Friday, May 10, 2019

Metallic neutral sheath dress, jacket and skirt

 This garment ensemble is long overdue to be blogged. It all started last spring during Design 2 intensive with Sarah Veblen. One of my exercises was to work on and develop what neutral means to me in fashion, design and sewing. It was a great time for me to explore this since I was also in great need of new work clothes.


The designs were all developed by me with some design considerations given to me by Sarah.

The Sheath Dress 
The sheath dress was one that I had been wanting to create for a long time and I had so much fun working on a master pattern that has since morphed into so many designs! For instance, I took my base master sheath dress pattern and modified it to create this metallic neutral.

I started with sketching some ideas for a dress and then added a jacket and then thought that a skirt addition would make a mini capsule perfect for work trips.

I modified the pattern by:
  • Raising the front neckline
  • Lowering the back neckline
  • Adding extended shoulder for a sort of cut on cap sleeve
  • Side fronts and side backs cut on the bias
  • The front piece was split horizontally with a curved line to take advantage of the lines and nap of the silk dupioni
  • Addition of a tab and small button to the back vent. The button matches the jacket buttons. Just a different scale.
  • Addition of a welt zipper pocket in the right side front piece

The dress fabric is a lightweight metallic striped silk dupioni, underlined with silk organza and line with ambiance lining. I purchased the silk from Fabrications shop at the ASG national meeting when it was in Indianapolis a couple years ago.




The Jacket
With the dress completed, I moved onto the jacket. The fabric for the jacket was a gift from my great friend, Wendy Grossman who blogs over at The Couture Counsellor. I knew that I wanted the jacket front shape to echo the curve of the bodice on the dress front. But in a very delicate way. In my mock up i tried a couple different placements for the curved front and I had to be careful to place it in such a way that I did not accentuate my full tummy.

With the jacket front shape adjusted, the rest of the construction was fairly simple. Except that I had to match the basket weave as perfectly as possible! I also wanted to pull in the elements of the dress in a way that the set really went with each other and not just a jacket that looked good with the dress. So, in addition to the front waist curve, I also used the dress silk dupioni fabric to create pleated details on the jacket.

I added:
  • pleated cuff treatment
  • pleated pocket treatment 
  • pleated collar/neck treatment (my favorite part) 


The main jacket pattern is made from my master princess seam jacket pattern and 3 piece sleeves with the under sleeve cut on the bias. I simply love using a 3 piece sleeve! It shapes and fits so nicely to my arms and it takes much less yardage overall when using a 3 -piece sleeve because the sleeve is in 3 pieces you can puzzle fit it into smaller areas.

For the lining used a silk remnant for the body portion, making sure to include a back pleat for ease and comfortable movement. The sleeves are lined with black ambiance lining. 



The Skirt
With the leftover basket weave fabric and ambiance lining, I made a matching skirt. Thinking that this would be a perfect skirt suit. However, I dont often wear it that way because I don't like the way the front yoke of the skirt looks when paired up with the jacket. This is a bit nit picky on my part. Instead of using darts on the skirt I choose to add in a yoke and cut it on the bias. My thought for doing it this way was that then I would not have to match the basket weave vertically between the jacket and the skirt. All I succeeded in doing was breaking up the line so that the eye is drawn right to the yoke. Not where I want peoples eyes staring at!! LOL!! From the back it looks amazing because the back yoke is covered by the jacket. 

The skirt pattern was developed from my basic a-line master skirt pattern. I transferred the darts into a yoke on the front and back.I also added in a 'secret' pocket on the inside facing. Works perfect for when I am working trade-shows and need to have a credit card/cash etc in a safe place.

A very good design learning opportunity for me. Luckily I have plenty of other tops and another jacket that goes very well with the skirt so it is not an orphan sitting in my closet! Plus I do also wear it as a skirt suit for work. It's not that bad....



