Tuesday, December 30, 2014


The North Jersey Chapter of the ASDP participated in the annual Make a Difference Day held on October 25, 2014, by sewing garments for the organization, Dress for Success.  Dress for Success is an organization that promotes the financial independence of disadvantaged women by providing them with business attire, support networks and career development skills.  National Make a Difference Day was started by USA Weekend magazine in 1992.  It is a community service event whose goal is to have people do something that can improve the lives of others.  Millions of people have participated since its inception.

We did not have to finish the garments in October.  We just needed to start working on them in October.  They are due at our February meeting so I finally finished mine this past weekend.  February is going to be a busy time for me so I thought I would get it done now while I have some holiday time off.

We decided to create business attire that could be worn to an interview or a new job.   Since these garments are for women who are getting back on their feet after a tough time, the last thing they need is to receive a garment that would create a dry cleaning bill so we were asked to make the garments in machine washable fabrics only.  We were also told that large sizes were hard to find so we decided to focus on making large sizes only.

The pattern I used was Simplicity 1586 in size 28W with a DD cup.  (The size range of this pattern is Size 10 to 28W with cup sizes C, D and DD.)  I liked the style lines because I had the opportunity to do some color blocking by using a black polyester microsuede on the side panels which I believe is visually slimming.  The dress came together quickly.  For those of you interested in this pattern, the instructions were clear and provided much fitting advice.

The fabric in the center panel is a black and white polyester houndstooth.  I am sorry for the lousy photos of the dress.  The photo as taken does show the houndstooth but when I export it to Blogger, the photo gets distorted.    Here are close-ups of the fabric, both of which frayed quite a bit, especially the houndstooth!  Other than the fraying, the fabrics, purchased at JoAnn's Fabrics, were a dream to work with.  They took a press quite nicely and both my sewing machine and serger loved them.  I used a size 90/14 needle.

I finished all of the seams by serging them.  The pattern has a one inch seam allowance on the side seams which allows for future alterations if needed.  I pressed those seams open and serged each seam allowance separately.

The pattern calls for an invisible zipper at the center back and has a kick pleat for ease of walking.  The dress is sagging on the hanger since it needs a body to fill it out of course.  

My ASDP chapter insists we attach labels to our garments to identify our businesses.  However, since I do not have a business, I designed a label with just my initials.  I do think a care label is important though.  The name label I got from  The care labels I have had in my stash but CustomLabels4U has care labels as well.

Most of the sewing I do is for myself and for my immediate family.  However, I was glad to participate in this event.  Sewing for a good cause provides such a sense of satisfaction as well as help for someone in need.  A win-win that's for sure!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Vogue 8622 - Party!!!

I had been on a search for something to wear to a holiday party to be held in early December.  My search ended when I found Vogue 8622 by Elizabeth Gillett NYC.  I was drawn to View B, a cute little capelet with a large gathered flounce.   I am a bit top heavy so I was concerned about whether I really should be making a garment that may add more bulk to the chest area.  After much pondering and reflecting with sewing friends, I decided to take the plunge.  There are styles that I know would work for me (like a shoulder princess line) and then there are others that are iffy.  But there are times where I just want to step outside the box and this was one of those times.

Since the capelet is not fitted over the chest, the only adjustment I made in the front was to add 2 inches of length to the flounce from center front tapering to nothing at the side seam and 1 inch of width to the flounce.  

I used a textured red silk fabric purchased from NY Elegant in NYC that had red metallic threads woven throughout.  The fabric had quite a lot of give due to the way it was woven.  It was somewhat drapey but the metallic threads prevented the fabric from gathering as designed.  

Right side of fabric

Wrong side of fabric

What I did was press in some pleats randomly.  I really like the style lines of this capelet and love how the sleeves are incorporated into the design.  I really like the collar too.  The pattern did not call for a closure but I decided that for my figure, a closure was necessary so I installed a hook and eye at center front at the top of the flounce.

