Monthly Archives: May 2016


Never let it be said that I was afraid of a challenge. Well, a sewing one. I shy away from non-sewing ones in my daily life all the time. But that’s for my shrink to work out. In the meantime, what the fuck was I thinking?

Oh, yeah.

DSC08483I’ve been playing with the idea of a quilted skirt since even before Gertie first made one last year. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of free motion quilting ever since I discovered it was a thing that exists. (Especially once I got a machine with feed dogs you could drop.) And while I’m intrigued by the thriftiness of patchwork, I am less attracted to the mysterious desire to chop perfectly good bits of fabric up into ittybitty pieces, however charming and artistic the result may be.  But free motion quilting—drawing with thread—seemed right up my alley.

Especially when I started researching historical costuming and ran across the fabulous quilted silk “petticoats” of the 1700s.

Now, odds of me wearing a fabulous silk petticoat like the one above (from the Met)are fairly low, but odds of wearing a fifties-style quilted skirt? Well, that seemed at least probable.

(Incidentally, throw the term “boutis” in the search in Pinterest. OMG.)

DSC08478And if I can do it as a shop project without having to fork out for the weird stuff I don’t have lying around (like batting)? Even better.

My fabric of choice was the “cotton satin” Fabricland got in again this spring. (I thought cotton satin was sateen, but anyway.) it’s  delicious. It’s the same fabric I used for my polkadot dress last summer. I don’t know if it really is different from, say, a quilting cotton for this application, but I love it so whatever. 🙂

DSC08484For the pattern, I went with McCall’s 7197. I wanted a flared skirt without darts, but not a full circle as I thought that might be too much.

It’s still a good chunk of a circle, about 2/3?

The batting is a bamboo needlepunch because it feels so soft and yummy to touch as well as being quite thin. I was hoping it might make a softer final fabric than a cotton batting, although then I went and double-layered it since the quilting on my samples looked much better double-layered, and then I quilted the whole border so densely it could probably stand up all by itself. So I suspect my final product is not readily distinguishable from the final result of any of the cotton battings.

DSC08481Initially I had grand hopes of making my skirt reversible, one side black, one side white, and contrast quilting on the white side.

My first tests of actual quilting quickly convinced me that contrast quilting is just not a good idea at my current skill level (I have improved a bit since the above sample, my ego wants me to mention, but nowhere near enough.)

And balancing tension while free motion quilting is tricky enough (again, at my skill level) that using different colour threads top and bottom is also a bad idea.

DSC08482As for the finer points of free motioning, I confess my research was not extensive.  I spent some time on Pinterest gathering links, read a web tute on the basics, which didn’t tell me much I didn’t already know. It may have helped that while I’ve done little quilting and no free motion quilting before, I’ve appliquéd and I darn jeans like nobody’s business, which is much like free motion except for all the pretty and artistic parts.

The most helpful info was a collection of tutorials from a site called The Inbox Jaunt on various motifs. Most of which are way beyond me, but they were fun to play with and give me an idea of the range of possibilities, and the few I could master I used to death in the skirt. Mainly those big peony-looking flowers, also the leaves and the checkerboard squares.

I started with a “frame” of conventional quilting, using my walking foot. Last time I quilted anything, I didn’t have such a foot, and boy what a difference it makes. The layers just stayed together. Nothing crept or pulled—even my pin basting was minimal and almost unnecessary. And the quilting bar made it much faster to quilt all those little squares.

Initially I had envisioned a sinuous or spiraled motif for the border, but my skillz were inadequate to the challenge. I settled instead for lots of playing with those big flowers; the organic shape seemed to be the most tolerant of my inability to keep my free motion curves smooth and my hands’ occasional tendency to twitch sideways.

DSC08479I made liberal use of the wash-away marker, and less liberal use of the pale peach chalk pencil. I prefer the wash away marker, FYI. I still can’t get all the damn peach out.  I only used it because my wash away marker died and I couldn’t get a new one for a few days.

I wish I could say my quilting has improved exponentially, but I think all the spirals and feathers I yearn for are still beyond me. I did get a lot smoother over the course of my practicing, though, and I only sometimes jerk randomly any more. So there’s that.

I cut a size 10 based on the final measurements given on the pattern. It’s small on my waist, but I really wanted it to be snug to hold up the weight of the quilted skirt. If you look at the pattern it’s a contoured waistband, so technically the top of the waist band would be the natural waist, which is what the pics show. But the pattern piece has the waist line marked at halfway down the waist band. And personally, I wanted it to sit so the bottom of the waistband was at the natural waist. So we’ll see how that turns out.

Other than the flower motif, I filled in the border with leaves and scallops and squiggles. Above the border, I wanted a checkerboard pattern sort of randomly fading out into the upper skirt, and I threw the occasional little flower in there too.

I bound the edges of the skirt just like a quilt, though the waistband I finished more normally, for less bulk. Instead of a zip I went with buttons at the back, and so far the back seam isn’t stitched at all, just tacked with a nonfunctioning button partway down. If this isn’t enough I will hand-stitch it shut invisibly.

