Category Archives: Uncategorized

Book Review – Stress Free Quilting with Machine Embroidery

Hello, folks! April and Tax Day already!! I went on vacation in March, then the Cleveland Sewing Expo, and finally I have a chance to blog a bit.

I picked up this spiral bound book at the Pins and Needles booth at the Sewing Expo. Pins had a huge table of 50% (or more!) off stuff, and that’s my kind of stuff!!

I didn’t look at the book too closely when I bought it. I knew it was quilting, and used and embroidery machine, and had a cd in the back. I was with some friends who sew a little. They enjoyed themselves and the quilt exhibit, but weren’t that interested in spending several hours at a half off table! So I grabbed it.

This is not just a how-to book with designs, it’s a really cool way to assemble quilt blocks in the hoop using an embroidery machine. The system bastes and lays down guidelines, then pauses. Now, you take your piece of quilt fabric, position it so the proper edge is aligned with the machine-stitched guideline, and press Resume. The machine stitches the piece down making an absolutely perfect straight seam (as long as you aligned it with the guideline), stitches the next guideline and pauses again. Now, you flip your fabric up to hide the seam, press it in the hoop with a mini iron, and align your next piece. Press resume, and the machine stitches down the piece and places the next guideline, etc, etc, until your quilt block is complete.

The end result is a perfectly pieced quilt block, already pressed.

The book also includes instructions and stitching patterns for piecing the finished blocks together, adding a binding, and quilting the blocks. It includes 4 block designs, in three different sizes.

Although I didn’t see it mentioned in the book, Youtube has tutorials with Nancy Ziemen and   demonstrating the process step by step. The tutorials are free to watch so check them out!!

I’m not a big quilter, but this looks like fun and I’m planning to try it!

IF you love using your embroidery machine, and enjoy quilting, you will like this book

IF you have trouble piecing quilt blocks, and have an embroidery machine, you will like this book

IF you do not have an embroidery machine, you won’t be able to use this system



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sew Retro: A Stylish History of the Sewing Revolution Book Review

Grab a cup of coffee, or tea, or cocoa. It’s time for another book review

Sew Retro – A Stylish History of the Sewing Revolution by Judi Ketteler

Sew Retro is a combination history and how-to book. Patterns for the projects are included.

DISCLAIMER: I have not actually made any of the projects using the provided pattern pieces or instructions. My pattern pieces are still sealed in the envelope bound into the rear of this hardback, spiral bound book.

The book covers roughly 150 years of history, from the 18000s to the 1980s. I guess anything newer than that is too new to be retro!

A fun timeline marches across the bottom of the pages through all the chapters, noting important sewing related events.

Each chapter begins by talking about the changing role of women, major events and circumstances that affect the United States and their impact on the home sewing industry. Biographies of key women in fashion history and interviews with contemporary women in the industry pepper this section, and advertisements from the era provide rich, intriguing illustrations. The history portion is followed by several projects that (are supposed to) reflect that time period.

Chapter One – 1800s – Victorian Pin Cushion, Elegant Shawl, Sweet Sewing Basket, Charming Needlecase

Chapter Two – 1910s; 1920s – Opera Bag, Flapper Apron, Smart Felt Hat

Chapter Three – 1930s; 1940s – Patchwork Potholders, Pinch a Penny Change Purse, Cafe Curtains, Tea Party Tablecloth, Ribbon Embellished Napkins

Chapter Four – 1950s -Hostess Apron, Mod Gathered Pillow, Pretty Little Purse, Birds of a Feather Table Runner, Handkerchief Bag

Chapter Five – 1960s; 1970s – Not So Mini Mini Skirt, Cool Coasters, Easy Elastic Headband, Groovy Patchwork Throw

Chapter Six – 1980s – Saturday Afternoon Skirt, Farmer’s Market Bag, Catch-All Caddy, Almost Effortless Scarf

Every project includes a photo of the completed item. Many of these projects are (or could be) quite useful items, for example, the Thrifty Thirties Patchwork Potholders, or the Victorian Sweet Sewing Basket. Others, like the Mid Century Modern Birds of a Feather Table Runner and Almost Effortless Scarf, are just not my taste at all. And some, like the Mid Century Modern Pretty Little Purse, are actually quite cute, but not in the fabrics and colors chosen for the examples.

All the projects are Easy or Very Easy. A few, like the Easy Elastic Headband, a fabric tube with an elastic insert, are easy enough for children. The Patchwork Potholders would be a good project to introduce kids to quilting, and the Groovy Patchwork Throw could make an easy project for a beginning quilter. Some projects, like the Cafe Curtains or the Elegant Shawl, are simple projects that an intermediate sewist could probably create on their own without the book (I know I’ve been making simple curtains like for over 30 years, often out of sheets).

Each project includes a list of needed supplies, the pattern pieces used (if any), a list of what fabric pieces to cut, and assembly steps accompanied by illustrations with a hand-drawn quality.

