Tag Archives: in progress

Hey, mom…

I’m making you a coat. It’s a shop project so it has to be done in a couple of weeks. So you should really pop by.

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Excessively Heirloom

I’ll do proper pictures when I get a chance, but I wanted to throw this up before I forget everything. Like much of my recent sewing, this project draws on my desire to wear historical clothing, except not actually be in costume.

I first fell for McCall’s 6956 back in the spring. The Plucky New Girl at work had taken it out as a project, and, well, kinda bit off a bit more than she could chew, what with never having sewn from a pattern before. Since this was pretty much my entire approach to sewing from about 1989 up to, oh, 2010, I give her full credit. I just hope she wasn’t too traumatized. Anyway, me (and some other ladies) got to play angel and help her finish it off, and in the process I got to try it on and was, well, thoroughly charmed by it.

Also, I am so deep in sundress mode right now, I can’t even. ALL THE SUNDRESSES!!!

Anyway, it’s that awkward seasonal changeover at Fabricland where the old fabric is on the way out but the new stuff hasn’t much arrived so project pickings are slim, and it’s best to focus on the small core of non-seasonal fabrics that are always in stock. 
And did I mention sundress mode? Also, I was still craving DETAIL after the fun of the Gabriola skirt and its bodice. 

So I doodled up a picture something like this:

To be made out of our always-in-stock cotton batiste. And then I went looking for a pattern that sorta fit, and ended up with McCall’s 6956.
And then I went half-ass-heirloom insane.
OK, so I am not totally clear on the exact definition of “heirloom sewing”. I’ve read a few old Threads articles, and a lot of Victorian sewing manuals that describe the techniques, but not under that name. Anyway, what I’m basically saying is I experimented liberally with pin tucks, lace insertion, and faux-hem-stitch using a wing needle.

The pin tucks took the longest, partly because pin tucks take FOREVER and partly because I had a friend over so my sewing setup was optimized for hanging out rather than for quick changing between machine and pressing. No regrets. I tested out the cheater-pin tucking with a twin needle, but while I have a pin tuck foot for my Janome, I didn’t have a real twin needle, and while I can put two needles in the Rocketeer at what would be a perfect distance for twin-needle pin tucking, the foot won’t fit that machine and when I tried with other feet everything just went wonky quite easily. So all the pin tucks were done the old fashioned way—measure, mark, and stitch. I switched the Rocketeer to straight-stitch plate and foot for this, which I think helped me get the teeny tucks I was going for. (Oh, and I also wasted quite a few hours on quarter-inch tucked panels, too, before deciding I wanted a more delicate look. Hopefully I can use those for something else later.)
I cut the pieces for the bodice out of pre-tucked fabric (pintucks taken at 1 cm intervals, by the way), but did the tucks on the skirt after cutting. There was a lot of laying things out on the floor to make sure the tuck-lines matched up. (Mostly they do.) 

Everything else blurs into a haze of lace-insertion and indecision. I had gotten a bunch of this ladder-type insertion trim on deep clearance, and wound up going to town on that. I ran a strip down every panel except for the centre back ones (and I would have gotten them too except I ran out of trim.) 

I put the skirt all together. 
I pulled it off again.
Twice. That’s how long it took me to figure out the lining needed to be completely free from the outer dress, otherwise it just looked stupid. Eventually I figured out how I wanted the dress constructed. Then I started adding lace.

And cutting out the fabric behind it.

And, let’s just say I had better be damn careful when I wash this thing.

When the lining was incorporated into the pleats, it was way too puffy.

Oh, the tucks in the front are not as long as the pattern dictates, partly because that’s the look I wanted and party because I cut a size 10 and the waist was, um, snug. This fabric has a lot less give than that glorious grey linen-cotton. The bust fits perfectly though. 

Batiste is not really the right fabric for hem stitching, but it was still fun to do. I spent quite a bit of time (how many times have I said this about this time-suck of a project?) experimenting with how different stitches looked, but in the end one of the nicest was a simple zig-zag. Which is good because I used that lots of places. Whether it was a good idea, will remain to be seen…

My initial concept sketch buttoned up the front, but when I started working with the pattern I decided I liked the centre front tuck too much to get rid of, so while there are still some buttons, they are strictly decorative. And I have no photos of them because I actually sewed them on right before I hung the dress at work. 