 I mentioned above that I have another jacket in my closet that I made quite a few years ago that also works quite well with the sheath dress and the skirt. It is from a metallic denim/twill with a very wide stripe that worked perfectly for this garment. The pattern is one of Cynthia Guffey's - J5054. Her website is back up and running, but not sure for how long... so if you like, go buy it!

Happy Sewing!!!

Here is the princess showing off 2 new shirts and dancing in her new PJ's!! She loves coming over and picking out fabric for me to sew her new clothes :)



Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Organza windows tutorial to make faux belt loops

Last week I showed my raspberry pink wool flannel spring suit. One of the very fun details in that garment is the technique that I used to create the faux belt loops. This tutorial is mainly for my own records but I thought I would share it out in case anyone was interested in it.

I do want to re-iterate that before I did this on the actual garment fabric that I made several tests.
I tested for the best method, the size of the windows and the size of the belting, could I make it work across seams, could I make them reproducible, what would be the best marking methods, did I need interfacing and what type would be best, etc, etc, etc. I spent several hours testing.

After my testing, I wrote down all my steps and took pictures because I knew that I would not be able to do all 32 windows in one sitting.

Step 1: mark the fabric on the RIGHT side. I did a combination of chalk and of silk thread marking. Luckily for me on my flannel the chalk marks were fairly easy to brush away. I did the thread basting on the back of the garment and the chalk marking on the pockets and the jacket cuffs. I could not use heat erasable pen because I needed to use the iron mid way.

Step 2: Cut out, mark the silk organza and pin directly over the markings in step one. My silk organza pieces were roughly 3 inches square. I marked these with heat erasable pen to the exact size I wanted the windows to be. 1 1/8 inches long by 1/8 inch wide and 1/2 inch apart. Silk organza squares are pinned to right side of fabric.

Step 3: using a small stitch length, stitch the rectangle. I used a length of 1.6 on my Babylock and started and stopped in the middle of one long side with no back stitches.



Step 3 Continued: you can see the stitching of the 2 windows on the back of the interfaced fabric.

Step 4: from the right side carefully cut down the center and make 2 cuts into the corners going right up to the stitch line. On a regular basis I do not use a seam sealant in the corners. I may have used it on one or two spots when I felt like the cuts I made may have gone into the stitching. You can tell if it is needed when you pull the organize through to the right side.

Step 5: after pressing stitching I then pulled the organza through the hole and to the back side of the fabric. Using a wooden stiletto or other tool I carefully pressed the window open and made sure that the organza was favored to the back. This meant that you could not see it from the front side.

Step 6: Hand stitch the organza window down being careful that your stitches do not show on the right side of the fabric. 
After stitching I trimmed the organza (not shown)


Below is a close up of a pair of windows side by side with the belting threaded through. The 1/2 inch space left between the 2 windows is what creates the faux belt loop. I do want to re-iterate that I do not think that this technique would be appropriate for a working belt or working strap. On this garment the belting is purely for ornamentation.



I’ll be happy to answer any questions if they come up :)



Happy Sewing!!!
The Princess really enjoyed coloring Easter eggs and then eating them!! LOL!





Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Pink Wool Flannel Spring Suit

Pink Wool Flannel spring suit


I purchased the fabric for this suit a year or 2 ago from Sawyer Brook. I t is a wool flannel with a small amount of spandex stretch in it. I had quite a bit of it because my initial thoughts were a pink pantsuit. Which I am glad I deviated from for many reasons.

The flannel was nice but I wanted something with a little more substance. So I took an 8 inch square and wash and dried it with other laundry twice and I liked how it fulled up a bit, softened and became just a bit loftier. I was very happy with it. It did shrink in the length so having the extra yardage really paid off for me. I figured out the shrinkage and cut the 5 yards into smaller lengths after playing with the pattern placement. I washed and dried it twice and had a ton of pink fluff in the dryer lint catcher! 

