Friday, August 10, 2018

Designing off a base blouse pattern- changing necklines, sleeves and more

I found myself in need of some blouses. As I work through my never ending quest of defining and nailing down my style I see the gaps in my wardrobe. I try to keep track of the items I no longer wear and try to figure out why. Answering this question helps determine if it is that I don’t like the fit, the color, the fabric or if it is just something that has become old, tired and worn out. I also try to jot down the times when I look in my closet and say ‘I wish I had XXX!’

90% of my wardrobe is handmade and I have no problem with the idea of sending garments to the resale shops if they are in good condition or to the recyclers if they are worn out. It wasn’t always that way, I used to keep everything I made just because I had made it! I know only do that for special garments. Like fancy dresses or French style jackets, as long as I love them.

I really found a lack of blouses for the summer. Tops that could be used for business casual meetings or evenings out with friends or just some nicer summer tops. I worked off of a princess seam pullover blouse that I really like. Originally, I had designed this top with a back neck zipper but have found that I really don’t need it for most blouses. In cases where I think I need a little extra room I have been using a small opening in back with a button and loop closure.

In these 5 tops I have played with 4 different necklines and one with a fun collar, 2 sleeves and different types of sleeve finishes. All of them use a neckline facing and a baby hem for the body.  The short sleeves are finished 3 ways. 2 are finished with a baby hem, 1 is completely faced and one has a 2-inch hem with a side split. The last shirt is long chiffon sleeves with a cuff. I also played with the fullness of the top around the waist. 3 of them have a fuller body and the last 2 have a slimmer fit.

The necklines are a simple scoop, 2 have square necklines. One is a soft V with a collar and the last is higher and what I call ‘the Stephanie Boat neck’ it is as high and as wide as I can do or rather as I like! After all, isn’t the ability to sew all about making things that I like and that I want to wear!

The first shirt is very simple. A scoop neck, princess seams with a small back opening with a button and loop, short sleeves and all hems done as a baby machine sewn hem. This fabric is a bit of a throwback to the 1980’s. It is a rayon challis that I got from our ASG chapter neighborhood group leaders meeting this spring.






Shirt number 2 is a square neck with no extra opening. The sleeves and hem are machine sewn baby hems. The front of the blouse is embellished with pin tucks. The fabric is a silk/cotton voile. This is proving to be a favorite already!
In the photo on the right you can see the pin tucks. Always hard to see details on black fabric.




Number 3 is also a square neck without a back opening. The sleeves are completely faced and as you can see, I added a ribbon embellishment. The fabric is a wonderful Nano Iro triple gauze. The colors in it are amazing. However, the overall look of the fabric is lighter and the ribbon embellishment really helps to provide definition between my skin and the garment as well as provide a resting place for the eye. The sleeve facing a neck facing are from a soft pink cotton/silk voile.  (I know, I know... lots of voiles! They have been accumulating in my fabric collection and are finally being used!)






Number 4 is a blouse that I made for a refresh of my work wardrobe. It has a higher neckline, my version of a boat neck with a back opening with loop and button, a slimmer silhouette around the waist and a mixture of fabrics. The front of the blouse and the cuffs are from a hammered silk charmeuse, the back and the sleeves are from a matching silk chiffon. The back pieces are completely underlined with a rust colored silk/cotton voile to give strength to the seams and provide coverage. The sleeves are longer than usual so that they have a bit of pooling at the wrist. I only had 2 small pieces of the matching silk, less than a yard each and I had been wracking my brain with what to do with them, this was a great use! I even managed to mostly match the like colored wavy plaid. The front and across to the sleeves came out great. The back is a little off. However, seeing as I had just tiny pieces of scraps leftover I am quite happy with the result.






Number 5. This one was also a bit of an experiment. I had this remnant piece of cotton lawn leftover from a project maybe 10 years ago. It was time to use it up and get it out of my collection! This has a soft V neck, a split rolled collar and a loop and button closure at the back neck. The sleeves are finished with a split hemline and a 2-inch hem. The hem of the body was done with a machine baby hem. The silhouette of this top is a bit slimmer then the above shirt sleeve blouses. Between the print, the split collar and the split sleeve hem this shirt has a funky retro vibe that just makes me smile! The details on this one can be hard to see due to the print.






Sorry no real photos of me wearing any of these,except for the 2 mirror selfies as I was planning my wardrobe for a trade-show convention! My work schedule has been brutal and I am racking up the airline and hotel points big time this summer! Writing this from 30,000 feet! The times I have been home have been spent with family and friends and squeezing in some sewing and relaxing time for me. Doesn’t leave much time to set up the tripod and take photos.


I really LOVE having a great base pattern to work off of and play with different details. In a class a couple years ago we worked on defining different necklines that work on each individual. When I returned home after that class I used different color pins to pin these different necklines onto my dressform. It really helps to have them handy and to check a muslin or garment neckline.