There are millions of mistakes, flaws, and other irregularities that I won’t go into. The only one that’s really bothering me is that the front isn’t quite symmetrical. My best guess is that this happened when I was inserting the ladder-trim—I think when I cut the piece in half to sew the insertion in, I didn’t line it back up perfectly (since the top edge is slanted this is a bit tricky, I should’ve worked from the hem.) And I didn’t realize until well after everything was topstitched and lace slapped on and fabric underneath cut away and, well, crud. It is what it is (and, if you didn’t notice anything until I said so, well, hey, what’s that over there? No, pay no attention to the rest of this paragraph…)

Anyway. Finished the hem with zig-zag faux hem stitch, and the lining hem with the last of my lace. Seriously, I had like six inches left over. Whew!

And then I raced off to work to hang it, so I didn’t even get any decent finished pictures. Which means they’ll have to wait for their own post after I get it back at the end of August… Basically, after sundress season is over. Um, not my best planning ever. 😦

Oh, well. I should really be making Tyo that birthday flannel she wants, anyway. 😉


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A draped overskirt

Last weekend I continued to futz with the Victorian outfit. The waistband is still a mess, but I hemmed the skirt. And hemmed. And cried. And hemmed. And it’s not perfect but it’s hemmed (not pinned!) and doesn’t look too terrible from a safe distance, so we’ll go with that.

 The next (almost final?) phase of the half-assed Victorian outfit is the draped overskirt. They’re not quite mandatory for 1880s outfits, but pretty darn close. My texts say either “these things are crazy, go get a pattern” or “use about this much fabric and go to town.”

And of course, “But be tasteful.” The Victorians were big on taste, apparently. But also sure that basically no one had it. Personally I’m pretty sure I will fail at taste, so I’m not going to sweat it.

I did, in fact, buy myself a pattern, last summer, Truly Victorian 368, the “Waterfall Overskirt”. I wanted to see a basic idea of how they went together. It was very interesting, and also very simple, once you had it it laid out for you.

I’m planning on using the waterfall version for my blue dress, so I wanted this one to be different.  I had a vague mental image of the overskirts that leave one side ungathered so there is kinda a point at the bottom. 

To start, I eyeballed what I had left of my grey suiting (around 2m) and estimated what I wanted to drape over the front, and cut that much off.

After some experimenting, I took my general shape (a rectangle with a bit more length on one side—mostly to do with the shape of the fabric I had remaining) and added the lining and an interlining of some random stash drapery sheer that was thin and a little crisp, on the theory that it would give my thin and drapey suiting a bit more body.

I was all set to put in darts when I decided I didn’t want the disruption in the stripes, so I cut a curve out of the top instead to go around the waist. There followed a lot of futzing with pins and playing with pleats until I had it arranged to my liking. I’m very glad I took the time to adjust the dress form for wearing my corset—it took a fair bit of wriggling and padding but with the corset it actually approximates my corseted shape quite well—kind of like those skin-tight covers they talk about making when you pad out a custom dress form. Unlike anything it has ever done for my un-corseted shape.
But doing this kind of draping without a form would be tricky.

 The back drape I cut into some shallow points at the bottom, finished the edges (it’s just lined and turned, with the same interlining as the front), and then started pleating and pinching and messing around.

 I ran a piece of grosgrain ribbon down the inside of the back to anchor the central tucks onto. On its own I actually liked it better without it being all tucked up in the middle, but once I layered the bodice tails over I added some more tucking.

 I had messed around with pinning up the tails before, but I think I have a much better arrangement now.

 And I like the button. I think I need to move my waist stay down a bit in the back, so the bodice hugs the back a little better.