The grey fabric is a faux leather, also from Sawyer Brook. This fabric sews up like a dream once I figured it out. I cut the lengths crosswise for the belting. You can iron on the backside as is or on the smooth front with an organza press cloth. To create the belting I folded over the cut edges to meet in the middle and heated it with the iron, using a press cloth, and then using clappers on it while it cooled. This meant it took quite a bit of time to get the faux leather belting pressed. For the top stitching I played with some test versions to figure out the best stitch length, needle, presser foot and distance from the edge. I used a 3.0 stitch length to show off the top stitching a bit more. In retrospect I should have also used 2 spools of thread for the top stitching for better definition. I also used a teflon foot on my machine which worked great.

I wanted to make this a spring suit so I decided to keep the body unlined and only lined the sleeves for ease of putting on and off and because of the wool, I didn’t want it to be itchy.

All this inside seams, facing edges and hem are hong king finished. The belting pieces are all for embellishment and are non functional. 

Let’s chat about the design for a bit.
My inspiration for the garment came directly from several garments from Downton Abbey, The hunting garments for both the men and woman and day dresses from during the Great War persiod. I liked how the garments were simplified and the use of belting.

This design has been ruminating in my brain for several years and it wasn’t until last November when I was working on creating a pattern for an oversized blouse to be used as a light shirt jacket that I knew immediately what I wanted to make! It was such an overpowering feeling that I promptly put everything else that I was working onto the side and worked on a muslin for this jacket.
This pattern started from my darted bodice master pattern and was enlarged using the basic method from the book Patternmaking for Jacket and Coat design by Pamela Vanderlinde. This was a slow sewing process and I was not in a hurry. It felt so nice to take my time and really think about the steps and the different ideas that I wanted to play with. I knew that I wanted a cuff on the sleeve and played with designing this as a cut on folded cuff versus a separate cuff that is sewn on. I ultimately decided to do a sewn on cuff because I liked how the seam gave a fuller roll at the sleeve hem with the seams of the flannel. It also made it a tad easier to create the ‘windows’ for the belt loops.
 



The biggest challenge on this garment was creating the belt loops. Since these were not going to be functional belts I because I wanted a very clean and more feminine look I tested several ways to create these faux belt loops. I will not lie, this seemingly quiet detail took a lot of work and testing and then very carefull implementation. 

I used a loftier fusible interfacing that did not squash the loftiness of the pink flannel and really did not change the hand of the fabric. I then cut 32 3x3 squares of silk organza. (Basically I was creating 32 faced windows or Spanish snap buttonholes or Chanel buttonholes, whatever name you choose the basic construction is exactly the same) 
Each faced hole was 1 1/8 inch long and an 1/8 inch wide and were made in pairs that were 1/2 inch apart. The belting was then thread through these and it creates a belt loop that is seamless with the body of the fabric. I would not use these for functional belting but for embellishment it gave me the exact look that I wanted! I think all, with the test versions, I probably made about 40 of these faced windows.
The pockets are patch pockets that are sewn on by hand. They have a fun shape and are placed at an angle that follows the angle of the double breast darts as well as also including the belted embellishment. 

To get the fullness at the center back in the exact area that I wanted was a little bit of work. I first used my fitted back master pattern with back waist shaping darts and at the center back  seam I started several inches above the belt line and added width in that area starting from nothing and graded out to include and extra inch on each seam allowance by the time I reached the hem. Then when I did the belting I stitched the ‘loops’ down on the inside so that the fullness stayed exactly where I wanted it!
To keep the belting from being too heavy in the back I used a length of belting with grosgrain ribbon on each side that attaches into the side seams. This helps to support the back belting embellishment so that it wont sag. To protect the entire thing and keep it from catching on anything, I hand stitched a silk facing made of the same fabric used for the Hong Kong binding over the back belting. 
The softness of the wool flannel meant that I used a pair of angel wing shoulder pads for just a little bit of structure. Since this is an unlined jacket I covered the shoulder pads in the light pink silk charmeuse using the directions from Sarah Veblen’s YouTube channel. Worked like a charm!

