this technique you need to know fabric qualities as well as some construction basics.  Here, I am trying to summarize what I have learned from books, magazines and couture patterns.

When to use this technique?
  • On skirts or pants to eliminate some or all darts.
  •  On darts shaping bust.
  •  On darts shaping the back shoulder.
In addition, you may want to use the same technique to:

  •  Shape the back armscye.
  • Prevent gaping décolleté neckline
Do not try to use this technique to eliminate large, long-curved or cut-out darts. It is only suitable for relatively short and narrow darts, which usually run from the edge or the seamline.

What fabrics are suitable?

Most fabrics that shrink easily are suitable for this technique: soft woollen, crepe, jersey, or any pliant fabric.

I recently tried recently to convert a dart to easy on a loosely woven linen skirt but in vain. The patch I used for a trial was over pressed and, even though some fullness disappeared, the result was not good enough. I ended up using single-thread dart technique, which I described here.

I would recommend trying this technique on a practice scrap to see how your fabric responds to easing.

Step-by-step instructions:
  1. Mark the location of the dart.
  2. Measure the width of the dart and measure and mark the same amount on both sides of the dart along the seamline. This is the section that will be eased. (This width may vary, you may want to increase the length of the section if your fabric doesn’t shrink so well).
  3.  Machine-baste the easing section using 6 to 8 stitches per inch, or, if you want to have a true couture experience, make two rows of very tiny running stitches (by hand, of course). If your stitches will be too long, you might end up with pleats where you pressed.
TIP: use a hand-basting needle and a single ply of silk basting thread

Here is the skirt section I gathered for shrinking. I gathered entire front waist,  but I would recommend easing 3 x dart width for each eliminated dart.
4. Easing
Here the instructions may vary depending on the type of construction. If the easing section will be joined with another section where no ease is required (shoulder darts, bust darts) do the following:
a.     Baste the two sections together, leaving out the easing section.
b.     Adjust the fullness allowed by the dart to fit the other section by pulling up the gathering thread.

If you are easing darts on a skirt, or pants section with underlining, stitch the dart on the underlining:
a.     Stitch the dart on the underling.

b.     Baste the two sections together, leaving out the easing section on the fashion fabric.
c.      Draw up the gathering thread to adjust the fullness to fit underling section.

If you are easing on a garment section without any underlining or a section that
a.     Pull up the ease basting to the final length of the easing section: it will be the original length (3 x dart width) minus the dart width.

TIP: when pulling the gathering thread, place a pin at each end of the easing section within seam allowance and wrap the basting thread around each pin to avoid any further gathering or shifting of the fabric.

5. Finishing
a.     Distribute the ease evenly
b.     Shrink the ease with steam iron over a tailor’s ham or pressing mit with the wrong side up. When the excess fabric was shrunk and the section is smooth press without steam until the fabric is dry. Remove the fabric only after the section has dried and cooled down.
TIP: if the fabric is rather difficult to shrink, try gathering less at first and shrinking, than gathering more and shrinking again, until all excess fullness has been removed.

Be careful with crepe! Crepe should be pressed with a dry pressing cloth under the steam iron, or it will lose its characteristic texture! 

The skirt after all the excess fullness has been removed
I recommend trying this technique on a practice scrap first (right after cutting your pattern pieces) to see how it works. If you apply it on loosely woven wools, it is fast and fun!

P.S.: Log on next week to see the finished plaid boucle skirt, where I used this technique.

Inspiration Tuesday: Tango

Yesterday, I realized I was in love with Tango.

I’ve spent the night watching videos, making scribbles of names, titles I have to listen and to watch.  I fell asleep exhausted but happy – the whole new world has opened to me.

Somehow I feel that tango gives you a freedom to part from a set of fixed steps, rules, and to create your own individual visual language through the dance. This is what attracted me.

I am so looking forward to expressing it in my summer wardrobe somehow.