2016-02-16 06.02.37And then I need to bite the bullet about trim. I have a ton of 5/8″ satin ribbon in the right red, some pleated, some not… But what, where, and how much is enough? Or too much. Is it possible to have too much of anything on a Victorian getup? I think we’re straying into “taste” territory again…


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V8801—men’s jeans

Men's Jeans

Men’s Jeans

I’ve been wanting and not wanting to sew jeans for Osiris for YEARS. For all the usual reasons: he is picky and has some specific fitting issues. Frankly, making shirts for him hasn’t been hard—as long as the sleeves are long enough and he gets the details he likes, he’s pretty much happy. But jeans—now that’s all about fit. Scary, scary fit.

So, let’s start with his main requests: slim/tapered legs (but they can’t be too tight) and a rise that isn’t too low. Fit issues will be leg length (easy) and his curvy-for-a-dude butt. (potentially horrifying. The fitting challenge, not the butt itself. I quite like that bit.)

I have a couple of patterns I’d like to try, starting with Vogue 8801. I’m kinda hesitant since what is out there for reviews are fairly mixed. (Everything from too tight to too loose to right on, but some concerns about the pocket placement and yoke proportions seem more consistent.) I was pleasantly surprised my husband’s 32″ waist and 37″ hips were within the same size range—but then he’s a little “chunky” right now, which makes him a lot easier to fit. (When he’s not “chunky” he has a 28″ waist, try finding men’s pants in that size. 😉 )

I also compared the Vogue pattern to an old indie pattern* I have that looks like it stepped right out of the rodeo. And was pleasantly surprised that they were very similar in overall size and rise. The Vogue seems to have a narrower front, but wider back pieces, and the angle of the legs is a bit different.

Curved yoke piece.

Curved yoke piece.

I made (perhaps unwisely) a few preemptive fitting adjustments. These are the same curvy-butt adjustments I make for Tyo (and to a lesser extent myself): increased height at CB with a wedge, and curving in the top of the back yoke. This may throw off the waist size, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Happily the waistband has a CB seam which should help with tweaking the rear fit.

At Osiris’s request, I’m using stretch denim. He’s had some health issues the last few years that contribute to a lot of weight fluctuation and variable bloating, so stretch denim has become his friend. The denim I’m using for the “muslin” pair is just barely stretchy , but the one I am hoping to make the “good” pair out of is both beefier and stretchier. (Frankly, it is taking every bit of my willpower not to make it into something for me… I totally downloaded the Ginger jeans pattern a few weeks ago… 😉 )

Fabric. And pocket lining.

Fabric. And pocket lining.

Another thing I’m curious but ambivalent about is the shaped waistband in this pattern. I mean, I’m all about that in my own jeans, but I wear them low, where curvature is needed—not at all where Osiris wears them. And they’re supposed to be interfaced (I even bought waistband interfacing, which of course won’t work with the contour band). If I do interface, I’m thinking I’ll go with a knit fusible, to get some extra heft but keep the stretch Osiris is loopin

Anyway, wish me luck!


*Designer Jeans #260, from Sharon Marie Studios, which appear to have been published out of Edmonton, Alberta, in the late 70s and early 80s. I have actually collected the entire family—men’s, women’s, baby, and a couple different size range of children’s jeans. My mom squealed when I showed them to her—apparently she made me a pair of jeans with one of the kids’ patterns when I was small.


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This is going to be way too much fun.



June 7, 2014 · 11:00 pm

In Progress


McCall’s 6800.

But first, bias tape.

Lots and lots of bias tape.

Sandpaper for distressing seams before topstitching.

Topstitching. Also lacing loops in back. Because everything is better with lacing.

Bound seams.

Sneaky pocket topstitching.

It’s coming together! Also, full circle skirt. Also, I got 4 metres of that lace, and it’s all laid out there.

Tomorrow, I put in sleeves! And maybe buy more lace. And more fabric for bias tape. I’m going to run out.


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I am a bad girl.



I have a winter coat cut out that needs to be sewn. Syo needs some costuming made for a dance performance at the end of the month. And did I mention I’m working two (sometimes three)  jobs right now? AND I need to get started on my Christmas sewing, if I’m actually going to do any. Which I want to. I have a whole post on that in drafts, alongside the post on the Vader Dress and a number of other things I haven’t managed to blog.

So what am I doing?

