My Raincoat Dress!

A few days ago, I posted on Facebook that I was taking a couple of days off from quilting and writing articles, and was going to sew up this pattern.

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It’s from Lekala. You choose your pattern, enter your measurements, and are emailed a pdf for a personalized pattern. I’ve tried them before, with moderate success. But the style lines on this dress were so interesting, I had to try again. I really wanted to use those bust darts radiating from the left armhole!

I knew I wanted to use a solid-colored fabric so the darts and seams would show up. Several months ago I ordered this lavender fabric from, thinking that I might use it for this pattern. The only description of the fabric was that it was a poly/spandex woven.

I spent most of the first day tiling and taping my pattern, and making a muslin, and altering it to my taste. I was pleased that the muslin fit pretty well, straight off the pattern. Yes, it’s made for my measurments, but there are still little alterations needed, specifically for my slightly wonky right shoulder, which is a bit lower than my left, and for my right shoulder blade, which protrudes a bit more. I also had to take a little in at the upper chest. (Note: In my experience, Lekala patterns are made to fit much more snugly than I like, so I cheat by adding a little to the measurements I use. Also, the armholes are higher and tighter than I like. I haven’t quite figured out how to change my measurements to allow for that.) I also decided that I wanted the dress to be longer than the pattern, so I added 2.25 inches in length.

When I had received the fabric, I pre-washed it, thought it was just a little odd, and put it away. But I really wanted this color to go with the necklace my daughter made for me for Christmas! When I cut out my altered pattern, I thought again that this was unusual fabric. It’s a tight gabardine weave, crisp, with a little stretch, and a very cool, smooth feel. I tested it with the iron, and it handled medium heat well, with no iron marks, it pressed in good creases with steam, and seam allowances barely showed through. I thought it should be easy to sew, although I still wondered about the odd feel.

On the second day, I got to sew. This pattern is really very simple to put together, but DO NOT follow the (very minimal) directions included with the pattern! The directions for the armhole and neckline facings absolutely will not, cannot, physically work! If you know how to sew, you’re fine, but for someone not sure of how things are put together, this would be a disaster.

I’m pretty pleased with this dress! It’s not meant to be a special occasion dress, more of a let’s-go-to-our-favorite-Mexican-restaurant dress.

Lekala 4

Lekala 1

I considered making the flap into a real welt pocket with flap, then decided that I really wouldn’t use it, and to just save myself the time. So it’s just a decorative flap.

Lekala 6

Lekala 5

I’m not sure what I was doing here, but it shows the right side of the dress!

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I’m not entirely thrilled with the fit of the back, but it’s not bad. I added a couple of vertical darts to give it a bit more shape at the waist. But this dress isn’t special enough for me to want to spend any more time fine-tuning the fit.

Lekala 9

I absolutely love the fit through the chest and bust! And look at those diagonal darts! I edgestitched the darts to make them just a bit more visible, because, after all, they are why I made this dress.

And here’s the necklace for which I made this dress. Isn’t it awesome! My daughter is a jewelry artist, so I’m the happy recipient of many of her lovely pieces.


This pendant was made with polymer, acrylic, silver, tiny pieces of gold leaf, and a citrine! You can see her fine jewelry at, or contact her for ideas for custom work. She has also recently started a new line of fun, whimsical pieces with RadishFightJewelry, where you can find necklaces made from the same kind of colorful polymer mosaic as mine, although without the silver and semi-precious stone.

Now, back to my dress, and that unusual fabric. I discovered why it just seemed strange. When I stitched those darts in the back, I made the first ones too long and too far from the center. So I took the stitches out, and started to press out the creases. Steam alone didn’t do it, so I spritzed it with water.

Lekala 3

The water beaded up and didn’t soak in at all! (Sorry, the color is wrong, but this is the same fabric.) I didn’t notice it when I pre-washed it; I just threw it in the washing machine with other fabrics I was pre-treating. This fabric is almost completely water-repellant. It’s rainwear fabric!!! I have a raincoat dress!

