Getting Started on the Fall Wardrobe Plan

Using my magic quadrant for sewing planning, I came up with some priorities for my fall sewing time, by considering the ease or difficulty of each project and the cost involved, and factored in things I “need” vs. things I “want.”

sewing plan 3

I decided to start with “cheap and easy,” and something I needed, which left me with a cardigan or a sweatshirt. I tossed a coin and got the sweatshirt. I have all the materials and pattern in hand – two yards of bright red 100% cotton sweatshirt fleece, a sport-style nylon zipper and Kwik Sew 3452.


This pattern is copyrighted 2007 and I believe it’s out of print, but you can get it online. A fellow member of sent it to me for free, when I put a request out there for something like it. This pattern calls for a stretch fleece, but I prefer 100% cotton, and the fabric I have stretches enough according to the envelope guide. It’s a bit close-fitting, so I graded out a size in hips, to be safe.

I am copying an old sweatshirt I bought at a cheap tourist shop on Cape Cod years ago. It’s a half-zip pullover style with a kangaroo pouch and a collar, not a hood. There was NO pattern exactly like this anywhere, and this pattern is not exactly right. It doesn’t have a kangaroo pouch, just  fold-over pockets for the full-zip version, view A.


Simplicity 8174 to the rescue! I bought this pattern for the bomber jacket (which is AMAZING, by the way – I made it in cranberry red ultrasuede earlier this year). I couldn’t help but notice that the jersey dress has a kangaroo pocket, and I was happy that it sized up well with the Kwik Sew sweatshirt.

Now I need to decide if I will use my sewing machine or serger for this job. The pattern calls for 1/4 inch seam allowances, since it assumes you’ll either serge it or use an overlock stitch on a sewing machine. I don’t have any red serger thread. Do I spring for it, or do I keep the spirit of “cheap and easy” by using my sewing machine?


Sari Refashion Completed!

Here’s my completed project for the second round of the Sewing Bee: New Look 6498 done up in a refashioned sari. I got it in India in April (more here about this).


I am standing all dramatic like this to accentuate the sleeves. The theme of the second round was “Fabulous Sleeves.” I don’t know how fabulous these are – certainly they were not as creatively done as many other entries into the contest – but they are voluminous and eye-catching. They’re twice as wide and about 50% longer than the pattern called for. They’re done up with a simple gathering stitch and attached to the sleeves – no fancy needlework required. I did my usual full-bicep adjustment to accommodate my dinner lady arms, but I did only a 3/4 inch instead of a full inch because I wanted the sleeves a bit close-fitting, in keeping with the style of the blouse worn under a sari.


 I am delighted with how the bust turned out. When I made a muslin of this in April, I ran into a big fit problem with the bust. It was too high and too low at the same time. Yeah – no problem! That is, the waistband sat about a quarter of the way up my bust instead of just under the bust, and the neckline was too low and a bit too revealing.

The only way to fix this was to get the bust to fit perfectly. I lengthened the bodice 1.5 inches all around so that the waistband would hit right under my bust. Then I redrafted the neckline a bit so that it was not quite so low-cut. Finally, I took in the waistband 1/2 inch on each side so it was more close-fitting. The bust fits perfectly now!


My dog, Jake, likes to photobomb pictures.

The sari is very gauzy and hard to work with. I finished the inside with French seams everywhere I could, and I used fusible stay tape and transparent dissolving stabilizer instead of interfacing for the neckband and waistband.

Here are pictures of the inside on my dressform. You can see how transparent it is. The traditional sari is draped and wrapped and pleated many times so that air moves through it yet it covers completely. I wanted to stay true to the spirit of the sari, so I didn’t line it. This might have been a mistake as far as the contest goes – I think that lined dresses are expected – but that’s not what I wanted. I wear it with a long princess-seamed slip I bought at a vintage shop years ago.

I only wish that I had made this earlier in the year, so I could have enjoyed it this summer. It’s getting autumnal very fast in Connecticut, so this may have to sit in the closet unworn for a while.

And Now for Something Completely Connecticut

I live in Connecticut, USA, where we have to make existential decisions all the time, such as:

  • Pants: Cuffs or no cuffs?
  • Dog breed: Sporting or nonsporting?
  • Carpet: Oriental or Aubusson?

I resisted this for a time. A long time. But as the pull of the Distaff Side grows stronger and my 50s grow closer, I start to think I should stop fighting and just OWN it.


It’s a boucle pencil skirt. Cue the “Ladies Who Lunch” music. (Also: notice I went with “Oriental” for the carpet choice.)

I made this for Round 1 of the Sewing Bee. I don’t know why I participate in these sewing contests. I have no prayer of winning. I just enjoy the camaraderie and looking to see what others made.

I bought the boucle at Banksville Designer Fabric in Norwalk, Conn. Because it’s fragile and frays like my nerves after a day with my mother-in-law, I underlined it with silk organza and used a Hong Kong finish on all the seams.


This really isn’t difficult, just time-consuming. But with a pencil skirt’s close fit, I could imagine it fraying away as I sashayed down the street otherwise.

The pattern is Burda 6895. I hate Burda. There, I said it. The directions make no sense to me and the fit baffles. I only got this because I needed a princess-seamed pencil skirt and this was the only pattern in the store in my size. I would have taken anything else.