Vogue 1094

Vogue 1094

Making Vogue 1094. Because no reason, except that this border-embroidered mesh (which really wanted to be a sari in another life) demanded it. Because I need another fluffy fifties dress SOOO badly. (The poor 70s, they are getting so neglected. I actually had someone at work say to me that I had a 50s-vintage style going on, and I was all like, well, the 50s are fun but really the 70s has my heart, and then I took stock of what I’ve actually been WEARING, and, well…)

I’m probably going to use some of the rest of it to make a gathered drape around the top rather than do the folded bias bands the pattern calls for. I love the drapes (even if they are a little strangely-constructed) but really, with this fabric, how can you not use the lace, um, EVERYWHERE?

When I went to trace the pattern, I found myself boiling it down to a mere three of the Voguety-million pattern pieces. Bodice front, bodice back, and skirt. For the skirt, it calls for six identical, tapered panels. There is a separate piece for the skirt lining, but on comparison the only difference was length. I knew I wanted to use one wide, gathered rectangle to make the most of my embroidered mesh, so I only traced the one.

For under my mesh, I found a gorgeous, two-toned taffeta that is mostly black with just a hint of blue. I wasn’t sure about the blue with the black overlay, but in and of itself I liked it better than any of the five other black taffetas I looked at, and the part where it was 70% off an already reasonable price didn’t hurt, either. It is, by the way, the hardest fabric to pin through that I’ve ever met.

Bodice front

Bodice front

The construction described for this dress is, well, odd. There’s a lot of handwork, not surprising, and the lining is more of an underlining—which suits me fine, I suppose, but as I said, I’m not using the lining bodice pieces, which don’t extend into the shoulder region. Yeah, I don’t really get it either. Although I’d be curious to try, at some point, just to see what it turned out like. Just not with this particular fabric. For this make, the fabric is totally boss.

Before tracing the bodice pieces, I pulled out my pieces from Project Drop Waist to compare. I wound up shortening only at the waist, and adding a centre back seam to make my swayback adjustment. We’ll see how the shoulders end up fitting—it’s pretty hard to gauge in this style. Other than that, and a little side-seam twiddling, I don’t THINK I need to do much. I suppose we’ll see if it fits.

Yesterday, when Stylish and I got together for our weekly Jacket Makings session, she made fleece pants (one can never have too many) and I worked on this. Since I didn’t have anything over there good for marking darts on dark fabric, I mostly worked on the skirt. Yes, we had a largely jacket-free Jacket Makings day.



I cut the skirt panels from the taffeta and sliced off one entire side of my 4.4m of lacy yardage. I shortened the skirt by 2″, which puts the hem more at my knee than below it—which is where I like it, although it may throw off the overall proportions of the dress. So be it. I also narrowed the bottom flare of the pattern piece just a smidgeon, because  it was SO CLOSE to fitting double on my taffeta and it would save so much fabric. Not that I know what I’m going to do with an extra metre of blue-black taffeta, mind you.

Hem interior---braid on right, taffeta on left.

Hem interior—braid on right, taffeta on left.

I also got the pattern-recommended 3.5 m of horsehair braid. Which brings me to my biggest irk so far. Recall that I shortened the pattern, and that I narrowed the skirt slightly, all of which would have narrowed the hem. I still wound up being short about 15″ of braid. ARGH! WTF? Should I have stretched the horsehair more? I know it’s flexible stuff, but somehow that seems like a bad idea. If I’d been at home, I probably would’ve had a remnant somewhere I could splice in, but as I was at Stylish’s, I didn’t, so I settled for splicing in a piece of the taffeta, cut on the bias. Probably some interfacing would’ve been helpful, but I was irate and didn’t think of it until just now when I was typing this. It doesn’t show on the outside, and I suspect that the small, slightly-more-flexible part of the hem won’t be at all noticeable once all the gathering is said and done, but still. I’m annoyed.

So the skirt is pretty much ready to be gathered on to the bodice, which leaves me with the scary part of the dress-making—the bodice. I guess I’d better go pull up my big girl panties and find my tracing wheel…

(And did I mention that there’s about three metres of the other edge of the mesh fabric, with the same lace border, left? can we say skirt?)


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