The Princess and I enjoying a nice day at the Shedd Aquarium together!


Friday, July 27, 2018

In the Sketchbook- July 2018

Welcome to In the Sketchbook, a monthly look at fashion design sketches that we are working on for ourselves. Sketching garments on a personal croquis is a great way for the individual couture enthusiast to move beyond the use of commercial patterns and into a world of personalized design! It can be intimidating at first, but with a little bit of practice it becomes something you look forward to. Join us for a look of what we have going on In the Sketchbook! Brought to you by Wendy Grossman of Couture Counsellor and Steph King from Siouxzeegirl Designs.


Sketching has really helped me in designing and sewing a small capsule wardrobe for work. I was getting tired of wearing the same couple of items for work. For my job, I could probably keep on wearing the same few items and no one would ever know! I travel for work and visit customers and potential customers and work with a slew of sales people. So it can be weeks or even months before I see the same person again. However, I was getting bored and I have 2 large trade shows  each year to attend and having a new capsule wardrobe would be nice!

For this project I started with the fabric as the inspiration and then moved onto sketching designs and organically going back and forth until I had a plan,
Some of the ideas have come to fruition and some are still only sketches and a wish.

 I started with this princess seam sheath dress.


Then added a cool jacket with a shaped hem and pleated details using the dress fabric.

 This then led to also making a skirt to go with the jacket and presto a suit.

I then decided I needed a black silk shell top to go with the suit and thought ohhhhh, pants too!

 Which then led to - why not a neat pencil skirt as well.

 Which went down the rabbit hole to also needing another top.

 And a fun jacket to go with that top that goes over that pencil skirt or pants.
And then it just keeps going and going and before I knew it I had about 20 garments sketched and good portion of my fabric collection strewn all over my living room to see how well each fabric coordinates with the others. Sort of like a fabric/garment version of 6 degrees to Kevin Bacon! 



What fun things have you been sketching?


Make sure to stop by Wendy Grossman of Couture Counsellor to see what lovely sketches and ideas she is working on. Please feel free to share your sketches and ideas with us.

Happy Sketching!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Sewing with my 10 favorite podcasts

I am a bit of a podcast junkie! I love listening to them while sitting on a plane traveling for work, when I am our for a walk, sitting on the train or cleaning the apartment. And I especially like them while I am sewing!

Now, let me be specific here. I really like them while I am cutting projects out, ironing on interfacing and doing the bulk of the actual sewing. When it comes to pattern drafting or a difficult technique I usually prefer silence so that I can fully give 100% to what I am doing.

I am also quite picky about my listening methods with highest priority going to the wireless option. Thank goodness for Bluetooth enabled products. Scissors and rotary cutters are not kind to wired headphones... this I have learned the hard way! 
My 4 most used listening devices. top: Bose blue tooth speaker that I use for both podcasts and audio books and it is connected to both my iPhone and my iPad and is awesome!! Moving clockwise are my  Skullcandy Bluetooth in ear headset. these are lightweight and I forget most times that I have them on. Nice thing about them is that I can answer the phone when using them. Next up are my least used for sewing but most used on airplanes,  random old fashioned wired headset. Most likely purchased in an airport because I happened to once again lose my headphones. I never spend more than $25-$30 on these since they always seem to disappear! can also be used to answer the phone. Last but not least are the over-the-ear these are nice and I like them as long as I dont need to put my cheaters on and off while sewing!

Let me point out here that this was NOT an easy list for me to come up with. I have a total of 51 podcast shows in my library that I regularly subscribe to. About half of them do seasonal podcasts of about anywhere from 8-15 shows a season. So I don't actually have 51 regular episodes hitting my feed every week. That could become a be a bit overwhelming. I have my favorites that I listen to every episode and sometimes even repeats and then I have some that I only listen to a majority of the episodes and delete ones that are not interesting to me. Also, I am only including current podcasts, there are plenty that are no longer creating episodes that are great to go back to and listen.

Here goes my top 10 list:

In the sewing/fashion genre:

1. Clothes Making Mavens: This is a relatively new podcast with only 23 episodes so far. This is a garment sewing podcast with one host, Lori, in Toronto, Canada and Helena  in LA./Southern California area. They are a pleasure to listen to, relevant conversation to garment making,  have very good guests and involve listeners quite often. I never miss an episode! Each episode is about an hour long which is a great length of time to sew with. You can check them out at Clothes Making Mavens.


2. Dressed- The History of Fashion: Also a relatively new podcast. The description from apple- Fashion history is about more than pretty clothes. Dressed explores the incredibly rich and complex history behind the clothes we wear. I really enjoy listening to this one. There is a great mix of history of not only specific designers but also of fashion trends and where and how the names of  things came about. Actually quite fascinating! I have tried several other 'fashion' podcasts but they were more about today and trends and just seemed very frivolous in comparison to Dressed. The hosts April and Cassidy are both Art Historians and are extremely knowledgeable and entertaining to listen too. You can check out the website here.