Will you like this book?

If you are looking for a how-to-sew book, this probably isn’t for you. It does include some sewing information, and a couple of projects could be good introductions to quilling, but the how-to information is largely limited to how-to do each project, not sewing in general.

If you are looking to recreate authentic items from a specific era of history, this book is not for you. The projects are all modern interpretations inspired by the mood and feeling of a specific era.

If you are looking for Easy or Very Easy sewing projects (including some that can be done by hand, or by children, or by hand by children) you might like this book. If you dislike the way an item looks in the project photo, do not be put off. These items can be made in different colors (or in prints or solids) and different fabric, producing different results.

If you enjoy vintage advertising, sewing history, interviews and biographies of fashion industry figures, you might like this book.


1 Comment

Filed under book review, sewing, Uncategorized

Welcome to the Cafe

Welcome to the Cafe portion of my blog! I’ll share my prize winning cake recipe and a book review.

Rum Cake Recipe – Second Place Winner

I entered a Rum Bundt Cake in the Cuyahoga County Fair this year and won second place! I’ve won second place many times before, but it’s always a thrill to win anything. This years first place winner was a pineapple upside down cake. The year I made pineapple upside down cake, I placed second to a Red Velvet Bundt Cake with a Cream Cheese Tunnel! Maybe I need to put the Rum Cake and the Pineapple Upsidedown cake together somehow?

Here’s the recipe for Rum Cake. It came from the King Arthur Flour website. I modified it by

  1. Adding nutmeg to the Almond Flour pan coating
  2. Substituting Eggnog Flavor for the Butter Rum Flavor (Because Eggnog was what I had at hand)
  3. I omitted the rum soak, and glazed the cake with a thin glaze made of powdered sugar, milk and Eggnog flavor

At the last minute, I stopped. bought an orchid plant, snipped off a bloom, and tucked it into the center of the bundt cake.


  • 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3.4-ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix (not sugar-free)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup rum, plain or spiced
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon butter-rum flavor (optional but excellent)
  • 1/4 cup pecan or almond flour, for dusting baking pan


  • 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup rum, light or dark, plain or spiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Place all of the cake ingredients except the rum, vanilla, and butter-rum flavor in a bowl and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Be sure to scrape down the bowl after one minute. Add the rum, vanilla, and flavor to the batter and beat at low speed for another minute.
  3. Spritz a 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle on the pecan or almond flour and turn the pan to coat evenly; shake out any excess. Set aside. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread level with a spatula.
  4. Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes. When done, the cake will test clean on a cake tester.
  5. Leave the cake in the pan to cool slightly while you make the soaking syrup.
  6. In a medium-sized saucepan combine the syrup ingredients, except vanilla. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce to a simmer and cook (without stirring) for about 5 to 8 minutes, until the syrup thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  7. Use a long skewer to poke holes all over the cake. Pour about 1/4 cup of the syrup over the cake (still in the pan). Allow the syrup to soak in, then repeat again and again until all the syrup is used.
  8. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow the cake to sit overnight at room temperature to cool completely and soak in the syrup. When ready to serve, loosen the edges of the cake and invert onto your serving plate. If the cake won’t release, place it in the oven, turn the oven to 350°F, and warm for 5 to 10 minutes, to soften the syrup. Remove from the oven, and tip the cake onto the serving plate.
  9. Serve with hot coffee or tea. The cake is very moist, fragrant and potent.
  10. Wrap securely (or place under a cake cover) and store at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage, up to 1 month.

And there it is!

Book Review  The Makers Atelier 

I bought this book for two reasons. First, I liked the name! Second, and more importantly, I was interested in the idea of creating a complete, versatile wardrobe from a handful of basic patterns.

This book sets out to offer a set of simple, easy to sew designs that can be casual or elegant, depending on the fabric, and form a complete wardrobe – and that’s exactly what this book and pattern collection does. If you like fitted designs and lots of details, chances are you won’t like the patterns in this collection. But, if you like a loose, boxy fit and elastic waistbands, chances are you’ll find some (maybe all) of these patterns appealing.

Each pattern includes step by step illustrations and instructions. The designs themselves are simple, with no darts or cuffs. Disclaimer: I have not actually tried following any of the instructions step by step yet, but, I’m not sure they’ve always used the best techniques. For example, the Drape Front Top is made of jersey knit, but finished with bias tape. I wouldn’t do that, I’d cut a self binding or facing.

Book Index/Chapter headings

Choosing and Using Fabrics
Measuring, Making a Toile, and Fitting a Garment
Pattern One – Stretch Skirt
Pattern Two – Drape Front Top
Pattern Three – Cigarette Pants
Pattern Four – Tie Neck Blouse
Pattern Five – The Book Bag
Pattern Six – Raw Edge Coat
Pattern Seven – Wrap Skirt
Pattern Eight – Oversize T
Resources and Acknowledgements

PaperBack or HardBound?