DSC08480Guys, I won’t lie. This was a shitload of fun and I am so fucking proud of myself right now I can’t even. It was a lot of very intense work, but I love the level of detail I got, the intensity of the texture. I love crazy intricate detailing (hence the intermittent Victorian obsession) but very rarely reach that level in my own work, so to achieve it feels amazing. I want to just sit there and pet it and gaze at the glorious texture. Which is not to say it’s perfect, far from it, but where I got from where I started? That feels truly epic.



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Fastest Stash in the West

This gorgeous thick, soft stretch lace came into my Fabricland maybe two weeks ago? And I petted it. Oh, the petting.

But then I realized yesterday there was hardly any left. What? How can that be! We never sell out that fast!

So the last paltry remnant came home with me, to see if I could possibly squeeze a Jalie 3246 maxi dress out of it. Because I need about a million more of those.

And I was so desperate to find out, that I got up early and cut it out at 6 am before work (I start the day job at 7)—with my back seam mod and letting it be a little shorter it JUST worked. (It helped that this is one of those laces with most of the stretch lengthwise. I sewed it up in the hour of downtime I have between day job and Fabricland, and snapped this pic in the bathroom mirror before I left. I probably spent as much time changing the thread in the serger and setting my grandmother’s Rocketeer up for twin needle as I did actually sewing. 
I used a thin and annoying rayon knit for the binding, twin needled in place. There was no time for testing or mistakes, but I got damn lucky. Also that stuff makes decent binding—I hated that much less than any other time I’ve sewn with it. 

And I am so happy with my new super-speedy dress. Though I do need to tidy up the hem a bit. 😉


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DSC08464“Did you see the November mailer?” my manager asked when I got to work one day last fall. Of course not—it had just arrived a day or two ago at the store, and usually only the managers see them much ahead of time. “There’s a project you need to do.”

McCall’s 6800 + Fabric

When a pattern is featured in a mailer, we get the option of doing extra projects for them to hang during that sale. YAY! And guess which pattern it was—McCall’s 7256, which I’ve been drooling over ever since it shocked the blogosphere last summer with its resemblance to the Lolita Patterns Spearmint coat. Which is somewhat fair—the collar is very similar. The other details are pretty darn different, though, and really there are only so many different designs any of us are willing to wear. The McCall’s pattern has some really different skirt options that I love. On the flip side, everyone raved about the instructions and the tailoring that went into a Lolita. McCall`s 7256? Not so much. I`ll get into that in a little bit.

DSC08466Anyway, with the gauntlet thrown down, the angst set in. Project budgets are limited and coating fabric is expensive. I wandered the aisles of coating, wistfully petting the meltons and boiled wools while I calculated the price of 3.7m of the fabric and came up, again and again, on the sad fact that even the cheapest polyester-acrylic coating, with nary a hint of wool, was beyond my project budget. Suiting fabric it was.

I settled on some menswear suiting in a navy-bordering-on-black that went well with this random satin print I liked for the lining (again, once I accepted that the flannel-backed Kasha lining was out of budget as well. Oh, Kasha, how I shall mourn thee…) I looked for a lace for trim, but couldn’t really come up with anything without breaking the already straining budget.

2015-10-17 07.55.47Once I had pattern and fabric at home, of course, I had to confront one very particular fact: this very fun coat pattern is, first and foremost, a McCall`s coat pattern. A McCall`s coat pattern is basically a dress pattern with extra ease. This didn`t bother me so much when I made M6800, as I was making a pared-down, jean-jacket version anyway. But for M7256, I really wanted something with a lot of menswear detailing, and that means tailoring. I am, I guess, a bit of a tailoring snob, which is odd because I`m pretty lazy and it`s not like I`m an expert at it. But on reading through the pattern as written—blerg. No facings, a one piece sleeve, lining (in the bodice only) to be cut from the same pieces as the shell. The only interfacing called for is to reinforce the buttonholes on the skirt. Not even some simple inseam pockets (not that those will be hard to add, but why skip them? And why would you not line a skirt with that crazy high-low hem? (It turns out there are very good reasons, by the way.)

2015-10-31 15.54.29Fortunately, the power of the Internet was with me. Sherry`s RTW Tailoring Sewalong is back online (how lost and forlorn I felt without it), which goes over all the steps of making your own lining and interfacing pattern pieces,  and all the other little bits that make a coat or jacket more than just a baggy dress. Obviously there are many, many ways to tailor, but I think Sherry`s sewalong is both supremely comprehensive on the pattern-tweaking side (invaluable!) and has methods that are a great balance of being effective without being crazy time-consuming. Which is not to say that I don`t love me some pad-stitching, but it`s not going to happen for a project that has to hang in less than two weeks.

DSC08465Fitting changes:

  1. Petite bodice c. 1″ (This turned out to be WAY too much. Should’ve just raised under the arm instead.)
  2. Square shoulder
  3. Swayback adjustment (on bodice only, front and back waist.
  4. Lengthen sleeve. (I would’ve liked a two-piece sleeve much better.