I would like to ask online fabric sellers to please, please, write more accurate descriptions of their fabrics. Some sites are very good; EmmaOneSock and Gorgeous Fabrics are two that I’ve ordered from often. Others, like, are obviously not great. I would never have purchased this fabric if it had been described as rainwear fabric! It all turned out fine for this dress, although I wonder if the dress will be hot to wear. Will I make the pattern again? I don’t know; I like it, but I don’t wear dresses all that often. But if I do, you can be sure that I won’t make it as a raincoat dress!








Updating an Heirloom Dress

I made this dress for a 2002 issue of Sew Beautiful magazine.


It was made of pale pink handkerchief linen, Swiss cotton organdy, and yards and yards of French lace.


The technique for the article was the organdy “windows,” embellished in this dress with machine embroidery in the palest of colors. (The embroidery designs were from Pfaff embroidery cards which I am almost sure are no longer available.)


I wanted to demonstrate this technique in Heirloom Sewing More Classic Techniques, my most recent Craftsy class. If you’d like to see in detail how I made these transparent reverse applique windows, and get 50% off my class, click on the class icon on the right side of my blog home page.

I like to have lots of samples, and this dress was still in my sample closet. The problem was that the dress was pretty dated by now. It was probably a girl’s size 12, with a dropped “V” waist, giant puffy sleeves, and a huge collar. Still pretty, but very out of date. So I saved the time-intensive parts and re-made it!


I cut off the skirt and underskirt and took apart the bodice. I used the bodice and sleeves for fabric to cut the sleeveless bodice from my “Baby’s Breath” pattern in a size 4. Extra bits of fabric were used to cover the piping at the waistline seam and for the neck binding, and I removed some of the lace from the original collar for the neckline. You can’t see it, but I used the folded back facings with buttons and buttonholes from the original for the back button opening. I even salvaged the original’s back button tab, stitching it into the back darts of the new version!


Because the original skirt was very wide, made from 56″ wide fabric, it was too bulky to gather into the new, smaller waistline. So I cut out a section of the skirt and underskirt, going right through two of the little diamond-shaped windows, then sewing a new seam and carefully matching the embroidery motifs. I placed this at the center back. This moved the original side seams away from the bodice side seams and into the back, but the skirt is still so full, no one will ever notice or care. I shortened the skirt and batiste underskirt, made a new placket in the skirt at the top of the center back seam, and lined the bodice with batiste. That batiste lining is the only thing not from the original!

Here are a few more photos of the new version.



Stay tuned, I’ll post later about some of my other heirloom re-makes!


Trying out Lekala Patterns

I’ve known about (and been intrigued by) Lekala patterns for several years. I finally got around to trying one out. For those of you who have never heard of Lekala, it is a Russian-based company that provides made-to-measure patterns for an extremely reasonable cost. Choose from well over 1000 designs, enter in your measurements, and within a few minutes you are emailed a personalized pdf pattern.

This is one of their free patterns, a basic shirt, the Classical Blouse – Sewing Pattern #5446.


I used a brownish-purple (aubergine?) very densely-woven cotton flannel, sort of like chamois cloth, that has been languishing in my stash for years. Here is the result:


Look at that! A button-front shirt that fits nicely with no pulling across the bust!


The shoulders fit beautifully, and the darts are the correct height.



The only fitting change I made to the pattern was to make a square-shoulder adjustment (which is pretty simple.) As a construction change, I made continuous-lap plackets at the back side of the wrists, and changed the positioning of the tucks in the sleeves. The instructions were to simply leave a slit at the wrist end of the underarm seam. In my opinion, this puts the cuff opening in a very awkward position.

However, there is no magically perfect fitting system. This goes a long way, and I’m planning to try many other Lekala patterns. In fact, I’ve made a couple more since I finished this shirt a few weeks ago. Here are some of the pros and cons as I see them right now.


  • Lots and lots of designs, and very inexpensive
  • The fit for me in the chest, bust, shoulders, and hips is very good straight from the pattern. This eliminates a lot of fitting changes, such as full-bust adjustment and lowering the bust point (sigh) in almost everything I make.
  • You can get a pattern preview, in your custom measurements, emailed within minutes. The preview is on a 4″ x 4″ (10cm x 10cm) grid, so you can get a pretty good idea of flat pattern measurements from that and see approximately how much ease is included.
  • The pattern drafting is excellent. The pieces fit together perfectly.
  • The patterns can be purchased with or without seam allowances. The patterns for wovens have 1cm. seam allowances, which is very to use.


