Friday, October 17, 2014

Pattern Fitting and PIQF


Perfecting the Fit

I know that I am very lucky.

As I've mentioned before, I am working on a project using a very cool two-sided fabric from Marcy Tilton. I couldn't find an envelope pattern with the exact design lines that I wanted, but I managed to find one in a Burda magazine. Unfortunately, the pattern in the magazine did not go up to my size—it went up to a 46 which wasn't big enough.

So my first challenge was to trace off the 46, grade it up, and add an FBA. (In other words, I was enlarging it all around, but more so for the bust.)

I did the alterations and, because there were so many changes and I have limited and irreplaceable yardage, I made up a test muslin. It required some additional fitting, especially in the armscye. I transferred the changes to the paper pattern, but did not make up a second muslin, as I was reasonably certain that any additional fitting could be handled in the real fabric.

I cut out the Tilton fabric, and a contrasting fabric (after spending a lot of time dithering on which contrast fabric to choose), and sewed up one of the back princess seams.

Immediately, I saw a problem. Due to my armscye alterations, my garment had developed "back boob".

I decided to partially sew my piece together. It features front and back princess seams, so I sewed the bottom of almost every seam seam, then I pin basted the rest. I also pin basted the side seams and the shoulder seams.

And now we come to the part where I explain why I am lucky.

Last Sunday I had a sewing day planned with some of my local friends up in the hills of Saratoga. One of these friends is Georgene, a professional pattern drafter who started her career studying in a couture school in Paris. (I really enjoy hearing her stories about this.) Not only is Georgene an excellent pattern drafter, but she's really good at fit, too. (The two skills do not necessarily go hand in hand.)

(By the way, I googled and saw that, at one time, Georgene drafted patterns for Modcloth. She never mentioned that fact to me. She's written at least one article for Threads, and she was one of the Sewing Divas.)

I had planned to only ask Georgene to re-pin the back princess seam with the garment on my body, so that she could remove the back boob, but she pointed out some other tweaks that would improve the line. After reshaping the back princess seam, she also slightly reshaped the front princess seam, moving the seam one-quarter inch towards center front, but only at the bust. Then she noticed that the side seam could be moved maybe half an inch back, also only at the top of the seam. Finally, she re-pinned the shoulder seams.

These tweaks were subtle, but the resulting garment was much more flattering! It was like one of those ads where they only put the makeup on half of the face. She had only modified the right side of the garment and, side-by-side, the improvement was so obvious.

My next task was to thread trace all of these new seamlines on the garment, replacing the pins with lines of thread on both sides of each seam. I then had to rip out the sewing I had done (my new seam ripper got quite the workout that day) so that I reduced the garment back to the individual pieces. Next I will transfer the changes back to the paper pattern and recut the contrasting fabric pieces (luckily my Marcy fabric pieces are fine).

When all is done, I will have a TNT pattern that I can use over and over, changing the details.

This process is slowing me down, but it's completely worth it.


It's been four years since I've been to PIQF, but I decided it was time to take a day off work and visit the Pacific International Quilt Festival once again!

Lots of thread at PIQF!

Even though I no longer quilt, I enjoy buzzing around the juried quilts. There are some amazing works there. But, of course, for me the main event is the vendors. If you want to buy a sewing machine, or an iron, they have those items. (Often with special show sales.) But I kept my eyes peeled for buttons, zippers, notions (tons of Steam A Seam Lite 2 was there), and smaller sewing tools.


I didn't buy much, but I did find some metal buttons from Italy for $2 a bag—I bought an assortment of those—and I purchased a seam allowance device for the sewing machine. I am keen to try that out. My only other purchase was at the tools booth.

Wow, I love tools.


I bought some very nice tweezers and some cute fingernail clippers. (I know, very mundane.) And I bought some clips that can be used as closures.

Olfa had a booth, as did Bernina

And that's it! Not a large haul, but a very nice outing.

If you are local to Santa Clara, PIQF runs through this Sunday.

Clever repurposing of the convention center's bathrooms!

Gayle's Vest

Have you laid your eyes on Gayle's fabulous vest? She made it using an OOP Marcy Tilton pattern and a fabric from Marcy. I was so enamoured of her brilliant use of the black garter belt tape for the closure, that on my way to PIQF I stopped at the store where she had found it. I bought some for myself and Margy (don't worry, I left plenty behind).