2015-11-01 17.24.10-1Changes to make to the pattern:

  1. Draft facings for front and back neck.
  2. Draft lining pieces for bodice and sleeves; add pleat at CB and extra length at underarm.
  3. Draft undercollar pattern piece? (I the end I just trimmed the undercollar to make it smaller. However, since the undercollar is the part that shows at certain points in the ruffle, this partly backfired.
  4. Add inseam pockets.

2015-10-31 23.13.48Tailoring:

  1. Blockfuse front (should’ve done entire bodice)
  2. add back stay to back
  3. Construct flat shoulder pads from hair canvas batting & knit interfacing.
  4. sleeve heads
  5. waist stay
  6. interface sleeve hems

DSC08468All of that tailoring and it was still pretty minimal. The jacket is soft and floppy. The sleeves are the worst, although rolled up and scrunchy they are ok.

2015-11-01 13.12.41-1I did like how the shoulder pads turned out—I layered a bit of cotton batting with knit interfacing top and bottom, and fused them together, then shaped with steam and let cool.

DSC08466I discovered why they didn’t suggest you line the skirt, by the way. That’s a hairsbreadth away from being a full double-circle skirt. I’ll let that sink in for a second. Now imagine how many places the bias is going to drop. Can you imagine it? Good, because I can’t. And it’s super-full so it’s pretty much impossible to figure out what part of the high-low skirt “matches” with what part of the high-low lining, not to mention how the two fabrics drop in dramatically different ways. It was ridiculous. I don’t exactly regret lining the skirt, because I love it, but there’s a reason there aren’t any closeups.

2015-11-01 13.14.21-1I added sleeve heads, too.

The biggest issue, though, is that somehow in my modifications the front bodice wound up REALLY short. Like, empire-waist short. This is one of the reasons I’ve been more cautious about shortening McCall’s patterns since then (which has also caused issues in the other direction). Obviously a muslin would’ve been helpful, but that’s not really an option for shop projects. Combined with the general floppiness it doesn’t make me love the jacket.

On the other hand, it looks pretty damn cute in the pictures and I get lots of compliments when I do wear it, so I guess it’s not as bad as it feels—and I certainly don’t mind an empire waist jacket when that’s my plan.

DSC08469It’s still an AWFUL lot of ruffles, though.


Filed under Sewing


DSC08450 Not much to say here.

I picked up this fabric a little after Christmas, when it first went half price. Good thing I did—it was gone within a few days of that. It’s the same fabric as my plaid skirt, just in a different colourway. I bought it for Tyo, since she’s been enjoying her red flannel so much, but as soon as I got it home my husband pounced on it.

Kwik Sew 2258 has been on the list of things to sew him for, oh, a couple of years now, and this seemed like a good time to try it out since I knew he wouldn’t want a fitted flannel and its “vintage” promised an appropriately relaxed fit. It’s actually a bit more shaped than I expected—I straightened the side seams to go with the plaid.

DSC08452Unlike other shirt patterns I’ve sewed with, this KS one had only 1/4″ seam allowances. Throughout. Now, I’m a fan of narrow seam allowances generally, and I got excited for a bit because the 1/4″ SA would actually work with my flat fell foot! BUT, on a soft flannel it was really easy to miss the seam allowance if there was a miscut (and I am not the world’s best cutter) or for the seam to ravel on handling before I could get it finished. I’d like to try it again on a finer shirting. With felled seams. (They felt too firm for the soft flannel feeling I was going for.) I wound up having to darn part of the back yoke where I had missed the seam allowance. Bad seamstress.

 I cut the M to go with his 40″ chest, and added a generous 4″ to the sleeve length (based on previous experience), though that might have been overkill. I graded up to a size L in the collar, as collars are always too small on him, but wound up needing to add about 2″ more.

 I tried very hard to match my plaid meticulously, except for cutting the hard bits on the bias. (Collar, cuffs, yoke and plackets.) I succeeded horizontally except at one armpit, and failed miserably at matching vertically across the fronts. I keep thinking I know how to do that and failing at it, so I should really re-read all the tutorials. 😦 Sewaholic has a great one that makes perfect sense when I read it. 😦

DSC08453I cut & sewed it when I had a few days off after Easter, then realized that none of the buttons I had enough of were suitable* and had to hold off for a little while, at which point I had lost all drive (plus he was already wearing it—it’s not like it’s destined for office wear.)

DSC08454Eventually, though, I managed to get some plain black buttons and see them on, and it’s been in pretty common rotation since. And I even managed to cut another Burda 6849 out of the remainder for Tyo, assuming I can motivate myself to actually sew it up.

DSC08451And that’s about it, really. Oh, the front knotted look is as per the husband’s style instructions, and the high-rise-ass-hanging-out-shorts were acquired by one of my children from a friend. My husband forbid them to wear the shorts out of the house, so I have stolen them. I haven’t worn anything with this high a rise since I figured out I could cut the waistband off my Levi’s 501s in about 1998. It feels profoundly weird.

*aka my husband didn’t like any of them.


Filed under Sewing