Since it was a special occasion garment, I felt compelled to use couture techniques in its construction.  I underlined the yoke pieces in silk organza.  I pressed open the seam allowances and attached them to the organza only using a catch stitch so as to keep them nice and flat.  You do not see it in the photo below but I also attached the flounce seam allowance to the organza as well.

The pattern instructions call for French seams along the side seams and the armholes.  I decided to do the French seams for the side seams only.  The fabric was just too textured for me to do a successful French seam in an armhole.  I finished the armholes by using bias tape created from the lining fabric.  The lining was attached to the flounce using a slipstitch.

Speaking of lining, I used China silk for the lining.  China silk has had a bad rap in many sewing publications but I love it.  As long as you don't plan to do a lot of activity and sweating in the garment, China silk is an excellent choice.  It has a beautiful soft hand and feels luxurious. 

Inside of capelet

This little capelet was just what I was looking for.  It was festive, felt luxurious and was so comfortable!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Happy Birthday Pattern Review!

On Friday, November 7, celebrated its 13th year!  The celebration began with a tour of the McCall's Patterns office in New York City with a party afterwards at Elliott Berman Textiles, 225 W. 35th Street, 7th floor, NYC.

But first, Kyle of Vacuuming the Lawn and I got together for lunch and then shopping.  Our first stop was Metro Textiles, 265 W. 37th Street, Suite 908, where Kashi was more than happy to help us select fabrics (thanks for the photo Kyle).

Kyle is wearing Vogue 1351
We then visited Botani Trims, 263 W. 36th Street.  They have a large selection of zipper pulls you can have installed.  At Botani, you tell them the length of the zipper, color and what type of pull and they will build it from scratch for you but be prepared to pay good money for it.  (They also have a large selection of hardware, buckles, studs, etc.)

Kyle was happy to find some square snaps at Botani:

Square snaps - yay!

Then off to the McCall's tour located at 120 Broadway in New York City.  The lobby of the building is magnificent.  It was huge with incredibly high ceilings.  All of the lobby was marble kept in pristine condition.  In fact, the building has been designated a federal historical landmark.  Just look at the beautiful ceiling (wow):

Kathy Wiktor was our gracious host at McCalls.  In the photo below, she is talking to us about the editorial room.  Behind her are pages and ideas for an upcoming issue of Vogue Patterns magazine.  On the table are black goody bags McCall's generously gave to each of us.  Each bag had a magazine, pattern and informational sewing materials.

Kathy also took us to the room where they have photo shoots for the magazine.  Besides the camera equipment (of course), we saw a long table full of jewelry, accessories and shoes, on loan from the designers, to be used for an upcoming photo shoot. We also saw a cute little make-up room.

The hallways were adorned with beautiful original fashion artwork:


After the tour, the group headed off to the party held at Elliott Berman Textiles.  They sure know how to throw a party!  There was music, wine, snacks, games and prizes.  

Kyle and Awilda

The best part for me was mingling with all of the fabulous sewists like the wonderful Deepika, founder of

Deepika is wearing the PatternReview Winter Street dress

and Anna Mazur, editor of the Pattern Review column of Threads magazine and author of the recently published book, Handbag Workshop (thanks for the 2 photos below Anna!):

I am wearing Vogue 1036

and the fabulous editors of Threads magazine:

and Carol (in her beautiful pink sheath dress) and Peter of Male Pattern Boldness:

A bonus to having a party in a fabric store is that we could do some fabric shopping, which made Anna very happy!

THANK YOU Elliott Berman Textiles and a BIG THANKS to Deepika for founding Pattern Review!  It is a wonderful site which provides a valuable service to the sewing community.

PS:  I added all of the links above in case readers want more information.  I have no affiliate relationships.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Truth be told

What a beautiful top!  You made that?!  It's gorgeous!  You look great in that top.  It's like sooo totally  flattering.  Fits you perfectly.  Dahling…you look fahbuuulous!

Screeeeeech!  Beep!

Wow…there's a lot of fabric bunching up under your arm in the wrong place.  Do you really want a seam across your chest?  It looks like you have uni-boob.  I vote no!