Heavy paper cover, almost like a hardbound but not quite. It has a flap that folds over the front and locks the book closed. When the book is opened, the right side is a tied paper envelope containing the pattern pieces. The contents of the book are on the left side. The last page of the index is printed on the inside of the front cover. I’ve never seen a book assembled like this one, it’s a little hard to describe.

Does this book have clear illustrations or photographs?

Yes, it has clear photos of each project, tech specs on the patterns (line drawings, sizing, etc) and assembly instructions. Disclaimer, I have not actually followed any of the instructions yet. They seem complete and correct, but not necessarily the technique I’d use.

Would you recommend this book as a MUST HAVE?

No, not a “must have” unless you love these styles or want this collection.

The Makers Atelier, The Essential Collection is primarily a collection of eight patterns that together form a complete wardrobe, including a bag.

The book section has an introduction to the idea behind this collection, that is, a set of patterns that create a wardrobe. The styles are simple but versatile, and examples of many variations are included in the photos. There’s a few pages on selecting fabrics and a sizing chart. No sewing instructions are included here, all that is in the pattern section.

Each pattern section begins with a little background on the style. I’ll use the Stretch Pencil Skirt as an example. It begins with a section called “Developing the”, in this example, Developing the Pencil Skirt. It talks about the history of the pencil skirt, a discussion of the stretch version included in this collection, how the author/designer likes her skirt to fit, and mentions the many different looks that are possible from this simple skirt (the author has 25 versions of this skirt). Next is a “How to Wear” section, with 4 photos each showing a different version and a brief description of the skirt and top shown in the photo. This is followed by the Technical Information, including Sizing, Fabric Requirements, Notions, Sewing Notes, Cutting Guide, and assembly instructions. Finishing up the pattern chapter is a Making More of section, which explains how to add seam details and four different hemming methods.

The styles themselves are simple and clean. The Stretch Pencil Skirt, for example, is just two pattern pieces and an elastic waist.

The Drape Front Top is a simple two piece, sleeveless, dartless T with a slight cowl neck, finished with bias binding. Variations include a gathered neck, a self lined version, and a woven bias variation.

The Cigarette Pants are pull on stretch pants with a slightly tapered leg, faced waist and side zip. Variations include top-stitched tucks and capri length pants with vents at the hem.

The Tie-Front blouse is a button front, dartless shirt with long, cuffless sleeves and a slim tie neckband. Variations include wider ties and contrasting ties.

The Book Bag is a nice tote that can be used as a tote bag or purse, and one variation includes instructions on how to make a compact fold up version for easy storage. The Book Bag is the pattern I’m most likely to use from this collection.

The Raw Edge Coat is a dartless, shirt-like jacket with long, two piece cuffless sleeves and optional pockets. When I saw the technical drawing I thought “Lab Coat”. Although no laboratory coat versions are suggested, the raw edge coat is shown in two lengths. One variation includes finished edges, another is made of leather and includes instructions for working with leather.

The Wrap Skirt is a straight skirt with an overlapping asymmetrical front panel, the top edge of the waistband on the overlap panel descends from the waist to the hip across the front, and the hem drops along with it. variations include a stripe emphasising the front panel and a lining.

The Oversized T-Shirt is exactly that: An oversized, dartless T with a large jewel neck. Variations include short, elbow length or long sleeves, two different lengths, and neckline embellishments

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

McCalls 7358 Wrap Top Make #1 and Make #2

First, a pink button front version

I needed a summer wardrobe of cool and comfortable tops to wear on vacation. The inspiration for my first make on McCall’s 7358 was an asymmetrical button front shirt from a catalog. I couldn’t find a pattern exactly like the inspiration shirt, but this McCall’s pattern came close enough.

I chose a pink rayon for my shirt, and large cream colored plastic buttons from my stash.

I used a normal shirt collar instead of the pattern collar. On the pattern, the front panel is squared off at the wrap point. I extended the slant all the way out to a point, and added buttons and buttonholes. It was actually quite tricky to get the buttons in the right place! I pinned and repined, pinned and repinned to get them correctly placed. I added a few extra buttons (but not buttonholes) on the front panel below the point at the side. I also made tabs for the sleeves.

Which way to put the buttonholes? Normally, front button shirts have vertical buttonholes. But, the placket on this shirt is diagonal. Vertical buttonholes might look weird. I thought about putting them diagonally along the placket, but I worried that might be tricky and might not hold the shirt shut. I settled on horizontal buttonholes.

The end result is not an exact duplicate of the inspiration top, but it’s really close. The inspiration shirt has a slim line, mine has a fuller line (for a fuller body). I have extra buttons on the lower section, and the collar sits a little differently.

Pattern Description: Wrap shirt with belt

Pattern Sizing: Misses

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? No, it isn’t supposed to.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, the instructions were clear and notches lined up.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I like the wrap front and the comfortable, relaxed fit. I did not like the shape of the lower front facings.