  • The sleeves seem to be very narrow, and the armholes quite high and tight, in the three patterns I’ve tried. I’m trying to see if there’s an easy fix for that.
  • The fit on some patterns, especially knits, is much closer to the body than I like. That may be an Eastern European thing. I really don’t like tight clothes on myself. I much prefer semi-fitted to close-fitting. So, I am trying increasing my measurements a little when ordering patterns to add more wearing ease.
  • The patterns are pdf only. Yes, that means tiling and taping. But, you know, most of the patterns I’ve purchased recently have been pdfs anyway. I live too far from anywhere to be able to buy many paper patterns, and this is just so much faster than waiting for shipping.
  • The pattern pieces have very few match points. This can be helped by “walking” the seamlines along each other and adding your own, if you know that you need them. Also, the sleeves have no markings to indicate front or back, so you have to know by the shape of the piece which is which.
  • If you need to use instructions, these are atrocious! But if you are a confident sewer, then you’ll be fine. For example, this was a very basic shirt pattern, and I didn’t need any instructions. It’s been a long time since I made a shirt with a collar on a stand, but this went together beautifully, even with the heavy fabric I used. If you need help, there are many good instructions out there. Just don’t rely on the instructions that come with the pattern!

I’ll keep you informed about other Lekala patterns that I try. But for a trial run, I’m very pleased. I have a cozy, nicely-fitting shirt, that was made from fabric and buttons in my stash and a free pattern! You can’t ask for much more than that!





A Top from Burdastyle Long Sleeve Flounce Dress 11/2016 #117

In my previous post, I wrote about the dress I made from the Burdastyle Long Sleeve Flounce Dress 11/2016 #117 pattern. I really like the dress, but I had to make numerous adjustments to get it to fit nicely. I thought that before I forgot all the changes I made, I’d use the pattern again!

This time, I decided to shorten it and make it as a top, because, really, how often do I wear dresses? And, I left off the flounce.


(Check out those shoes! They’re the ones I made on my Arrowmont vacation with Annie!)

I used a roll end of red matte hybrid crepe from EmmaOneSock that I bought a couple of years ago (see, it’s always good to have a stash to shop in!) The fabric has a bit of stretch, doesn’t wrinkle, sews beautifully, and is still available.


Because of that bit of stretch, I stabilized the neckline with narrow strips of lightweight fusible tricot interfacing, cut on the lengthwise non-stretch grain, as well as interfacing the facing. Fusible tape is available, but I didn’t have any. This works just as well.


I did all the same fitting changes as for my gray dress, which you can read about here.

Now, some more pictures.


(Do you see the bookcase quilt in the background? It was a 50th anniversary gift for my parents, and you can read about “Our Whole Life” in this post.)




This top is quite different than the gray dress. Simple changes – omitting the flounce, and shortening to blouse length – let me get double duty from the pattern and the time spent on fitting. I encourage you to look at patterns you’ve made and enjoyed, to see if there are new and fresh ways to use them again.


Burdastyle Long Sleeve Flounce Dress 11/2016 #117

I recently finished the quilting on a quilt I’m not all that thrilled about, so I decided to take a fun break and make myself a dress. I had seen Burdastyle Long Sleeve Flounce Dress 11/2016 #117 online, and really liked the slightly assymetrical look


and seaming.


It’s a pdf only, so I bought it, printed it out, and started fitting. That’s where the *fun* started! First of all, it’s a petite-only pattern (I used size 21, which corresponds to a regular Burda size 42.) Now, if you know me, you know I’m not petite! I’m 5’9″, with long arms and long legs. I’ve never started with a petite pattern before. Adding length to pattern parts is not really difficult, however, so I started with comparing my measurements and the pattern measurements.

Almost all of my lengthening needed to be in the upper bodice. I ended up adding 1.5″ above the dart points on both the front and back bodice, the assymetrical right center front piece (that curves up to the neck,) and the flounce. The sleeves needed only 0.75″ added, half above and half below the elbow dart. That I only needed an extra 0.75″ is really odd, because I usually have to lenghten long sleeves by 1″ on non-petite patterns. I didn’t add any length at all to the skirt.