As it was, I had to add two fat darts to the back and take a wedge out the zipper area to get it to fit – too big of a job for a little princess seam adjustment. The seams didn’t lie on the heaviest parts of my thighs but rather a bit off center, so they were not as much help as I would have liked.


I added an Art Deco reproduction button with tab to either side of the high hip, to riff off the vibe I was going for. I lined it with Bemberg rayon.

Now I am tempted to make a Chanel style jacket to go with it. I happen to have Simplicity 1202 in the pattern stash (the raglan-sleeve blouse is a TNT pattern).


Dare I? Will it make me look 70?

How to Sew Applique Seams on Lace

My project “Miss Fisher’s Lace Fantasy Duster” hit a snag… ba-da-boom! Pun pun pun!

No really, it did. But I figured it out.

The Art Deco-inspired lace I bought has beautiful scalloped eyelash borders on both sides. I wanted to make the most of this design, so I lined up the fronts of the duster along these motifs.

I also lined up the sleeves this way, so that the pretty scalloping would fall at bracelet length along my arms. So far, so good.

But what to do about the hems and the V-neckline? This isn’t the kind of lace where you can just trim around for the motifs – the curves go every which way. I thought about just doing a rolled hem, or using a decorative stitch on my machine to mimic the scalloping, but I really wanted that eyelash and scallop look everywhere.

Threads Magazine to the rescue! An issue from 2006 had a great tutorial on how to sew with lace. Here’s a step by step on how I made it work.

  1. Cut the pattern pieces out of the lace along the seamline as if it’s a normal piece of fabric.

2. On another piece of lace, trim carefully around the motifs, following them where they go. They might go a couple of inches away from the border. That’s fine.

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3. Lay the cut-out motifs on top of the cut edge of the pattern piece, right side of pattern piece to wrong side of lace motif, as you would for an applique. My lace was fairly thick and durable, so I just pinned the bejeezus out of it, but for a more delicate lace you may want to use some temporary fusible whatnot.


4. Sew with a narrow zigzag along the edges of the lace motif. Follow the cuts and curves where they go, which might be pretty close or fairly far away from the raw edge of the pattern piece, depending on how the motifs lay out. This was pretty easy since I have these black edges all over the place on my lace, but you get the idea. (At least, I hope you do.)

You will end up with a mess that looks like this:


But fear not!

5. Trim away the excess on the pattern piece from the underside. It was difficult to get a good picture of this, but basically flip the whole thing over to the wrong side and feel along with your fingers for where the motif is sewn on to the pattern piece. Use some small sharp scissors to remove that excess from the raw edge of the pattern piece, leaving only the appliqued motif behind.

It takes time and patience, but in the end you get this:


Can you see the seams? Didn’t think so! I mean, you can feel the difference but you can’t see it unless you look really closely. And who’s going to do that?

Miss Fisher’s Lace Fantasy

I have never sewn with lace before. I don’t wear lace, actually. I mean, I donned a tiered lace Scarlett O’Hara dress for my junior prom, but that was back in the 80s when I could be forgiven for it.

But lately, I have been craving lace. Miss Fisher is to blame.

Played by Essie Davis, Phryne Fisher is the quintessential 1920s fashionista, swanning around in lace jackets and dusters as she solves crimes, saves the day and gets the men on the TV show “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.” (It’s an Australian show, available on Netflix in the US.)

I bought some Art Deco style lace from Mood Fabrics in New York:


And I am learning how to sew lace for the first time. The red thread you see running through the center is the center back.  One of the first things you learn is to use running threads and tailor’s tacks to mark the pattern.

The Competitiveness of “Making”

Why is “making” things such a big deal?

I went to a dinner party Saturday night and got all snarky with friends about the glory of “making” vs. “buying.”

I happened to be wearing my tablecloth dress because these friends had shown an interest in the past about my sewing projects. It glams up pretty well with some cream-colored rope-soled wedges, a Kenneth Cole bag in sage green and some gold and jade jewelry inherited from my grandmother.

So when a friend asked if I made the dress, I said “yes.” Actually, I said “Is it that obvious?” She assured me it was not obvious at all, but she knew I sewed and so she always wonders when she sees me if I’m wearing anything me-made.

The guys at this party – my husband and two friends (husbands of the women) – had looks on their faces as if to say, “Please don’t let this mixed-gender conversation turn into a female-only discussion about sewing.” Clearly, most men don’t get it. They understand “making” something they enjoy, like baking a cake or painting a picture, but sewing women’s apparel is beyond them.

What’s a gal to do but to get a bit snarky?

One of these guys happens to have a pretty big garden. “Why grow your own vegetables and flowers? Why don’t you just buy them?” I asked. One guy homebrews beer. “Why do that? Why not just buy beer?” Hmm?

Clearly, I hit a nerve. I didn’t get much of an answer from the guys, beyond “it’s just a hobby” and “I’ve been doing it forever” and “I invested in all this equipment already.” Shortly after this little discussion, the guys decamped to the kitchen to talk, leaving the women in the living room. We shifted our conversation elsewhere.

When dessert was brought out, I could not resist another little dig. I knew darn well that my friend had not baked the peach tart that was put before us, but I couldn’t resist asking: “Did you make that?”

She said “no” and seemed embarrassed about it. Why? It was delicious and beautiful. We ate the whole thing. What difference does it matter if you make or buy? Are some things more worthy of “making” than others? If a man makes it’ does that make it more worthy?

Hey – if you want to make, make. If you want to buy, buy. No judgment.