I have only been to Fabrics R Us in San Jose once before, but it is an interesting experience. It's sort of like traveling to a different country, as most of the clerks speak very little English. But with lots of smiling, pointing, and repeating oneself, it all works out. If I still made costumes for my kids and lived closer to San Jose, it would be my goto location, as their prices are very reasonable. (For example, I also purchased a poly polkadot charmeuse to use as lining for $3 a yard.)

Today is a work day for me, but I'm looking forward to a productive weekend. Enjoy!

Lollipop! (and My Favorite PIQF Quilts/Wearables)

The Android L statue has been unveiled! L is for Lollipop.

Whimsical dress made of men's shirts. The sleeves decorate the skirt.

A fun use of fabric yo-yos

My favorite quilt of the day

Another beauty

I love the fractured blocks

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday Miscellany

Happy Saturday, sewing folk!

I am still working on my project with the Marcy Tilton fabric, so nothing to report there.

For some of you, this is a 3-day weekend. Not for me - Columbus Day (or Indigenous Peoples Day) is not a holiday in Silicon Valley, for the most part.

But I have noticed lots of sales for this weekend. For example, Craftsy is having a sale. I was bombarded with emails about it and also saw a notice on Facebook, if you "like" their page. Now, depending who you are, you will see different sales prices. For example, some folks see the bra-making class for $19.99, while others see it for $39.99 (regular price is $49.99). I am one of the folks who see the bra class for $39, which I find rather annoying. (You won't see the sales prices if you go directly to their website. You need to use the link through an email ad or the Facebook ad.)

I did buy one of their classes, however.

Maybe you'll remember when I was excited about the re-publication of Susy Furrer's book, Building Patterns. Suzy Furrer runs the San Francisco based school Apparel Arts, which opened during my sewing hiatus, when I was raising kids, and after I had already taken many classes at Cañada College and Sewing Workshop (back when Marcy Tilton owned it).

(Another note. Someone emailed me recently to ask what I thought of Suzy's book, after having used it. I admit that I have still not used it. I know it's a good book based on what many folks I greatly respect have told me, but I haven't yet needed to reference it.)

Anyway, Suzy is a pattern drafter and she now offers several classes through Craftsy. I was curious to see, so I bought her class called Pattern Drafting: Creative Darts and Seamlines. I have watched the first three-plus lessons and, I can tell you, it's good.

I took pattern drafting at Cañada College and, so far, I have not really learned anything new from Suzy's class (though there is more to come and boning up is never a bad thing), but if you don't live where you can take classes in person, I really recommend this route. If you are completely new to pattern drafting, start with her basic pattern drafting classes (she has one for the bodice and one for the skirt), and then progress to her classes on sleeves, necklines, darts, and collars.

(I will give one caveat to Suzy's Dart class. Her drafting advice is aimed at a standard figure. So, for example, when she talks about backing a dart off from the bust apex by no more than 1", that is advice for folks with a standard bust. For people like me, with a very large, very round bust, 1" is probably not enough. I often back my darts off by 2 or even 2-1/2 inches. The best thing to do is to draft the dart, and cut out the fabric, but then to drape the dart directly on your body. That will tell you, for sure, where the end of the dart should be. Just keep this in mind as you study pattern drafting anywhere, not just in this class. Drafting advice is always aimed at a standard shape, and you might need to amend it for your particular silhouette or figure vagaries.)

By the way, one of my IRL blogging friends is taking classes at Apparel Arts in San Francisco. Jean, of J. Kaori Sews, was already a published knitwear designer and is now mastering pattern making and sewing. Her work is impeccable (I have a feeling that everything she does is impeccable) and she is having a lot of fun designing and sewing gorgeous, classic pieces.

And speaking of pattern drafting...

I was scheduled to work in Seattle this week, but the trip was postponed and I toiled away in my regular routine. Yesterday I took the subway to the office in San Francisco and was absolutely delighted to see a woman wearing a beautiful red wool coat. (Our weather has changed dramatically from the heat of a week ago.) Because the subway was crowded, both she and I were standing and she had one arm up to hold the ceiling handle. (I wonder if there is a word for that thing that you can pull down to hang on while the subway is moving and, when you let go, it snaps back up so tall people won't get beaned.)

Anyway, the sleeve on her coat was fabulous. It was a two-piece sleeve, but one of those seams was curved. The coat was very nice—standard lapels and double breasted with gold buttons and multiple welt pockets of two different kinds—but was otherwise unconventional. I studied her coat until she got off in the financial district, even taking a couple discrete photos of the sleeve. At one point, a seat opened up directly in front of her that she didn't want, so I sat down and was able to study the front of the coat, as my face was inches away from her torso. Sweeeet. (I would have told her that I loved her coat, and maybe asked who was on the label, but she had earphones on and didn't give off an approachable vibe.)