I tried my muslin on, and, boy, was this made for a strangely-shaped bust! The distance between dart points was 11″; mine should be about 8.5″. I’ve never had this issue with such widely-spaced dart points! In addition, the darts as drawn made for a very pointy look – think vintage Madonna! So, I had to lengthen the darts, and curve and taper the stitching to avoid the cone shape. It took a lot of try-ons to get that bodice looking good!

In addition, I did my usual square-shoulder adjustment, and lowered the right shoulder an additional 0.25″ in front. Again, as usual, I needed to take in 0.25″ on each side of the back neck. The shoulders were not wide enough to accommodate a dart, so I curved the center back seam in .25″, starting about 4″ below the neckline. I ended up taking in the front neckline a bit at the top of the side bodice pieces, as well. These are very slim sleeves, so I did a 1″ full biceps adjustment.

I like the fact that Burda patterns often have a shaped center back seam, but this one was a little too shaped for my back, so I partially straightened the seam, adding a little at the waist, and taking in a little at shoulder blade height.

This pattern had no seam allowances, so I added 0.5″ seam allowances all around, and 1″ sleeve and skirt hems. I knew the waist would be a little tight 😦 so I cut out the dress with 1″ side seams.

The fabric is Stretchy Suit Weight RPL – Charcoal from Gorgeous Fabrics. It feels nice and is comfy to wear.


The pattern called for wool crepe, and as much as I love working with wool, I just cannot stand wearing it against my skin! I know, there are many soft, lovely wool fabrics out there, but even cashmere is itchy to me. So, no wool except for fully lined garments! This pattern had a similar weight and drape, plus a little stretch (and, it’s a heathery charcoal, so the inevitable cat fur won’t be as obvious!)

I stabilized the neckline and shoulder seams with narrow lengthwise strips of fusible tricot interfacing, fused at the seamline. I also fused 0.75″ strips of the tricot to the zipper opening. The neckline facings were interfaced with lightweight fusible weft insertion.

The front flounce is single layer. The pattern instructions said to just zigzag the raw edge. Yuck! Lining would have made it less drapey, so I bound the edge with soft bias cotton/silk Radiance fabric in lime green.

Those 1″ side seam allowances were sewn at the full 1″ at the underarms, tapering to 0.5″ at the waist and to the hem.

Now, finally, some pictures:


(Sorry the dress is a bit wrinkled; I wore it yesterday evening, and spent a lot of time in the car with a seat belt on.)



This photo of the back is over-exposed; the others show the color more accurately.

Finally, I just love the green-edged flounce! It can be draped in several ways.54

Fitting garments for oneself is an ever-changing and ever-learning venture. And just when you think you have it figured out, age creeps in and moves parts of your body around! 😀





Ruffle Fabric Grab Bags (and instructions for a ruffle skirt!)

Four or five years ago, I discovered ruffle fabric, and had a great time using it in girls’ clothing. So much fun that I purchased a lot of it and sold it, along with an idea booklet. Well, I’ve lost interest, and I need the space (for the upholstery samples I’ve been given!)

So, I’m offering grab bags. I can fit at least 2 yards, and probably more, plus some nice soft waistband elastic, in a USPS Tyvek mailing envelope. $12.00  plus $5.00  shipping $8.00 shipping (I’m sorry, I just shipped my first batch of orders, and the shipping was a lot more than I estimated) The fabrics all sell for $15/yd. or more. The value of the fabrics and elastic will be at least $35.00. US domestic shipping, only. If you’d like to order, go to my contact me page on my website here, let me know what you’d like, and I’ll send you a Paypal invoice.

You’ll get at least two colors, maybe more. Some pieces may be small, but you can use small pieces for trims. But here’s the catch – no color requests. The choice is mine, and when a fabric is gone, it’s gone. But all the colors are pretty. There are solids, floral prints, tie-dye effects, and a netting fabric with rosettes.


Also, you’re on your own for sewing the stuff. It’s not difficult. No hems required! I apologize in advance, but I just don’t have time to answer individual questions on how to use it. But if you’re a little adventurous, you can have a lot of fun for just a little money!