Fabric Used: Rayon challis

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Added a shirt collar and tabs to the sleeves. Extended the front panel all the way to a point, added buttons and buttonholes

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, I would sew this again. In fact, I already have! I liked it so much that I made a second version, below, even before I completely finished this version. Yes, I’d recommend it, but I’d point out that the front panel does not extend all the way across the front, it does not reach the side seam. Also, the lower front facing pieces are a little funny

Then, a blue floral version

I liked this top so much that I decided to make another right away. This time, I used a blue floral rayon print, with a solid blue rayon for accent. I tried to make the shawl collar into more of a double ruffle collar, but that didn’t work quite as I hoped. I also added double flounces to the sleeves.

The body, upper collar, upper sleeve, upper sleeve flounce and one side of the tie belt are blue floral print rayon challie. The undercollar, lower sleeve flounce, front facings, other side of the tie belt, and hem facing are solid blue. The neck and sleeve flounces, both solid blue and floral print, are finished with a three thread rolled hem.

I like this shirt! I feel a little bit like Carmen Miranda when I wear it. But, the event I planned to wear it to didn’t happen, so here is a photo of me wearing the shirt on my back deck

Pattern Description: Wrap blouse

Pattern Sizing: Misses

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? This time it came pretty close, except for the doubled up collar and sleeve flounce

Were the instructions easy to follow? Because this make is closer to the pattern with fewer design changes than the first make, and because this is my second time making it, everything went together a lot easier.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The lower front facing was a little funny, for this make I used a wide strip of blue bias. Also, the top panel does not wrap all the way around to the side seam, it stops about 3/4 of the way across the front

Fabric Used: Rayon challis

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Tried to make the shawl collar more of a ruffle or flounce, but it didn’t work quite as I expected. I doubled the collar and sleeve flounce, and faced the hem with solid blue.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, I’d recommend this pattern. Will I make it again? Maybe.

Leave a comment

Filed under sewing, Uncategorized

Vogue 8804 Jacket Hacked

I’ve made this jacket before. It was a LOT of work and took a LONG time! I remember as I was making it, I kept feeling like I was doing everything the hard way.

Dress and Jacket Front

I actually wanted a quick jacket to go with my pink boucle dress. When I looked into my pattern stash, this one was on top. I decided to play with the pattern pieces, making the jacket my own way, just for fun

I used pink boucle from Fabric Mart and ivory polyester satin from Fabric Wholesale Direct. I buy this poly satin in bulk for costumes and such. The ivory braid came from my stash, as did the fun buttons. In fact, if I didn’t have those fun buttons, I probably would not have made a jacket!

Dress and Jacket Back

I serged the pieces as I cut them. I started with the back, serging the back seam, then finishing the edges all around. Then I cut one half of the front, sewed the princess seam, and serge finished all the raw edges. I repeated this for the other half of the front. I cut the two side pieces and serge finished them all the way around. I sewed the side pieces to the fronts and back with the sewing machine. I repeated these assembly steps for the lining but I didn’t bother finishing those raw edges.

I faked the vent on the sleeves. I first cut off that little flap piece. I extended the length a bit, and cut two flaps of boucle and two flaps of lining. I put one boucle flap and one lining flap right sides together, and sewed along three edges, leaving open the edge that was previously attached to the sleeve. I repeated this for the other flap, turned them right side out, and ironed them flat. Then, I applied braid along the top edge, vertical edge and bottom edge but stopped halfway along the bottom. I didn’t do the other flap just yet, because I didn’t want to cut the braid.


I cut the boucle sleeve pieces for one sleeve, and serged the raw edges. I positioned the flap with the braid at the spot where it belonged, where it lived before I cut it off the pattern. I basted it in place, making sure the braid stayed free of the seam. I sewed the sleeve together, on the regular machine. I turned the sleeve right side out, and laid the braid along the rest of the bottom edge of the flap, out onto the sleeve, and all the way around the hem of the sleeve. I sewed it in place, and, finally, cut the excess braid away. Now, I went back to the other flap, and repeated this whole procedure. After both sleeves were complete, I sewed the flap to the sleeve, with a decorative button on the flap.

I put the lining over the boucle right sides together, and sewed them together from one bottom front corner up, around the neck, and down to the other. I turned the jacket right side out and topstitched the braid in place.

Last step was buttons and buttonholes.

It was a fun experiment, and I like the jacket.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Lekala Tunic Dress 2 Ways

When I saw Lekala 4590 I promptly fell in love! Lekala calls it a dress, I wear mine as tunics. Butterick has a similar pattern that I have not tried. I don’t know which one was issued first, but I saw Lekala first.

Material for Take One

My first take on this pattern was intended for the Activewear contest on Pattern Review. I barely finished it in time, but didn’t get a chance to get photos. My second take was also intended for a Pattern Review contest, the Serger contest. Because I was using scraps and leftovers, I ran into complications and didn’t finish it in time at all.