The buttons are from Fishmans Fabrics. I was not quite happy with the buttons I had originally picked from my button collection and with the amount of work that I was putting into this garment I just couldn’t put meh buttons on it. Not having the time to go to my usual button shop I just made a quick trip to Fishmans and was floored to find these perfect buttons. Simply perfect for the jacket and the right size!!
With the rest of the light pink silk charmeuse i made a sleeveless shell to wear under the jacket.  I am honestly very happy to have that piece of silk out of my collection and used! It has been in the collection for a good twenty plus years and i just agonized over it because it just isn’t my color pink but it was one of my first purchases of good fabric and I couldn’t seem to part with it. Feels so good to have finally used it and put it to a very good use at that!

The skirt was originally going to be of a different design, a pencil skirt with belting embellishment running vertically. However, when I tried out the jacket with different skirt silhouettes it quickly became evident that this soft jacket required a softer skirt and not a structured pencil out of the same fabric. 

I used what I call my master ‘flippy’ skirt pattern with some extra fullness added in to give it the soft look. It is lined to the edge with front slant pockets and an invisible zipper at center back. The skirt line is anchored to the main fabric with swing tacks at all four seams.



This was a super fun project where I really enjoyed the design process and the slow sewing. Seeing it all come to life exactly how I pictured it in my mind gave me a great sense of self satisfaction and of accomplishment. Yay me!! This is one of my garments that will be entered into the Annual Haute Couture Club of Chicago fashion show being held on May 9th at the historic Chicago Knickerbocker hotel.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Sew Much Fun - Hong Kong- Tour review


Sew Much Fun Hong Kong Tour 2018
View of Victoria Harbor from the top of Victoria Peak.

19 ladies joined together for an unforgettable trip to Hong Kong and all for one big reason, FABRIC!! You know you have the sewing bug pretty badly when you fly to the other side of the world to go fabric shopping and bring home 56 plus yards of amazing fabric!

Our guides, Linda Griepentrog and Pauline Richards, did an amazing job of not only getting us prepared for the trip but also giving us so much information about the areas we were visiting, they really made the trip very enjoyable! I really enjoy traveling and I also like having my freedom without having every last detail planned out. This trip was a great mix of scheduled activities along with plenty of free time. If free time in a foreign city is intimidating, not to worry! On the scheduled free days there were several different optional tours that you could sign up for.

The flight is along one from the states, about 16 hours from gate to gate. Going there, I met the majority of the group in San Francisco and one the way back I flew directly from Hong Kong to Chicago. The jet lag going there was not so bad, mostly because you are excited to be somewhere new so fighting off the sleepies was not too bad.
Going home…. that was another story.

The accommodations were excellent. I really want to point that out since the hotel, The Salisbury Hotel, is technically a YMCA. If that was not pointed out to me I would never have known! I chose to be paired with a roommate who I have never met before and that worked out wonderfully. My roommate and I got along so well and we had so many things in common that it was like staying with an old friend. As part of the accommodations we had a scrumptious international buffet breakfast every morning. I love international breakfast buffets, all the yummy foods, it was definitely the biggest meal I ate every day.

Let’s get down to the good stuff!
Day 1: morning orientation meeting (very good and comprehensive) followed by a tour of Hong Kong Island. Victoria Peak, Stanley Market, Aberdeen Harbor and Boat ride and Western Market with fabric vendors. Transportation for the afternoon was done via coach bus. Quite a good way for us to go from place to place without having to worry about a thing. This day was a basic tour of the top Hong Kong sites with the Western Market thrown in for us fabric junkies!
Sampan boat ride in Aberdeen harbor

Each 'captain' had their Sampan boats decorated differently.

Aberdeen harbor has an eclectic mix of boats!
Multi-million dollar yachts to old fishing boats to some crazy house boats with a guy taking a bath for all to see!