Here are some ideas…

A simple skirt with an elastic waistband (instructions at the end of this post.)


A purchased t-shirt cut off, with a ruffle skirt added, and purchased leggings with a strip of ruffles sewn on at the bottom.


Bodice made from the rosette netting, and skirt from ruffles.


A woven cotton skirt with elastic waistband, with a strip of ruffles at the lower edge.


A dress with sleeves cut from ruffle fabric, and a single ruffle at the neck edge.


I have a limited number of idea booklets left, for an additional $5.00. You can see it here. But like the fabric, when they’re gone, they’re gone; I won’t be printing any more.

Here are those instructions for the 30-minute ruffle skirt!

30-Minute Ruffle Skirt by Susan Stewart

Make this quick and easy skirt for any size using knit ruffle fabric. This amazing fabric is a poly/spandex fabric with knit-in ruffles! No hems or seam finishes required! Most of the design work and embellishment is done for you! Just think of the twirl possibilities!

For this skirt you will need two measurements – the waist measurement where you want the elastic to sit, and the length of the skirt from the bottom of the elastic to the lower edge.

You will need:

Desired length plus ½” of ruffle fabric

Waist measurement of 1½” decorative waistband elastic


  1. Add ½” to the desired skirt length, and cut this length (or as close as possible) across the width of ruffle fabric. For a girl’s full skirt, use the full width of ruffle fabric. For a slim skirt, measure the fullest part of the wearer’s hips, and add 2” or 3”. Cut the fabric to this width.
    1. When cutting between the rows of ruffles, fold the ruffles out of the way so you cut through the backing fabric only. Most ruffles have a sheer strip and a heavier strip of fabric behind each ruffle. This gives a nice line along which to cut for most applications. The sheer strip is below the top of the ruffle, and the opaque strip is below the lower part of the ruffle.  
    2. Length measurements can only be approximate, as the fabric must be cut in between rows of ruffles. When in doubt, make it a little longer. To shorten the garment, all you need to do is cut off a ruffle or two!
    3. Make sure the ruffles are lying in the correct position when cutting across rows of ruffles.
  2. Before you stitch the seam, you need to hold the ruffles in place, so they don’t get bunched up or flipped up in the seams.   “Tame” the ruffles by pinning, serging or zigzagging, or use blue painters’ tape to hold the ruffles in place.
  3. Right sides together, stitch the short sides together, matching rows of ruffles, and using polyester thread and a stretch needle. While seams can be serged, I usually prefer to simply zigzag them. Why? Because if a ruffle is caught in a zigzagged seam, it’s easy to open a few stitches, release the ruffle, and re-stitch. If it is caught in a serged seam, it may be cut off! Zigzag (approx. W = 2.0, L = 2.0) on the seamline, and again about ¼” from the first stitching, within the seam allowance. Trim seam allowance close to second stitching.
  4. With a lengthened straight stitch (L = 4.0) and slightly loosened needle tension, stitch two rows of gathering threads around top of skirt, one row about ⅛” over the top edge of the upper ruffle, and the other about ⅜” from the first row, within the seam allowance. Fold skirt in fourths and mark the quarter points.
  5. Measure elastic to fit snuggly around waist, by measuring around the wearer, if possible. If that is not possible, then cut the elastic an inch or so shorter than the waist measurement.
  6. Stitch cut ends of elastic together. Fold the waistband in fourths and mark the quarter points.
  7. Pull up the bobbin threads of the gathering stitches to make the skirt top edge fit the waistband. Match the quarter points and adjust the gathers evenly.
  8. Pin the lower edge of the waistband over the gathered edge of the skirt so the edge of the elastic just meets the top of the upper ruffle (for the floral ruffles, let the edge of the elastic cover about ⅛” of the upper ruffle, which is white instead of printed.)
  9. With the skirt inside out, stitch the waistband to the gathered fabric. You should not need to stretch the elastic to fit the fabric, as the fabric is gathered. There are several ways to do this stitching, which must stretch:
    1. Use a 6.0 double needle. Use a second spool of thread, or wind an extra bobbin, for the extra needle. The bobbin thread will zigzag between the needle threads and provide the needed stretch. Do some test stitching to determine if the tension needs to be adjusted.
    2. Stitch with a multi-step zigzag, about 6mm wide. Test and adjust the length so the points of the zigzags are about 4mm apart.
    3. Stitch two rows of a “lightning stitch” or a straight stretch stitch about ¼” apart.
  1. Pull out the gathering threads so the skirt can stretch. On the wrong side, trim off any excess skirt seam allowance above the waistband stitching, if necessary.