Expect to see this sleeve as soon as I have the right fabric and pattern together, which might not be for awhile. Oh I wish I had more time.

Enjoy your weekend! I should be sewing right now, but wanted to report on the Craftsy class (after watching several lessons this morning) and I'm also "enjoying" the rare attentions from an otherwise cantankerous and aloof kitty. He's been fed and watered, so he really does seem to be in the mood for copious neck scratches.

P.S. Maybe you noticed that Kathryn Brenne left a comment on my last post, where I reviewed the recent collection of Vogue patterns. I knew (because Robin D had told me), that she had an article in the last issue of Vogue Patterns about the making of the bag pattern, but I didn't realize that it was her own design. I am so glad to see her designing patterns for Vogue! (Though I wish Vogue would put her name ON her patterns so we can follow her as a designer.)

I have never met Kathryn in person (though I would love to) but I feel like I know her a bit, and I love her style. Maybe you have followed her blog. She doesn't seem to post there anymore, which makes me sad, because Kathryn's Fine Sewing was a great blog. She is now writing articles for Vogue Patterns magazines, and excellent articles on sewing different fabrics for Emma One Sock, which are a gift to the entire sewing community.

ANOTHER Columbus Day sale: Britex is offering 30% off all fabrics on Monday. They do this every year in the brick and mortar store, but this is the first time that it also applies to their online store.

And speaking of Vogue patterns and weekend sales, BMV is having a sale this weekend. I put my order in yesterday, and have patterns from Marcy, Sandra and Kathryn winging their way to me. I think my first make will be the Marcy skirt. I already have a fabric in mind, but I do change my mind a lot, so we'll see...

P.P.S. Marcy Tilton is also having a Fall Sale!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Holiday Vogue Collection 2014

Vogue 1426

OK, it is just me?

I have been studying the new Vogue patterns, which came out today, and I am filled with the desire to beat myself into a stupor with bunches of invisible zippers, tied together with horsehair braid.

Vogue 1423

Yes, there are some lovely dresses, with beautiful silhouettes, unusual cut outs, and interesting inner seam lines.

Vogue 1424


I work in a company filled with women in their 20s and 30s. And, yes, some of them wear dresses. But MANY of them wear separates to work! Many many many.


In fact, MOST.

You know I love you, Vogue, but OY. I would love to see a little more balance in the offerings. I mean, even the vintage ladies and girls got dresses (which makes a certain amount of sense, especially for a holiday release).

Vogue 9072

But you missed an opportunity with the men. They got a combined vest/cumberbund/tie pattern. If you had offered a view with an attached kilt, sort of a kilt onesie, if you will, you would have accomplished an all-dresses-for-all-categories release!

Vogue 9073

(And, yes, some of these dresses would look great on my daughters, but I don't sew for my daughters, for the most part. Down that path lies misery and suffering.)

In summary: WHERE ARE THE PANTS?!??! I mean interesting pants. Pants with details. Pants with character.


OK, now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's talk.

But not about dresses.

So, this should be pretty short.

Let's start with my absolute favorite pattern of the release. And it's a bag.

Vogue 9074

I don't make many bags, but this one is gorgeous. Both of these bags are staring at me imploringly, with their little zipper mouths. Yes! Yes, I will buy you, little zipper mouth bag pattern! I will!

Marcy has three new patterns in this release, making up for the fact that she had only one last time. But not one of them is pants! [insert unhappy sniveling noises]

I love Marcy's new raincoat pattern. This photo looks a bit weird, but the line drawing drips with promise. (Though I hope that the collar won't actually funnel the rain in.)

Vogue 9070

This may be my favorite new pattern of Marcy's. A skirt! (I rarely wear a dress, but I love me a skirt!)

Vogue Vogue 9060

Marcy's final offering looks like a nice top with several views.

Vogue 9057

Sandra Betzina has two new patterns this release, also featuring zero pants. The first one (either a dress or a top) has an unusual neckline, which is a bit hard to see in this busy print, though I like the creative use of a border print. I like the line drawing very much. It's a dress I might actually make.

[ducking to avoid hurling projectiles]

Vogue 1429

Sandra's other offering is a loose, drapey top and a skirt.

Vogue 1430

On the right person, this top is chic and dramatic. On someone like me, with a "full front" with my large bust, it can be a bit much.

So, what other patterns jump out at me from this batch? Not a whole lot. Some of the remaining separates look similar to past releases. But there are a couple that I will probably pick up on sale.