Western market was the first fabric shopping stop on the tour.

Day 2 morning: Tour of Costume shop. This was very cool! It was a working costume shop that made costumes for Hong Kong Disney and the other theme parks in the area plus movies and other such operations that require costumes. We started with a demo/lecture on using lighting in costumes and then a tour of the workrooms. One of our group even got to dress up in an inflatable costume! Quite fun! In many of the areas we were not allowed to take photographs due to non-disclosure contracts with the companies. We were allowed to photograph the actual sewing workroom and all I can say is WOW!!! Some sort of controlled chaos! Very, very interesting to see. They even had a remnant sale for us of some really beautiful costume fabrics. I brought home a couple of pieces for the Princess.



Demo of different types of lighting used in costumes.
Cutting out of fabric from patterns. Very traditional large pattern weights and shears.

This woman was hand sewing on studs. She used long straight pins and had them pinned onto the foam to hold them in place. The pins were long enough that she could get her fingers in their to sew the studs on.

Each seamstress had their own machine with a customized set-up that honestly look so messy and chaotic to me!
In addition to these workstations there were also quite a few specialty machines. 

Day 2 afternoon: FABRIC SHOPPING- was spent in Sham Shui Po. We were given a map on our way over there on the bus. Linda and Pauline pointed out their favorite shops and places to explore and then we were let loose! We all met a couple hours later at a designated meeting spot for the bus ride back to the hotel.
This afternoon was amazing! Although, I never actually made it to Linda and Pauline’s two favorite shops. Sham Shui Po is the Hong Kong fabric/garment/fashion district. It was honestly a bit overwhelming because there was so much to see and so unlike shopping for fabric anywhere else that I have been. It ranged from a bazaar set-up to street vendors with large push carts of fabric to both wholesale and retail shops. The shops were the most familiar type. Very similar to shops in NYC garment district. The street vendors were fun! Due to the language barrier you bartered on price using a handheld calculator! I enjoyed doing that! The bazaar was a bit crazy and sort of like shopping in a giant tent ! I really would have liked to do more exploring in there, just ran out of time!
We also visited the Jade Market that afternoon and a food market. The jade market was my least favorite stop on the itinerary. The food market was extremely interesting and quite fun to walk around!
A group of us started out in the Hawkers Bazaar.

You can see in this picture that the entrance was quite low.
You had to duck your head to get under the tarp.
Piles and piles of fabric in the bazaar.
Once I had enough in the Bazaar I roamed the street vendors that were lined up along one of the streets.The fabrics here were much more accessible and I had a great time haggling on calculators!

As you walked through the district there were many wholesale only shops with thousands of swatch samples available to peruse.
My favorite shop in the district was The Pattern Bee. Above is a selfie of myself with the owner and below is the actual shop. He had a wonderful selection of fabrics and was happy to give me a 'bulk' discount! LOL!
158 Ki Lung Street

After all of that excitement, we had a quick bite to eat and then a bunch of us went with Linda to a tailor. Yes, I went to a tailor and had 2 suits and 2 extra pairs of pants made for me, custom. Such a super fun experience!
Here I am being measured by the tailor from J.B. Brothers Custom Tailor.

Day 3: After breakfast most of the group went for an hour long outdoor Tai Chi lesson. This was a blast!! Our teacher, William, was so graceful and gracious. We were out in a public plaza near the harbor and attracted a small crowd of onlookers, what a site we must have been :)
Group Tai Chi lesson in the clock tower plaza in front of the cultural center,


In the afternoon we took take the train system over to Hong Kong Island and do some shopping in the main district. My roommate and I stayed together and found another great fabric shop, Fulee Silk & Piece at 25 Li Yuen St in Central Hong Kong, I bought several lengths of delicious silk from this shop! Sadly... No pictures of the shop. But here are two of the fabrics.