And that’s it! Your twirly, ruffly skirt is done!

A New Dress from an Old Pattern

If you read my previous post, you know I’m going to Florida soon to teach. If I’m going to Florida, I probably need a new dress, right? Right! I’m finished with the projects, the instructions, and the kits, so I had time. I recently bought a nice supply of knits from Gorgeous Fabrics during one of their sales, so I pulled out this beautiful print. Now, I don’t often wear prints, but hey, why not? I’m not exactly sure what to call this poly-lycra fabric – it’s not a double knit, it’s not a jersey. It has a slight crepe-y texture on the right side, and it’s very stable, almost like a stretch woven. It was a breeze to sew!

Then I went through my pattern stash. I don’t live anywhere near a good place to purchase patterns, so I was limited to what I have on hand. I came across Burda 8707.


This pattern is probably at least 13 or 14 years old, and out of print. I’ve never sewn it, but I always liked it.


I like the curved French darts, and the slight fishtail of the back skirt. So, I made a quick muslin of the bodice to check the fit, and went at it!


It’s been a long time since I’ve sewn a Burda pattern. I cut a 16 for the muslin, because that’s where my measurements took me. And I never, ever like tight. The muslin fit pretty well, except it was too wide across the chest, and a little large overall. But I was pleased that the dart points were not too high (lowering dart points is a pretty common thing for those of us who are a few – or more than a few – years beyond our 30s!) I was also pleased with how the back fit. This pattern has shoulder darts in the back. It seems like most patterns used to have them, but few do anymore. They really make the back fit more nicely. There is even slight shaping in the center front bodice seam. Because I originally thought I’d add sleeves, I also fit the sleeve pattern. This had an elbow dart, another thing that seems to be rare these days, but really improves the fit.

I didn’t want the high jewel neck. I knew I’d feel like I’m choking! I like necklines that fall just below my collar bones, so that’s where I drew in the new neckline. I also narrowed the shoulder width by 1/4 inch front and back, and adjusted 1/2″ for square shoulders. In addition, I lowered the right front shoulder 1/4″, because my right shoulder is slightly lower than the left, and if I don’t make this little alteration, the neckline on the right side always wants to gape.

Okay, time to cut. I didn’t have enough fabric to even try matching the large print, so I just cut randomly. I cut a 12 across the shoulders, 14 at the side seams, angling to 16 at the waist and hips.

The dress sews up easily. The only tricky part at all is those curved darts. The instructions say to slash the dart take-up in the center, then stitch. Instead of slashing, I cut a wedge out of the dart, leaving 3/8″ seam allowances.


This made it much easier to pin those curved lines together.


When stitching to the dart point, stitch all the way to the edge of the fabric, then stitch a few stitches off the edge. Lift up the presser foot, slide the fabric toward you for about 1/2 inch, then lower the presser foot and stitch several stitches in the dart to secure the threads. This makes a much prettier point than trying to backstitch.


Isn’t this a pretty dart?


After I stitched the bodice and skirt, I basted the side seams to check the fit. Still a little big. I ended up taking in almost all that I had added to the side seams. It ended up about a 12 at the underarms, and 14 at the hips. I took the side seams in about 3/8″ more at the waist to give just a bit more shaping. I also took in just a smidge at the center front seam at the neckline, merging into the seamline about 4″ below the neck, and I also took in the center front seam 1/4″ from below the bust to the skirt seam, and 1/4″ from the center front skirt seam at the waist, angling out to the original seamline.

I decided to make an exposed zipper, using a black zipper with a lacy tape from Ghee’s, like this, except mine is black.

When I tried on the dress again at this point, I decided I didn’t want the sleeves. The armholes fit very well with no gaps, and I think it looks nice sleeveless.

The patterns calls for a full lining, but I didn’t want that (nor did I have any stretch lining fabric) so I cut facings for the neck and armholes. I trimmed the seam allowances where they crossed in enclosed areas, such as the facings, to avoid bulk.