Nothing like a muslin and honest sewing friends to wake me up!  I was planning on making Vogue 8721, View B for a party I will be attending in December.  I was going to make it in a beautiful red silk, imported from Italy, I purchased from NY Elegant Fabrics in NYC.  It has a really nice texture and drape to it.  I don't remember how much I paid for it, but I do remember thinking when I purchased it that it was pricey.

I love the design.  I am drawn to the unusual shape of it.  However, and unfortunately, that unusual shape does not work for me.  The model on the pattern envelope looks beautiful in it but I am no model!  I am short and busty.

I could work on making adjustments to make it fit better but I don't like it enough on me to make it for the party.  I may visit it again in the future though.

So I am happy to discover in the muslin stage that this top will not work for what I had intended.  Best of all, I have spared my expensive fabric.  

My search continues….

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Adventures with Matching

Recently, I have seen young women wearing black and white check shirts.  Even though the fabric reminds me of a tablecloth, I nevertheless liked the casual relaxed look so I decided to make one for myself out of a cotton black and white flannel purchased at Mood Fabrics in NYC.  The fabric is so nice and soft and I knew it would make a comfy warm shirt for the cool days we are now having here in the northeast.

I used the Archer Shirt pattern by Grainline Studio, a PDF pattern which is very popular on  I did not enjoy printing out, aligning and taping 39 pages to put together this pattern.  It was tedious and time-consuming but at least I ended up with a shirt pattern I like.  

After working with this fabric, I realized that it was slightly off grain which made matching difficult.  Placing and cutting a garment on the grain is a golden rule I always follow.  However, I decided that matching the stripes trumped the grain in this case.  

Another problem I was confronted with regarding matching is that I had to make a full bust adjustment which required adding a bust dart.  This dart throws off both the horizontal and vertical lines but it is also something I had to accept.  I decided that the best way to minimize or camoflouge the darts was to put the pockets over the darts and have the pockets match as best as I possibly could.  I am happy with how the pockets came out.  They are difficult to make out in the photo above!  You can see a hint of the pocket on the right side of the photo…look for the dart.  Here is how I did it:

1.  I traced the pocket pattern onto see-through tracing paper (1st photo).  Notice that I indicated the seam lines - this is very important since it is the seam lines that must be matched, not the cut edge.

2.  I then placed the pattern piece on the completed front of the shirt (2nd photo).  You can see on the left side of the pattern piece how the dart is throwing off the stripes.  I proceeded to pencil in the stripes on all sides of the pocket pattern.  

3.  You can see the result in the 3rd photo.  I will not be referring to the lines that were over the dart.  You can see them veer upward on the upper left side of the pattern.  

4.  I took the marked pattern piece and placed it on top of the fabric aligning the marked lines on the pattern piece with the lines on the fabric and proceeded to gently pin and carefully cut on a single layer of fabric.

The photos demonstrate the pocket pattern piece for the right side (hence the "R").  I repeated Steps 1 through 4 for the left side.  Each side was slightly different, not by much, but enough that I thought it best to do it for each side.

The bust dart also threw off the top of the side seams but those sections are close to the underarm and not easily visible unless I raise my arms.  I made sure to match as much of the side seam I could from the hem up to the dart.

I decided to put the yoke, cuffs, center front placket and sleeve plackets on the bias for fun (and less matching!)  

Speaking of the yoke, I cut the inside yoke out of white cotton fabric so as to avoid any shadows of the black stripes from showing through on the right side:

I am pleased with the shirt and will wear it often.  It's very comfortable.

Well, that's it for shirts for now!  I have a party to attend the beginning of December.  Given that I do not have much time to sew, I probably should start working now on making something for that event.  More to follow.

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My Husband's Shirt: Flat Fell Seam on Sleeve

Finished shirt!