This is what the personal style is about. It’s about your visual language, expressing your emotions with the help of clothes and accessories, hair and make up. Wouldn’t you agree?

I feel I am lucky to find a departing point for my new passion:

Pamela Roland dress (V1232)
Those flounces and the flower are just perfect. I feel that fabric choice will strongly influence the character of the dress…

What was one of the strongest inspiration moments for you? And, were you able to reflect it in your style? Or, is there a connection between your favorite art, music, dance and your style? I would  love to hear from you!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ugly pattern: from frumpy to fabulous (or so I hope)

Monday morning… In couple of hours got to head back to work and try to hope I can finish something during the short weekday evenings. There are three projects so close to conclusion; I am really optimistic about this week.

Well, this post is about the ugliest pattern in my stash, an old Sew Weekly challenge. Here is the pattern, which I found in my stash …

I was not sure whether I could or wanted to make something out of it. That patchwork number was such a turn-off, on the verge of being ridiculous.  But I wanted to give it a try and made a muslin.  Two darts and two side seams, but, it came out sooo ugly and shapeless, creating several huge bulges on the back, so I looked like a human armadillo. How can something that basic fit so bad???

Still, I thought I would try to fit the pattern; so I transferred grain lines to the muslin and decided that the best way to go was to drape it using the original pattern pieces but ignoring all the previous darts, marks and seam lines (so, basically creating a new pattern). I lengthened the bodice and made new darts. After some 20 to 30 minutes of work the bodice was done. And, it was such an improvement. I finally had a pattern to work with.

Now, all I had to do was to find a nice fabric to upgrade the look from frumpy to fabulous. I looked through some magazines, before they landed in recycling bin, and came across this Jardin Lace Vest by J. Crew from the J. Crew Collection line.

Can you imagine the price tag for this creation? A staggering $500! And check out what they say: 

"We're sorry. This item has been so popular, it has sold out. We've got other great ideas--just call us 800 562 0258, we're here to help."

Well we live in New York, so no comments... However, for me, the decision was obvious – beautiful Swiss or French guipure lace! Even with the best-quality lace, the final cost will be way below the price of this J. Crew vest.  Have you seen pieces from J.Crew collection? I mean all these pieces are a no-brainer with regard to construction – any seamstress with some reasonable knowledge of sewing will be able to put together most of their styles.  Many of their garments look so fabulous because of glamorous fabric: superior quality materials combined with great styling. I must add that I like how J. Crew designers combine simple design and sophisticated materials. 

So, wouldn’t you agree that it’s all DIY-able???

Meanwhile the Sew Weekly challenge week was ending, and I went to the Mood looking for a nice neutral-colour guipure lace, but could not find anything. They mostly had Alencon and Chantilly in white and black. I then went over to B&J Fabrics (checking my account status first) and found this gorgeous Swiss Guipure Lace.

Don’t ask me how much I paid for it. Hasn’t it ever happened to you that you know you can hardly afford some gorgeous fabric, but there two voices inside of you, one trying to convince you that you cannot afford this fabric and it may end up in your stash anyway, and another one arguing that you ought to own at least one statement piece, your personal one-of-a-kind creation (sorry for this run-on sentence – it’s emotional). So, you end up leaving the store with this treasure in your tote, which you hold with both hands feeling like a criminal stealing a masterpiece.  The lace will be then carefully folded, put somewhere next to your fabric stash and then casually presented to your hubby as something that you had for a while: another de-stashification project, that is. Yes, I feel guilty, but I bought it nevertheless J

…Ok, I had a new pattern, I had the lace – but no, I still had to buy backing/lining fabric. The whole new challenge… And since these shopping tours have to be squeezed in one-hour lunch, every time I go to the Garment district I only get 20 minutes to shop. 20 minutes for fabric shopping is an offence to any serious seamstress, so, after two fabric stores, a trim purchase trip, a week of nasty flu, and in-depth reading of Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture (for its invaluable lace techniques), I am ready to plunge into sewing my hopefully-fabulous vest. Just need to decide which backing I will choose, the sky-blue one or the gray. What do you think?