After the enclosed seam allowances were trimmed and clipped, I understitched. When doing this, press the seam allowance toward the facing, and stitch from the right side close to the seam. Spread the facing out so that the curve lies flat. This opens up the little clips in the seam allowance, and keeps the facing edge smooth and non-rolling.


I kind of like this little dress! It’s comfy and, I think, cute!






Florida, here I come!

Transparent Reverse Applique and Burda 6890

When I was preparing for my second Craftsy heirloom techniques class, I wanted an adult garment showcasing my Transparent Reverse Applique Windows and Hem techniques. I had several children’s garments, but nothing for women. Fluffy and frilly for grown-ups is not “me,” so I wanted to make something with classic, simple lines, and just a bit of embellishment. Something that I might choose to wear.

It doesn’t get much more classic than a sheath dress, so that’s what I was looking for when I went pattern shopping. This is what I chose.

Trans rev app B6890

A straight, semi-fitted sheath dress, with darts front and back. I chose the sleeveless version (because I wanted to use as little as possible of the really awesome shadow-check linen that was in my stash!) This sample was for display only, and the dress form in the studio is a size 10, so that’s what I made. Besides, when you’re travelling with dozens of garment samples, smaller is better!

2429 resized

I wish I could wear the dress, but I haven’t been a pattern size 10, which is much smaller than a ready-to-wear size 10, since I was in about 7th grade. And this is a very fitted size 10! One thing I did notice about the pattern is that the dart points at the bust are very close together – they end only about an inch apart, so the person wearing this would have to wear a pretty pointed bra! Other than that, the pattern was well drafted and went together nicely.

Here’s a photo of the dress with backlighting.

trans rev app

I underlined the shadow-check linen with light pink cotton batiste. The edges of the linen were shaped with water-soluble stabilizer for the Transparent Reverse Applique Window at the neckline…

Trans rev app window

…and the Transparent Reverse Applique Hem.

Trans rev app hem

Pink silk organza was pinstitched to the shaped edges. The techniques are covered in detail in Heirloom Sewing More Classic Techniques. I made a little slit in the silk organza hem for a little extra room in this very straight dress (even though no one will ever wear it!)

I think my sample turned out to be a very classy dress, showing that heirloom sewing for women doesn’t have to be frilly; a dress that many women of different ages and sizes could use as inspiration!



New Tops for Me, Part 3 (and more tips for working with knits)

This is the final knit top I made myself last week. I liked New Look 6343, the pattern from yesterday’s post, so much that I had to make it again!

black 1

This time, I used black Swiss 4-Way Stretch nylon/acetate/lycra from Gorgeous Fabrics (it’s the same type of fabric I used in the green top.) This was a piece left over from a top I made my daughter last year, and I had to really work to be able to fit the pattern pieces on! The white lace fabric for the sleeves was from my stash, from Emma One Sock, I think, several years ago. I’m not sure of the fiber content – maybe a poly or nylon mesh, with cotton motifs? In any case, I washed and machine dried it (although I’ll never machine dry the top) and it came out beautifully, although it did shrink a bit.

black 2

I wanted the contrast to really show off those angled armholes! This top is dressier, but not so much that I can’t wear it with jeans.

For this version, I did a FBA and added a bust dart, and I scooped out the neck about 1-1/2″ in front. I lengthened the sleeves about 1″ (standard for my long arms) and cut the top to the same hip length as the green top. I also used one size up for the sleeves, because this pattern is for knits, and the lace has a bit of mechanical stretch, but is not as stretchy as the black fabric. I also added about 3/8″ to the top of the sleeve cap. I pressed the seam allowances away from the sleeves and topstitched, so the seam allowances don’t show through the lace.