I used a sweatshirt knit for Take One, grey for the body and navy blue for the contrasting collar, sleeve and triangular insets.  I plan to wear it for hiking in cool weather, so I extended the sleeves to cover my hands, and added a thumbhole. Take two is made from a polyester sweater knit and black velvet.

Take One went together smoothly. Nothing major went wrong (I’m always ripping out a seam or two) but I had little time to work on it so progress was slow. I used a heavier fabric for the pockets, in case I want to carry anything heavy or sharp. One pocket zips shut, the other has a plastic ring sewn in, where I can clip anything like keys, etc. I used blue thread and a big, bold zig-zag stitch for the decorative top stitching.

Take Two started off problematic. I used the sweater knit fabric leftover from McCalls   Hacked Again for the body, and black velvet for the sleeves, collar, and contrasting triangle panels. I had two fairly big pieces, I knew the back could fit on one. And it did. The other piece was shorter – and there is where I made my first mistake.

Pocket ring to clip things to

Zipper pocket

I knew the front piece would be shorter than the back, but I thought the hi-low hemline thing would work, so I made the top with a shorter front (including the triangles) It looked weird, the proportions were all wrong. Frustrated, I pushed it to one side and ignored it for awhile.

A couple of weeks later I found another piece of the sweater knit as I was sorting scraps. It looked like it just might be barely big enough to extend the front. I hoped the seam would not be obvious in the knit, but knew any seam in the velvet would be inescapable. They had to be replaced.

Alas, they were sewn with a serger. In frustration I simply cut away the whole seam allowance, when I cut the panels out, knowing the sides would never fall as smoothly again.

I matched the fill in piece on the front as carefully as I could, but the seam was still pretty visible. Again, I tossed it to the side in frustration.

Finished Hiking sweatshirt

Take two,

Then I stumbled across a piece of laced velvet trim. Just barely enough to put across the front over the seam, and across the back at the same height. I pinned it in place, but didn’t like it. So on a whim, I moved the trim down close to the hem, leaving the patch seam uncovered. I thought – and still think – the black trim at the bottom distracted the eye from the seam, and looked better than it did higher up over the seam. I pinned it in place, cut it, and laid the second piece along the back. I had exactly enough. I mean exactly. Less than 1 inch of scrap trim!

Starting at the center of the top and working toward the sides, I stitched the top of the ribbon to the top on the front and back. Then, I sewed the new black velvet triangles in place, catching the raw edges of the trim. Finally, I turned the hem up and stitched the bottom of the ribbon trim, catching the raw edge of the hem as I sewed.

Take Two, Complete at Last

Finally, the only step left was hemming the sleeves. Ironically, my new-to-me serger/coverstitch machine had just arrived. On one hand I was anxious to bust it out and play! On the other, I just wanted these sleeves done as quickly and painlessly as possible, because the whole thing had already sucked up so much time and energy! So, I used an ordinary narrow zig zag stitch hem on the sleeves.

So Take One is great! Take Two is not a wadder, but it’s not my best work, either.

Pattern Description: Tunic/mini dress with darts, triangle insets in front, dropped shoulders, long sleeves, shaped neck band

Pattern Sizing: To your measurements

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, both makes

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, they were more detailed than usual for Lekala.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The insets, the dropped shoulder & contrasting sleeve, the length, the pockets, the neckband. Ok, I just like this pattern!

Fabric Used: Sweatshirt knit, sweater knit, stretch velvet

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: On Take One, I added a zipper to one pocket and a plastic ring to the other. I extended the sleeves so they cover my palms and added a thumbhole. On Take Two, I added black trim near the hem

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes and Yes.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Vogue 9206 Tropical Asymetric

Blouse Front

I fell in love with Vogue 9206 instantly. I love the soft gathers, raglan sl

Pinning the neckband in place. It’s difficult to work with slippery fabric

The almost part is that chiffon is super sheer, too sheer for me tor a blouse. So it needed a black lining. The only question was which lining should I use? An inexpensive satin polyester, to match the polyester chiffon? Or should I indulge in black silk habotai from my dancewear stash? I thought two layers of polyester might be a little bit too warm to be comfortable. And, the chiffon was really nice chiffon. So I splurged and lined it with silk. It feels awesome! I also used silk to make the neck band, cuffs, and front facings.

I hate sewing polyester chiffon. It’s slippery, uncooperative stuff. In an effort to tame the unruly fabric, I machine basted the chiffon pieces to their silk companions before trying to use them. It helped a lot, but the chiffon was still grumpy.

I sewed the silk and chiffon layers together at the sleeve seams. I sewed the silk and chiffon layer separately at the side seams. The hem is a simple serger rolled hem with black metallic thread.

I love my finished top! I will make this pattern again, when the right fabric comes along. Next time I will make the armholes a little higher, to give a little bit more mobility.