Vogue 9063

I like this top, which has an Issey Miyake-like hem. It would look best in a very drapey fabric, like rayon batik. But I would wear it as styled here, with skinny pants, and not as shown in the second view, with the skirt. This could skew frumpy very fast.

I like view A of this pattern, though I'd add sleeves. (I do not care for views B or C at all, which look like maternity smocks.)

Vogue 9054

But, I am sorry to say, that this top looks all kind of wrong to me.

Vogue 9064

I don't know, maybe someone out there can make a version that proves me wrong, but it seems, to me, like it draws attention to the most problematic part of the body and creates some weird proportions.

So, that's it for me! What do you think? What did I miss?

Wool Coat with Knitted Sleeves and Collar


I've completed my second project for Britex, which you can see on the Britex blog.

Fall has arrived!

I used two yards of a striking navy and turquoise coating (90% wool and 10% poly) from Britex to make myself a winter coat. This coating has the look of a handwoven fabric and I love the mix of navy and turquoise. It is lined with teal Bemberg lining.

As the basis for the coat, I used a recently released pattern, Butterick 6107, View C. My little twist is that I knitted the collar and sleeves using a super chunky yarn, Mirasol Ushya in 1709 (navy). I selected a chunky yarn because it knits up quickly, but also chunky knits are very on trend for this fall and winter. I used just under four skeins. (If my arms weren't so short, I would have needed five skeins.)

Alterations and Modifications

I used a size Large (16-18). The pattern says it is "very loose fitting", and it is. Despite the fact that this is a fairly simple pattern, I made many changes, some for fit and some for style.

  • As I mentioned, the pattern is very loose fitting. I didn't need any additional width for my bust (very unusual), so I did a vertical-only FBA. In the end, I didn't need to sew in the dart, as the fabric is loosely woven enough that I was able to ease the dart into the side seam. I also did some easing to bring in the armscye at the bust. This is a subtle detail that improves the fit.
  • The armhole on this pattern is very large and low and the shoulder is extended. I dislike an extended shoulder, so I narrowed the shoulder by almost 2". As a result, I also raised the sleeve cap on the sleeve. I did not otherwise modify the large armhole, so pay attention if you don't like a large armhole.
  • I wanted a wider front facing, so I redrafted it.
  • The coat pattern is unlined, but I wanted to line it, so I drafted a front and back lining. I did not line the knitted sleeves.
  • Omitted fullness at the hip.
  • Omitted the collar pattern and replaced it with a single-thickness knitted collar.
  • Shortened the sleeve by 1", which is pretty typical. I could have shortened it another 1/2" - 1". I raised the sleeve cap, which was rather flat shaped, suitable for an extended sleeve. Finally, instead of a fabric sleeve, I knitted the sleeves.
  • Omitted the side seam pockets, which add a lot of bulk. I originally wanted welt pockets, but the fabric is a bit loosely woven for that, so I sewed on one very large, lined, patch pocket.
    The back of the lined pocket
  • The coat closes with a single button. Instead, I used a beautiful toggle I purchased at Britex (not available online), and two large snaps. I sewed these on with silk buttonhole twist from Japan.
    The toggle. I punched holes for sewing it on with Japanese silk buttonhole twist
  • The fabric is striped, so I cut it out single thickness, matching the stripes.
  • The fabric has a gorgeous selvedge. I wanted to feature it, so I laid out the fronts and the front facings to place the selvedge at the edge. I wanted to also put the selvedge along the armscye, but I used it up entirely on the fronts and front facings. (The selvedge along the front edges are double thickness; I slightly favored the facings so that the selvedge extends beyond the front by about 1/8". I did this to give more gravitas to the selvedge along the front edge.)

Knitting the Collar and Sleeves

For this project, I bought a super chunky yarn, Mirasol Ushya, in navy (color 1709). Using size 13 needles, I spent several evenings knitting up a multitude of samples. I wanted a stitch with some texture, but not too much texture. I wanted to use a 2x2 rib on the collar. Eventually, after many samples, I decided that also I wanted 2x2 rib at the wrist, but I didn't want the sleeve to be snug at the wrist, which looks dated to me. (So I didn't use fewer stitches at the cuff, or smaller needles and, in fact, I used a looser tension in the cuff than in the rest of the sleeve.)

At first I thought I wanted a moss or seed stitch, but these samples had too much texture. Stockinette was too bland. I also experimented with twisted rib, and garter stitch. I finally settled on a reverse stockinette stitch. (Reverse stockinette is just the other side of stockinette.)