In the men's shirt making course I took in the Fall of 2012 at FIT, I learned a flat fell seam treatment I had never heard of before which I will detail below.  The sleeve for a man's shirt is installed flat, not in the round.  So once the sleeve cap is attached to the garment, you must sew the garment side seam and sleeve seam. You start sewing this seam from the bottom/hem part of the shirt up all the way through to the sleeves.  The trick is how to sew a flat fell seam in a sleeve which will now be closed.  Seam allowances are 1/2 inch.

1.  At the underarm area, fold up toward the right side 1/4 inch and place 3 pins.  Press in between the pins.  Remove the pins.  This is just to give you a little more control and precision in this area.  For the rest of the shirt edge, you can just fold under at the sewing machine 1/4 inch using a 1/4 inch foot as a guide as you edgestitch along the fold.  IMPORTANT:  You will do this only for the back, not the front.

2.  Pin the back to the front right sides together abutting the edge of the front side of the shirt to the raw edge of the back side of the shirt where you had folded up the 1/4 inch seam:

3.  Sew together 1/4 inch away from where the raw edges meet.  It is easy to do with a 1/4 inch presser foot:

4.  Press enclosing the raw edges.  This is the wrong side of the garment:

5.  Turn to the right side.  Press on the right side as well to make sure the seam is nice and flat.  You sew from the right side because it is important that the outside topstitching be perfectly straight since it will be visible.  Start sewing from the bottom/hem part of the garment with the edge of the presser foot  1/8 inch away from the seam line.  In effect, you will be sewing 3/8 inch away from the seam line:

6.  Here's the tricky part.  You must continue doing this all the way into the sleeve which you had closed and made into a tubular shape in Step 3!!  The way you do this is you bunch up the fabric in your hands and then sew 1 to 2 inches at a time.  As you sew, you will get more of a nest shape around the foot as the machine is pushing the sleeve fabric to the back.  I think of it as a nest on which I must sew only on the bottom flat part:

A problem you may run into with the final result, especially when you do it the first time, is that the sleeve flat fell seam on the right side might end up with unattractive ripples as you can see below from my first shirt.  You can avoid this result by using Steam-A-Seam in Step 4.  My professor did not tell us to do this.  That's just my fix!

Here is what the wrong side of the seam looks like.  You can see that 3 rows of stitching are visible:

Below is the right side of the sleeve which, after all, is what counts.  It does look pretty good!

Sewing books and pattern instructions have you trim the inside seam to 1/8 inch for a flat fell seam.  The beauty with the method described in this post is that there is no trimming involved.  The seam is stronger and more durable because you have a full 1/4 inch seam inside.  On the other hand, the topstitching on the outside is 3/8 wide and you may prefer the 1/4 inch topstitching often seen in jackets, jeans and many other garments which you obtain by using the more widely known method described in the sewing books.  Also, the more common flat fell seam produces a seam that can be used on either side.

However, there is no right or wrong way.  There is frequently more than one way to do things in sewing and I believe that knowing more than one way of doing something is good to have in your sewing arsenal.  When you sew your own garments, you have the freedom to choose which technique you like best for the particular garment you want to create.

Happy Sewing!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My Husband's Shirt: Collar and Collar Stand

During the Fall of 2012, I took a Men's Shirtmaking class at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.  I loved this course.  I took it because I noticed that men's shirts are better made and more durable than women's blouses.  I think many women's ready-to-wear blouses are flimsy.  You have more control over the quality of a woman's blouse when you make it yourself, of course, but I wanted to learn... what was it about a man's shirt that made it look so crisp and polished?

In this post, I will share the most novel information (at least to me) I learned in class.  They are techniques I do not see described in pattern instructions.  My professor told us they are the techniques used in the factories overseas (for the most part - they use a lot less pins and they have specialized equipment to make the super pointy collar and precise sleeve plackets).  I found that I have been able to create some high quality professional-looking shirts using the techniques learned in class.  Some of them may surprise you!

In sewing, there is always more than one way to do something so what I was taught is not the only way and may or may not work for you.