Top is a silk brocade woven in one of the last Hong Kong factories before they all moved across the border into China  and below is a wonderful jacquard that has the best colors ever!
It was interesting that there were several streets that had street signs and everything but they were actual staircases and there is even a very long outdoor escalator that switches direction depending on the time of the day.
A ride on the outdoor escalator that is above street level and goes for quite a few streets up the hill in central Hong Kong.
Above: View of top of Pottiger street in Central district of Hong Kong.
Below: View from the bottom of Pottiger Street 


We then found a great little hole in the wall restaurant that only had menus in Chinese. Thankfully most people speak at least some English so we were able to order a delicious lunch. In the afternoon we took the famous Star ferry back across Victoria harbor.

Best soup ever! Especially since we didn't really know what we were ordering!
The ride across the harbor on the Star Ferry was fun. It was great to sit and watch all the action in Victoria Harbor and to think that at one point the ferry was the only way back and forth. No tunnels and no trains and no bridges.
There are still a high number of ferries that go to and from many of the smaller islands.


That evening we ventured out to the Ladies Night Market. This was a street market that ran for quite a few blocks with vendors set up on either side. You could buy all kinds of stuff! Clothing, purses, souvenirs, electronics gadgets. Mostly sort of touristy and knock off items.
Craziness of the Ladies Night Market.


Day 4 and 5: These were free days and you could either sign up for optional tours or just go sightseeing or wander about on your own or with your new friends! More on this later!

Day 6: Last full day of the tour- and it was splendidly warm and so much fun! My roommate and I spent most of the day back in Sham Shui Po. While here we went to a button/fastening hardware shop and oh my! What fun we had in that shop!! After that and a quick detour to an ATM cash machine we found a zipper shop and purchased some fun items there.

We made friends with the guys at the Hang Sun Button shop. Although we didn't buy any buttons! Just lots and lots of other cool snaps and hooks and eyes and various other closure hardware.
They were at 166 Nam Cheong St and were more than happy to sell in small quantities to us.


Zipper Shopping!!!!!


Super modern coffee shop right next to piles of fabric and a leather shop.


Rolls of cork fabric and other specialty items. Wish I had bought some to play with.
Below: rolls and rolls of lace trim spilling onto the street.

 We also found a bag/luggage shop that was amazing! We both bought several things, some gifts and some things for ourselves and I bough a very big suitcase. We then headed back out onto the streets and did some more fabric shopping. I did have a big suitcase that I was hauling around so it made sense to get some more fabric to put on it! LOL!!

Return to the Pattern Bee for more lovely fabric.

Me and my new Doughnut Suitcase and backpack...All filled with fabric.
After a quick stop at the tailor for a fitting we all met together to head out for a harbor cruise and a farewell group dinner. June, our lovely land guide, spent the time with us and took lots of photos. We took the boat out into the harbor and watched a beautiful sunset as we sailed over to a small island that has a wonderful row of restaurants built out over the water. Each restaurant had an array of fresh seafood… so fresh that you could go right to the fish tank and pick out what you wanted to eat! Now that is fresh seafood. After our lovely dinner we were picked back up in time to make back into the center of Victoria Harbor for the famous Hong Kong light show. It was quite spectacular and I mostly left my camera in my pocket and just enjoyed the amazing lights and laser show that spanned both sides of the harbor. It really was a special way to end the tour.
A farewell group shot with Hong Kong skyline behind us.

Some fun shots of us and the city on our way to Lamma Island for a fresh seafood dinner
The west end of Hong Kong Island

The restaurants on Lamma Island

A small portion of the lights of Hong Kong!

Day 7: The Sew Much Fun Hong Kong tour was done and I highly recommend it to anyone that wants to go experience this amazing city with a great group of like minded people.

The tour was over and as the others made their way to the airport, I made my way back out into the city and then moved hotels across the harbor to spend a couple extra days to do some more exploring and sightseeing.

Stay tuned for part 2!


A beautiful sunset on our last group evening!