For each stitch I sampled, I took careful notes of the gauge of that particular stitch. Having an accurate gauge is crucial when you graph out the pattern.

Knitting the collar and sleeves was not hard. The collar is just a rectangle. The sleeves are a bit trickier, but if you have an accurate gauge, they are not that difficult. You just need to do a bit of figuring. :)

Preparing for the collar: I cleanly finished the coat at the neckline, so that all raw edges were hidden inside, as if it were a collarless coat. The finished neckline, from edge to edge, was 25". (The coat overlaps at front and the collar extends all the way to each corner.)

Knitting the collar: A 2x2 rib has a 4-stitch repeat: Knit 2, Purl 2. I determined that I needed to cast on 68 stitches so that the resulting collar would fit the neckline. I knit in 2x2 rib for approximately 4-1/2", using my normal tension, which is a bit loose. I cast off and blocked the collar.

Attaching the collar to the coat:: I underlapped the knitted collar by about 1/2" to the inside of the neckline, and hand stitched it in place, sewing it twice - once from the front and once from the back. I used a whipstitch which is pretty invisible in the textured knit.

Blocking the collar

Preparing for the sleeves: I completed the entire coat and lining, cleanly finishing the armholes as if I were making a vest. I then tissue fit the sleeve pattern and determined what alterations I needed: I raised the sleeve cap by about 1-1/2" and shortened the sleeve by about 1-1/4". I then removed the seam allowances and hem from the pattern. Armed with my giant plastic ruler and my gauge information, I graphed the sleeve pattern. I wanted the sleeves to be knit more firmly than the collar, so I knitted them with a very tight tension. The final gauge was 4 stitches to the inch, and 4 rows to the inch. This even, easily divisible, number made it easy to graph out the pattern.

Knitting the sleeves: There is a left and a right sleeve, since the sleeve cap is shaped with different front and back curves, and I mimicked that when creating the knitted sleeve pattern. I cast on 40 stitches for the sleeve and knit in a 2x2 rib for 4". I then switched to reverse stockinette and finished the sleeve according to the pattern I graphed out, increasing to 50 stitches before decreasing to shape the sleeve cap. When adding stitches (increasing), I used the nearly invisible increase, which is a great technique.

Blocking the sleeve

Sewing the sleeves: The underarm seam is sewn using a mattress stitch. (This took me a few tries, as my first efforts were not good. My friend Heather made a helpful suggestion, and I watched a video on the subject again. The third try, while not perfect, was much better. Thanks, Heather!)

I then sewed the sleeves to the coat in the same manner as the collar, by underlapping them in the coat, and sewing (by hand) twice: one from the outside and once from the inside.

Closeup of sleeve and collar

And, if you don't want to knit it yourself, all is not lost! Did you know that you can BUY knit yardage?! Check out O! Jolly!, based in NYC.


I love this coat! The beauty of a style like this is that there are several ways to wear it. You can wear it with the coat fully closed. The collar is held in place with a large snap and it forms an asymmetric neckline that is quite snuggly.

You can unsnap the top snap, and create faux lapels.

Or you can wear it completely open. Thanks to the Bemberg lining, it easily slips on and off.

WHO broke the antenna off the Android!?!

WHO would do such a thing!!!

I had sooo much fun with this project! I'd been wanting to combine knitting and sewing in a project for at least two years, and this was a perfect use for it. The resulting coat is quite warm, comfy, and easily glides on and off, thanks to the Bermberg lining. I expect to get a lot of wear out of this as the weather cools. I have very little left of the yardage, but I have some fun plans for the scraps!

Thanks to Britex for providing the fabric!
Thanks to my colleague, Mary Campione, for taking these pics!

Location, Location, Location!

Maybe you are asking, "What is the deal with the seemingly random statues of desserts?!"

Good question!

This area, part of the Google Mountain View campus, is known as the Android Sculpture Garden. In a nutshell, each Android release is named after a treat, in alphabetical order. The current Android preview release is the "L release". The "L" treat has not yet been named, or unveiled. I have no inside knowledge, but I think Lollipop would be nice. Or Licorice. Or Dumbledore's favorite muggle candy, Lemon Drops. (There are no "A" or "B" statues, as those releases were called Alpha and Beta, respectively. The treat tradition started with C.

Mr Android welcomes you to his garden

The sculpture garden currently contains the following statues, in alphabetical order:




Froyo (Frozen yogurt)

Gingerbread (my favorite)


Ice cream sandwich

Jelly bean