I like the black cuffs on these sleeves! I think it adds a bit of a surprising touch.

black 3

Knits can be a bit slithery to work with. Here are two tips that can be helpful:

  • When making knit bands, such as the neckband and wristbands on this top, you stitch the fabric into a loop, then fold the loop in half and stitch the doubled raw edges to the garment. Easy, unless your fabric slides. To make it easier and allow you to use a LOT fewer pins, use water-soluble glue stick (sparingly) to hold the raw edges of the band together. No slithering, no uneven edges, and no twisted bands!
  • When stitching a hem, use narrow strips of lightweight fusible web to “baste” the hem in place before stitching. I cut 1/4″ strips of Lite Steam-A-Seam 2, which is slightly sticky and repositionable, position them near the cut hem edge, remove the remaining paper, fold up the hem, and fuse in place. Then stitch. It keeps the hem from shifting and twisting. Lots of people use a double needle to hem knits, but for whatever reason, I have never had good luck with that method. So I just use one of the stretch stitches on my machine, play with the width and length and tension until I like the look, and stitch away!

I think I’m done sewing for myself for a while. Now, it’s time to get to work writing instructions for a class, working on a magazine article, and quilting a challenge quilt. But at least I have some new clothes to wear!

New Tops for Me, Part 2 (and a tip for knit neckbands!)

Here is knit top #2 from last week’s sewing!


Recently, I read a review on of New Look 6343.


So, once again, I downloaded a pdf, printed, tiled, and taped. While this pattern is not from Australia like the pattern from yesterday’s entry, I live 30 miles from a JoAnn’s that might have the pattern, so I can still do the pdf thing faster than trying to get the paper pattern.

I really liked the look of those angled armsceyes!


The fabric is a pretty green 4-way Swiss nylon/acetate/lycra stretch knit from Gorgeous Fabrics that has been in my stash for a year or so. Their description: “This fabric will be a mainstay of your wardrobe…it is perfect for work, play or travel! It never wrinkles, it washes beautifully, and it’s a joy to sew. It comes from the best knitwear mill in Switzerland.” It feels wonderful to touch and to wear!

I sewed this with my workhorse Pfaff 7530. I didn’t feel like getting my serger out, and besides, I don’t have serger thread this color. I am just as happy most of the time sewing knits with my regular machine. I stitch the seams with a zigzag (W = 1.0, L = 2.0), then stitch again about 1/8″ away in the seam allowance, and trim the seam allowance to 1/4″.

I didn’t download the instructions, so I’m not sure if they tell you to set the sleeves in or sew them in flat. I always prefer the fit of set-in sleeves, but I knew this would be a bit tricky with the two corners (the back sleeve line has the same nice corner angle as the front.) So I did a cheater set-in sleeve. I set the sleeve in flat, clipping and pivoting at the corners, but I started stitching about 2″ from the side seam at the underarm, and I stopped stitching about 2″ from the side seam. Next, I stitched the side seam and the sleeve underarm seam. Then, it’s easy to stitch the remaining part of the armsceye seam. I topstitched the seam to make it a little more noticeable.

I changed the length of the sleeves, and shortened the tunic length to hip length.

Now, here’s my tip! Sometimes, when I make a knit neckband, it doesn’t want to lie flat all the way around the neck, especially at that sharper curve of the neckline just behind the shoulder seam. Some knits are very soft and ease easily, but this was a somewhat firm and very “snappy” knit.

neckline 1

Here’s what I did to fix this!

neckline 2

Thread a large darning needle (they have blunt tips and large eyes) with a doubled length of elastic thread, more than long enough to go around the neck. Slide the tip of the needle between the stitches of the neckband seam. You don’t want to pierce the fabric, just go between the stitching. Thread the elastic all the way around the neckline, being careful not to pierce the fabric.

neckline 3

When you reach the starting point, slide the needle out of the same stitch into which you inserted it. Pull out the elastic thread tails, and un-thread the needle. Now, gently stretch the neckline and work the ease so that the neckband lies flat – you don’t want gathers. The elastic is not pulling up the neckband, just controlling those little floppy parts.

neckline 4

When the neckband is the way you want it, tie a secure double knot in the elastic, and trim the tails. You can put a dot of seam sealant on the knot, if you like, and allow to dry.

neckline 4a

Then, work that little knot back through the seam, into the neckband. You can use the eye end of the darning needle to help, plus a little stretching of the band.

neckline 5

See how nice and smooth that neckband is now?! Compare “before”…

neckline 1

…and “after!”

neckline 5

I know I’ll wear this top a lot, and I know I’ll use this elastic thread trick a lot, too!