Pattern Description: Button front blouse with long raglan sleeves, neck band, gentle gathers, and asymmetrical front opening.

Pattern Sizing: Misses – exactly like usual Vogue sizing

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes,

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I like the interesting asymmetrical front and soft gathers

Fabric Used: Polyester chiffon from Fabric Mart lined with black silk habotai from Dharma Trading Co and glass buttons from Ebay

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Only the lining because the chiffon is so sheer

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes I  recommend it. Yes, I think I will make it again, perhaps in a solid color.


Leave a comment

Filed under sewing, Uncategorized

Quick Stripe top with Leather Tabs

Finished Top

This is a simple top. The stripe and leather tabs make it exciting.

I started with a basic long sleeved, tunic length, T-shirt pattern with no darts. I cut it with a slightly scooped neck and elongated sleeves. Instead of a neckband, I cut a simple rectangular cowl collar. I used the serger for everything except piecing the leather wrist straps, hemming the bottom and sleeves, and the buttonhole that the neck tab buttons through. I ruched the sleeves by hand, more on that later.  For the top hem and sleeve hems, I used a decorative stitch on my Babylock Symphony.

The fabric is a polyester knit of some sort, similar to a scuba or thin double knit. It came from my Fabric Resource Storage Area, and lacked a tag.

The leather scrap that became the tabs

I cut the leather tabs from a small piece of leather leftover from costuming. The scrap had some top stitching, and the holes from the top stitching are still visible. I cut the scrap into four strips. I used the nicest strip for the neck tab. I cut the worst strip in half, and sewed each half onto the last two strips, so they are long enough to go around my wrists.

Leather tab on cowl neck

One big potential problem – laundry!! Leather and polyester double knit have very different care requirements. I solved the problem by making the leather tabs removable. The neck tab buttons onto itself through a buttonhole in the top near the neck. The straps button onto glass buttons sewed to the sleeves. Leather doesn’t ravel, and these buttons are purely decorative, so the buttonholes are simple slits in the leather strap.


Finally, I ruched the elongated sleeves between the leather strap and the hem. This is where following a pattern can be helpful! I had no pattern, just an idea in my head. In retrospect, I should have run gathering stitches up the sleeve before sewing the sleeve seam. But, I didn’t. Instead, I sewed the sleeve seam and hem, then did the ruching by hand.

ruched sleeves with leather strap

When I wore this top outside on a bright sunny day, I was shocked to realize the stripes are not black but a super dark almost-black navy blue. The blue is noticeable only in super bright light, where the leather tabs are. Or maybe the dark leather simply makes the stripes near it appear blue in bright light? Either way, I still like this top and will continue to think of the stripes as black.

Leave a comment

Filed under sewing, Uncategorized

I won! I won! Sewing a Trench Coat – Fabric Mart 2016 Sew Along

When I saw Round Two of the Fabric Mart Fabricista 2016 was a trench coat, I was not enthusiastic. A trench coat, any coat actually, is a lot of work. I didn’t really need or want another trench coat. And, I had a busy weekend planned.

Front of the Trench coat

Front of the Trench coat

Research was the first step. Trench coats started off as practical, utilitarian clothing, not as a fashion statement. The contest rules included a link to the Wikipedia entry for Trench Coats, but I found the Gentleman’s Gazette guide to Trench coats much more informative and entertaining   Many features of a traditional trench coat serve (or served) a purpose. The rifle flap kept a soldiers gun dry, the back flap provided rain protection for his back pack. The D-rings held canteens (or according to some sources, hand grenades). The deep collar could be turned up against the weather. Pockets covered with a flap provided water proof storage. IWrist straps pulled the sleeve hem close to the wrist, to keep rain from dripping in when a soldier raised his arms (this was before the invention of the ribbed cuff). Epaulets held rank insignia.

My pattern stash offered nothing suitable for a trench. So I turned to my favorite pattern download site, Lekala, where I found a classic trench coat pattern # 5488, called Double Breasted Raincoat.

Who says downloaded patterns are instant satisfaction?? My printer seldom has a decent cartridge. I like to send my stuff to the local FedEx-Kinkos to print. They usually have it done the same day, and they are open 24-7. But, I still have to drive over and pick it up.  Then the pages must be taped together, and, finally, the pattern pieces must be cut out. That’s not my definition of instant!

On the plus side, Lekala patterns are customized to your measurements. When you’re in between or crossover sizes the way I do, this eliminates a lot of time consuming tweaking for fit.

As my downloaded pattern file went off to Fed-Ex Kinkos, I dug down into my fabric stash. I had some nice water resistant and repellent pieces, in burgundy, emerald green, and navy blue. The emerald is a sort of double-cloth, with a black lining. I also had some pieces of canvas, including a water-resistant Greek key design in an olive green and gold. But, the solid colors weren’t exciting and the Greek key canvas was too busy.