Story Telling genre:
4. Levar Burton Reads: This is a fantastic podcast! Each episode is Leavr Burton reading a short fiction story. He picks them out himself and often gives you a little bit of background to start and then takes you on a beautiful journey into the story and at the ends there is a short monologue on what he just read. He has an amazing gift and many of the story's are in the science fiction or fantasy genres which are something that I really enjoy. I highly recommend giving this one a listen. You can find more about him at Levar Burton reads.


5.a,b,c Tanis, Rabbits, The Black Tapes: Yes these are 3 different podcasts so that actually means I am giving more than 10! All 3 of these podcasts are in the Performing Arts category in Apple podcasts category listings. They are long term ongoing stories that really require you to start at Season 1 episode 1. The general background of each is very science fiction with mixes of paranormal and sometimes a bit creepy. I never miss an episode! If you wait for several to build up it makes for a nice longer story version. They are all done very well and all 3 are somehow related to each other as far as the production companies. of Public Radio Alliance and Pacific Northwest Stories. 



History Genre: told in Story format
6. Lore:This is a fun podcast where the host, Aaron Mahnke, gives us background and stories about dark historical tales. I really like the format that he uses is his stories with a brief description, some examples and then one longer tale. They are sometimes quite frightening! (but, in a fun way) The only drawback that I have with this podcast is that it seems to have quite a few commercials and announcements which I can find annoying. The host also has a TV show by the same name on Amazon, I have not watched any of the shows yet. These are usually about 40 mins long with each one being a separate story and they are released every 2 weeks regularly.



Science and Medicine genre:
7. Hidden Brain- an NPR podcast that I find fascinating! The host Shankar Vedantam is engaging and reveals his episodes subject through a mixture of story telling and science. He makes you feel like you are being drawn in to help explore the why and the hows of our brains and why we do what we do and how not everyone thinks or acts the same way. As the name says we get to explore the Hidden Brain!



8. Invisibilia- another NPR podcast that dives into the unseen forces that can effect and change our lives. There have been several different hosts from the NPR staff on this one and all of them have been quite engaging and interesting. The episodes are often about difficult subjects and how we as humans think and behave about things. Often I am left with this feeling of  wow, I never looked at 'something' in that way or even thought about how some things really affect other people. After listening to these, I sit on a train or an airplane and wonder about the people around me! Read more about the show here.



News and Politics genre:
9. Embedded- (yet another NPR product) I don't watch a lot of TV news or more likely I don't always have a lot of faith in the TV news. Often I feel like I only got to hear a tiny tidbit of the story that was sensationalized just to make a story and then usually never hear much follow-up. This podcast, hosted by Kelly McEvers takes these stories and goes deep into them. Recently there was a several episode series on Coal and coal mining in the US. I would have never thought this would be an interesting topic, but somehow Kelly made it very engaging especially with how it relates to Trump and politics and how deep things really run. Sometimes this podcast ends I feel like my mouth is hanging open in disbelief of some things that are happening in our world! Read More about Embedded here



10. Reveal- the description form the website reads as 'we engage and empower the public through investigative journalism and groundbreaking storytelling that sparks action, improves lives and protects our democracy. That is a very strong statement and the views of the podcast are also quite strong. However, I find the podcast and the stories told to be relevant to what is happening in the US now and show a side of things that we normally don't see reported. You can read more about Reveal and The Center for Investigative Reporting here AL Letson is the host and I think he does a great job. Every once in a while he gets a bit wound up but, I imagine that living in that type of journalism every day would be stressful. So, I give him a pass for that most of the time.

Those were my top 10 (or twelve if you count all 3 for number 5!) I also regularly listen to the biggies like TED Radio Hour, This American Life and The Moth.

There are several other sewing ones that I like:
The new Sewing with Threads podcast- only a few episodes so far and they are pretty good.
Crafty Planer- this is more of an all around crafty sewing podcasts with interviews done with many different people in the sewing space. I like to listen to the ones that are specific to garment sewing.
Love to Sew podcast- this is another garment sewing podcast that I enjoy. 2 hosts together make it interesting and usually quite relevant.
Stitcher's Brew is a new podcast from the UK- mainly about sewing but some other things thrown in there. These ladies make me laugh!! They are always chattering and laughing and, of course, talking about tea!

There are several others sewing/crafting podcasts as well. However, these are the ones that I really like. It really is a wonderful thing to have so many options! For a long time there were just not that many and I take my hat off to those early sewing podcasting pioneers for inspiring others to give it a go and giving home sewers another voice to connect to.

Tell me, what are your favorite podcasts?

Happy Sewing!!