At MJ Trims I also got this piece of neon-ish yellow Italian leather trim, which I want to use for a matching belt, as featured on two different backings. I wanted to keep the vest casual, so I can wear it with white summer suit pants, jeans, skirts, or dresses. I will also try to get a dressier belt for an upgraded look, but for now, I am happy with this neon piece.

the color changes slightly on a different background
it becomes yellow-ish and I am not sure I love it

I would love to hear your opinion about the backing and belt options! Any ideas?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sewing Gadgetmania 7: EZY Hem Gauge from Dritz

Continuing the Sewing Gadgetmania series, here is one tool that has become really invaluable to me:

EZY HEM Gauge includes both inches and metric measurements and allows you to hem ¼ to 4” on a straight edge and ¼ to 2 ½ “ on a curved edge.

The reverse side of the gauge

All you need to do is turn up the edge, insert the EZY HEM Gauge, align the edge of the fabric with the corresponding marking on the gauge and press it using steam. On hems, you will need to move the gauge along the hem line and continue pressing.

On curved hems, pre-stitch or baste with a small running stitch the edge of the hem and pull the thread once the hem is turned over the gauge, press.

This tool works great also with pockets, patterns, patches, appliqués, belts and any edges that need to be neatly turned over.

I used hem gauge to turn over and press the center back edge of my daughters 'Birthday Party Dress'.
This saved me some additional marking work

If you have a tool you want to enter to the Sewing Gadgetmania, nominate it here. There is a surprise prize for the next 10 reader nominations.

For past nominations, head over to this post.

Don't forget to vote for the nomination for the most valuable/desirable sewing tool: the poll is on the right sidebar!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sewing Gadgetmania: Voting is open!

The time is up for the big Sewing Gadgetmania Giveaway – we have to determine the best tool submitted by readers.

The winner, just to remind you is getting this great book:

So back to the Sewing Gadgetmania entries:

Only reader-submitted entries qualify for the prize, so please everyone have a look at the right sidebar and vote in the poll for the most desirable/valuable sewing tool among those nominated. One of the three - Magda, Alessa or Maria – will be the winner based on your votes.

But this is not all, leave a comment here and you may win a vintage Vogue pattern from my stash.

As for the future of the Sewing Gadgetmania series, I enjoyed researching and learning about the tools so much that I decided to continue the weekly posts. Maybe one day we have here a sewing tool encyclopedia :-)

Feel free to nominate your tools – I will make sure that there will be enough nice surprises along the way!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Couture Technique: One-thread Dart

Why use it:

One thread-dart - stitched starting from a dart point – eliminates unsightly thread tails at the point.

In addition, Roberta Carr in her great book “Couture… The Art of Fine Sewing” argues that this type of dart has a smoother, pucker-free point  and is easy to press.

When use it?

Because of the neat finishing, this technique is definitely most advisable on sheer fabrics or where the inside appearance of the garment matters.

However, Roberta Carr also recommends using it
  • On short darts (1 ½ (4cm) or less), as in the cap of a sleeve, 
  • On fabric that is difficult to press, such as gabardine.
  • On darts that extend almost to the bust point.
  • In very fitted garments.
  • In tailored garments.


Step 1: 
Remove the top thread from your needle and thread it backwards with the bobbin thread using a needle threader.

Step 2:
Tie the two threads together using the smallest possible knot.

Step 3:
Re-wind the bobbin thread upward until it wraps around the top thread spool several times (appr. three-times the length of the finished dart).

Step 4:
Stitch the dart from dart point starting with a denser stitch. (appr 20 stitches per inch). The first stitch should start exactly on the fabric fold! After ½ inch (1cm) return to regular stitch length appropriate for the type of fabric.

You will have to rethread the machine for each dart, but trust me, it is really worth the trouble! 
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