The bolt for the fabric

The bolt for the fabric

Then, I stumbled across an old bolt of fabric. The label said only “Assorted Wovens”, with price tag of $1.99 per yard.

The fabric itself is a wonderful ivy print. It looks a lot like a Dorothy Draper print I saw in the Trellis Room when I visited the Greenbriar Resort in West Virginia earlier this summer. I knew it would make an exciting and different trench coat. And, when I spilled a little white wine on it, I learned it’s actually quite water resistant. Or at least, white wine resistant.

My limited stash of polyester lining fabric had nothing suitable. I found an army green challis-like rayon that might have worked, but it had the price sticker still attached, and I didn’t want to use $5 yd fabric to line  $1.99 yd  fabric.  I kept searching. I was very close to giving up and using the rayon when I popped open a bin of old sheets. And there, right on top, was a sheet in the perfect color, in perfect condition.

I trekked to Fed-Ex, picked up my pattern and some tape, came home, and made dinner. Afterwards, while watching TV with hubby, I taped the pages together and cut my pattern out.

Back of the coat. The flap matches so well it disappears into the back

Back of the coat. The flap matches so well it disappears into the back

Most Lekala pattern instructions are little more than a brief outline of assembly steps. This coat had almost a full page of instructions, 17 steps. Some steps were quite verbose, yet cryptic. I’m still not sure what the relieve edge is. Throwing caution to the wind, I  set the instructions on the china cabinet and tackled the project my own way.

First, I laid out the pattern pieces matching the bold print as best I could. This time consuming process gobbled up fabric. The back of the coat is three pieces, center, left side, right side, princess seamed. Starting with the center back, I matched the pattern along the princess seams. Then I matched the back flap to the back. The front is also princess seamed, with four pieces. Two center pieces that overlap to make the double breast, a right side and a left side. Ideally, I wanted both center fronts to be exactly the same with the sides matching at the princess seams. But, I didn’t have enough fabric. So the right side front matched one center front piece, the left matched the other. But the center front pieces do not match each other.

The patch pockets match the fabric under them, the pocket flaps are made from the contrasting lining fabric.  The sleeves are two pieces. I wanted to make them so the pattern is mirror image, but it was impossible. The print has a distinct up and down and a clear left and right side. So the pattern runs front to back on one sleeve, and back to front on the other.

Then I cut lining, belt and contrast pieces from the cotton sheet. I omitted the interfacing in the coat itself because the fabric is really stiff on it’s own. The belt is interfaced, because the sheeting was way too soft without it.

Back of the Trench

Back of the Trench

I sewed the back pieces together, the right front to the right center, the left front to the left center, then the shoulder seams. I did the same with the lining. I applied the pockets to the front, then the contrasting pocket flap. I stitched the upper and under back flap together, trimmed the corners, turned it right side out and top stitched it. I basted it into place along the neck.

I made the collar using the print fabric for the under collar and the contrasting lining for the upper collar. I basted the collar to the neckline, over the back flap.

Then, I sewed the lining into the coat, sandwiching the raw edges of the flap and collar between the coat and lining at the neck. I top stitched around the front edge.  Next I added buttons and buttonholes. Usually a double breasted coat has two vertical rows of buttons. One is functional, the other is decorative and provides visual balance. I used only one vertical row of functional buttons.

I assembled the sleeve and sleeve lining pieces. I turned the sleeve right side out, and the sleeve lining inside out. I slipped the lining over the sleeve and trimmed the lining to be a bit shorter than the final sleeve length. Then I slid the lining down the sleeve, so the hem raw edges lined up. I sewed the raw edges together. I slipped the lining off the sleeve, and stuffed it back inside the sleeve. I pulled it up on the inside so the raw edges at the top of the sleeve and sleeve lining lined up. This pulled the lower edge of the sleeve, which was longer than the lining, to the inside of the sleeve, making a hem. I pressed the hem in place, and inserted the sleeve into the coat.


D-ring on Pocket Flap

D-ring on Pocket Flap

I had loads of o-rings and split o-rings and even a few square rings in my stash but no D rings. So I went to the hardware store to find some D-rings. As I was picking through the bins, a helpful store associate asked what I was using them for. When I told him they were for a trench coat, he said a lot of artists had been in that week buying hardware bits, and asked if a big art show was coming up. He seemed a little disappointed when I told him it was for an on-line sewing competition.

D-ring as belt loop

D-ring as belt loop

I added the D-rings to the pocket flaps, the collar and the back flap. I also used D-rings for belt loops.

I finished the raw hem edge of the coat and lining on my serger, turned them up and top stitched the hem.

Two features that appear on traditional trench coats that I did not add were epaulets and cuff straps. The slightly strange collar would hide epaulets anyway. I originally planned to add cuff straps in the contrast lining, but I simply ran out of time and energy.

The final step was photos for Facebook. I uploaded my photos just hours before the deadline.

And I won! A rotary cutting tool and two patterns. Yay me!