Besides using good quality 100% cotton shirting for the shirt featured here, I found that using good quality interfacing is also key to a professional result.   I found a medium weight non-woven interfacing designed specifically for collars and cuffs at SIL on 38th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.  It came prepackaged in a ziploc type of bag.  You can also find good quality interfacing at Steinlauf and Stoller in New York City.  I always test different types of interfacing on scraps of fabric to make sure I like the resulting hand and feel.

The interfaced side of the collar and cuffs are the "public" side.  In class, I was amazed to learn that you do not use steam when applying fusible interfacing.  The professor was emphatic about this and other professors teaching other courses at FIT have said the same thing.  The steam creates a water vapor that acts like a barrier to having the glue adhere 100%.

So here goes!

1.  All seam allowances are 1/2 inch, except for the neckline, collar and collar stand which are 1/4 inch.  In the photo below, the collar has been inserted into the collar stand. The interfaced collar and interfaced side of the collar stand are facing up.  The collar stand has been folded up by 1/4 inch and topstitched exposing the 1/4 seam allowance of the uninterfaced collar stand.  It is wavy at the bottom (as it should be) because it is a round shape that I have placed onto a flat surface:

2.  Mark the uninterfaced bottom side of the collar stand using the folded interfaced edge as a guide.  Angle your marking tool toward the folded edge as you mark:

3.  What follows is a little bit of MAGIC!  It is commonplace to find when you attach the collar stand to the main garment that there is a "jog" or "bump" at the edge where the collar stand meets the front opening of the garment.  You can avoid this with a pin!

When you pin the collar stand to the garment, extend the garment edge by 1/16 inch beyond the collar stand and place a pin close to the edge to hold this "mismatch" in place:

Pin more of the collar stand to the garment neckline edge for a couple of inches, matching the raw edges.  Then sew for one inch.  Do the same on the other end.  Why only one inch?  Because you will be tucking in the seam allowance into the collar stand to see how you like the edge.  If you don't like it, you have only one inch of stitching to undo and re-do.

IMPORTANT:  When you sew the one inch, you MUST NOT REMOVE THE PIN.  If you do, you will lose the 1/16 inch "mismatch."  Do not use the foot pedal when sewing over the pin or you risk damaging the machine or breaking your needle.  Hand crank the machine slowly and carefully.  I placed a swatch of folded interfaced fabric behind the presser foot as I started to make the foot level with the amount of fabric at the start of the collar stand.

The "mismatch" will produce the following clean edge.  See how there is no jog or bump! MAGIC.  Do the same on the other end.

It takes some degree of finesse but I find it is worth it in the end.  The first time I did it, I mangled the collar stand so much that the fabric shredded and I had to cut and sew another collar stand and repair the garment neckline edge with a bit of interfacing.  I mangled it because I did not make the foot level with the amount of fabric at the end so the feed dogs ate the fabric at the bottom and the needle just pierced the fabric on top in the same place over and over.  And then of course I didn't get those nice clean edges so I stitched and unstitched and stitched and unstitched and….

Anyway, I got the above clean edge on this shirt on my 2nd try.

4.  Once you are satisfied with the ends, continue pinning the rest of the collar stand to the neckline edge matching the raw edges.  Sew along the chalk marking you did previously from Step 2.

5.  Once you have completely sewn the collar stand to the garment neckline edge, tuck the seam allowance upward inside the collar stand.  Pin along the fold making sure to cover the stitching you just did in step 4 ever so slightly.  The folded edge should just meet the stitch line ever so slightly.

6.  Then edge stitch along the fold.  If you successfully placed the fold "ever so slightly," when you fold the collar stand back, the previous line of stitching attaching the uninterfaced collar stand to the garment neckline edge will be visible:

And then the front of the collar stand will look like this:

And the back of the collar stand will look like this:

You see how I caught the back and front with the same line of stitching?  That's because I placed the fold "ever so slightly…" over the line of stitching from Steps 3 and 4.  It takes some practice.  Certainly the first time I did this, I did not have this result.

The first photo above is the collar open and here is the collar closed:

Anyway, I am happy with the results.

My next post will address how to sew a flat fell seam inside a sleeve.