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Fun Floral Knit Top

A sheer, chiffon Nichoals top for 385 inspired my floral sweater knit top. The designer top is lovely but SHEER! Way too sheer for me. Instead of chiffon, I picked a light sweater knit.

Designer - Nicholas Price- $385

Designer – Nicholas Price- $385

The inspiration top features decorative trim along the princess seam lines. As if the sheer chiffon did expose enough, the decorative trim is open cutwork.

Aside from the ephemeral sheerness, the inspiration top has some lovely style lines. The princess seam from the shoulder is slimming. The sleeve ends in a delicate double flute. The upper flute looks like it might be from a border print or matching print. A decorative band accents the flutes. Tiny ruffles edge the neck.

I had a piece of black open cutwork trim that I knew would look nice along the from-the-shoulder princess seams. I thought about lining the open trim with flesh colored mesh. Then I stumbled across an old scrap of fabric. The odd, not pink, not red, not brown color of the polished quilting cotton blended wonderfully with the roses on the sweater knit. So I cut strips of bias from the quilting cotton, and used them behind the openwork on the decorative trim.

The biggest obstacle proved to be finding a basic princess seam from the shoulder top. There were none in my stash. There were none on the commercial Big 4 sites. There were none on the smaller, independent companies sites or the overseas downloadable pattern sites. I did find a LOT of coats and jackets with a from the shoulder princess seam, but no tops or dresses.

Finally, I decided to start with a from the shoulder princess seam jacket pattern already in my stash.

Here is the Princess seam from the shoulder line, open at the top and bottom of the seam

Here is the Princess seam from the shoulder line, open at the top and bottom of the seam

The next problem was a pattern for the flute sleeves. My stash offered up caftan sleeves that should work.

But, I just didn’t have enough fabric to cut double flute sleeves. Back to the stash. This time I discovered a vintage pattern with different flounces on a short sleeve. So I switched to the vintage sleeve, with a double flounce. The inspiration sleeve is full length, mine is only 3/4.

The vintage pattern showed a plain short sleeve, and three different flounce options (but it did not show multiple flounces). I picked two of the flounces to imitate the double flute sleeve on the inspiration top. The under flounce is a semi-circle. The upper flounce is shaped and comes to a point at the elbow, exposing the under flounce.

The sleeve, both flounces, and the trim

The sleeve, both flounces, and the trim

I assembled the sleeves first, just to see how they would turn out.

I finished the hem of the sleeve flounces on the serger with a version of faux piping. I was too lazy to remove the right needle, so I used four threads instead of the three normally used for faux piping.

Edge of the Flounce

Edge of the Flounce

I used ordinary Maxi-lock thread in the needles, and black wooly nylon in the loopers. I reduced the stitch length to slightly less than 1. I tried hard to NOT stretch the edge into a lettuce leaf. I wanted a bit of flare, but not ruffles.

The trim is in place

The trim is in place

Next I basted the princess seams together along the front and back. I pinned the shoulder and side seams along the stitching lines. Then, I tried it on, expecting it to be a touch too big because it was loosely based on a jacket pattern. I was right. I took all the seams in just a touch, and it fit well.

The Finished Top - except for ribbon rose trim at the flounce

The Finished Top – except for ribbon rose trim at the flounce

The strip of quilting cotton I used behind my cutwork trim covered the garment seam. I sewed the front and back princess seams with the serger. Then, I topstitched the trim over the front princess seam lines.

Finally, I sewed the side seams with a serger, then inserted my pre-assembled sleeves.

Now, I had to decide what to do about the neck and the hem. Originally I thought I’d make a neck band and a small rolled hem. But, as I looked at the almost finished top, I realized the cutwork sections were really bulky. The cutwork trim was stiff, it was backed with quilting cotton, and layered over the top. I wasn’t sure a rolled hem would work!

The Final Touch - Ribbon Flowers

The Final Touch – Ribbon Flowers

I realized the finish I used on the sleeve hems didn’t require turning the edge under. I simply serged along the final edge over a single layer of fabric. The test run over a scrap of the trim came out beautiful, so I that’s how I finished the hem.

Finally, I decided to finish the neckline the same way. I worried that it might be tugged out of shape, so I reinforced it with a slim strip of fusible interfacing before edge stitching with the faux piping.

The Fabric Mart Sticky Tag

The Fabric Mart Sticky Tag

Still, it was missing something. It needed a touch of something on the sleeve. The inspiration garment had a band of cutwork just above the elbow where the upper flute started. I didn’t have enough trim for that. I tried a bow, then a piece of lace, and last, a tiny ribbon flower. The ribbon flower was just a touch too small by itself, and I had only 2 dark red ones, so I added a black one on each side.

Finished top back view

Finished top back view

Finished top front view Pants Style Arc Elle

Finished top front view Pants Style Arc Elle





Leave a comment

Filed under sewing, Uncategorized