Sunday, November 24, 2019

My first Ralph Rucci - maybe not my last

The dust has settled on my complicated project, Vogue 1239. To recap, I needed a dress, I had the pattern, the fabric, the lining and everything else I needed except the thread in stash. Except I didn't have enough fabric to cut out the belt. And, I later discovered, I hadn't actually read the pattern instructions very carefully. But it worked out in the end.

Weird pattern pieces
This is a very complicated pattern in my opinion, although Vogue apparently doesn't share my view, having designed it as being only of "Average" difficulty. I think a pattern for a fully lined dress that includes asymmetrical left and right pieces, multiple pieces that look absolutely nothing like anything I had seen before (despite 40+ years of sewing), darts that turn a corner, multiple gusset inset points and miles of edge- and top-stitching is more difficult than Average.

Take a look at the photo showing the upper pieces of the dress laid out, single layer, on my fabric. Anything look familiar? I didn't think so.

Oh yes, and the instructions had 67 steps, which is a lot. I confess I didn't read them all the way through before proceeding.

I did read the pattern enough to realize that it called for absolutely no interfacing. Given the stand collar and the long somewhat bias edges of the centre front, that didn't strike me as a good idea. I interfaced the facing pieces. This stabilized the edges so they wouldn't stretch out of shape.

I also read enough to realize that the method for sewing the pockets would definitely not be easy, if it could be done at all. These are in-seam pockets with a top-stitched opening. No Vogue, you cannot sew the pocket bag first and edge- and top-stitch the opening afterwards.

I did it in the opposite order.

I told you in my last post that 2.5 metres was the perfect amount of fabric for this dress, but not enough to get the belt (an extremely long bias piece). If I had read further into the instructions I would have realized it also wasn't enough to cut out the lowest tier of the skirt in the fashion fabric. I had cut all inner layer pieces out of lining and used up almost all of my fabric (a necessity) before I realized this error. I had also completely sewn the dress and mostly sewn the lining.

I thought about why Ralph Rucci would want the lower tier in fashion fabric. Maybe just because it might show, but more likely to match the amount of heft of the other edges of the dress, which are faced. And also because the hem of this dress isn't meant to be limp. So I improvised. Really, what else could I do?

Sewing the hem facing
I retrofitted the layer by applying some very light fusible interfacing to the lowest layer. Then I applied a sort of facing for the hem (about 6cm wide) just to get the right heft for the very bottom of the dress which is edge- and top-stitched like all the other edges. I had *just* enough fabric scraps to cut this facing but not enough to get it all on the right grain.

Then once I had invisibly attached the hem facing to the interfacing, I was able to turn the lining under at the hem and hand-fell it to the facing. This worked extremely well, in fact better than it would have if I had had enough fashion fabric for that lower tier of the skirt.

The pattern instructs you to make the entire outer dress and then the entire inner dress with faced edges, and bag the two together. You turn it right side out through a little hole in one of the lining seams. I don't know about you, but my sewing isn't precise enough to make it very likely that there would be no need for any adjustment to get the outer dress and lining to hang absolutely perfectly. My method left plenty of room for fudging so my hem doesn't pull and the lining doesn't show anywhere.
At Frocktails Montreal

I'm very happy with the finished dress. I wore it to Frocktails and got a comment or two. It was warm and comfortable. I had attached a hook and eye at the outer waist as well as the inner waist tie that the pattern calls for and it felt very secure.

So now I have to say a couple of words about the belt.

No fabric? No problem! I had the perfect leather in stash. However it was far too soft and supple for the obi-style belt this dress needs. Luckily, the stash came through with a stiffer skin and I used two layers of that leather to interface and then line the belt.

I was a bit nervous about making the belt but it really isn't that hard to work with leather and if you have enough rubber cement you can basically do anything. The only sewing in this belt is where I attached the ties to the ends of the long main piece.

Now I have to make more clothes that need a rusty red-orange obi-style belt...

Sunday, November 10, 2019

A complicated project

I decided I'd go to Frocktails Montreal. It's next week. Naturally I'd need a new frock.

Stash diving ensued.

Do you know that I own many Ralph Rucci patterns but had never taken one out to actually make? And that for quite a few years, I had a particular piece of fabric mentally earmarked for one of them? It's Vogue 1239, a very quirky wrap dress with distinct kimono influence.

Take a look at the line drawing - such INTERESTING seams! This is a pattern with darts that need to be slashed before being sewn (because they change direction mid-way) and it has topstitching everywhere. It is fully lined and the lining pieces have the same quirky details. The instructions extend to 67 paragraphs.

This pattern is rated "Average"??? Vogue has lost its mind! But I love a sewing challenge and it has been a while since I've had one.

I discovered that I bought the fabric in 2007 (the bill was still folded with the fabric) at a sadly now gone Montreal store called Tissus Tuéni. That was a beautiful store with such interesting and very high quality fabric choices. The proprietor (very European) hand-wrote the bill in spiky longhand.

I also discovered that I had purchased 2.5 metres of the fabric. Oops. The pattern calls for 4.0 metres! Did I say that I love a challenge?

The recommended layout for this dress is bizarre. It turns out that 1.5 metres is what's needed for the excessively long and bias-cut belt. Who needs a self fabric belt? Not me! My 2.5 metres is exactly the right amount for just the dress, including rudimentary pattern matching.

Click to zoom in for more detail!
I wish I knew exactly what the composition of this fabric is. It has some wool, for sure, but the woven-in pattern in a shiny fibre is something else, like maybe rayon, or acetate? Dunno. The contrast between the ridged and woolly texture of the background and the satiny sheen of the irregular squares is one of the reasons why I was attracted to the piece. The fact that the woven-in squares contain further woven-in patterns that look like, but evidently are not actually letters is another. The rich orange-y rusty colour was something that appealed greatly to me at the time, which is lucky, because further stash diving revealed that I had also bought, maybe a few years later, many skins of lamb leather in pretty much exactly the same colour!

You see where I'm going with the leather, don't you? The belt. A friend loaned me a belt she had picked up that is an elongated curved obi, with ties that wrap around. I have a big can of rubber cement and some stiffer leather for structure, and the belt is partly done.

I absolutely must finish this dress this weekend, so will reveal the entire thing in a later post. À plus tard...

Sunday, September 15, 2019

I remember this feeling - hooray for comfortable pants!

When I first saw the drawings of Style Arc's new Kew pants pattern the style instantly appealed to me. I remember falling for a pattern of similar pegged leg style back in the 1970s. At the time, I was horribly disappointed because I thought they made me look short and kind of stocky. They were too much of a departure from my actual preferred style at the time, which was those very long, very wide straight legged pants with a super high waist. I never wore them.

Smirking - I made these pants!
This time, the proportions look kind of fresh after all the too-tight, too low-waisted pants of the last umpteen years.

People! These are Mom Jeans! They are so comfortable!

Things I really like about these:

  1. OMG the waistband is actually at my waist!
  2. I can tuck in a top and it doesn't look stupid or feel uncomfortable.
  3. There is enough rise in the crotch and they fall nicely from the waist - no weird wrinkles or pulls at the crotch, no tugging, no discomfort.
  4. There is actual ease through the hips.
  5. The legs are roomy, but don't look baggy. 
  6. The back leg seams allow for fitting if, like me, the size that fits your hip measurement is too big at the waist.
  7. Great jeans style pockets (front only).

The other features I like are just quirky. The pegged legs with the little slit and lower leg dart at CF are cute. The short length feels stylish if now seasonally inappropriate. Hopefully it will still feel stylish next spring/summer. 

I have a couple of quibbles about the pattern which I will fix for the next time I make these. There will be a next time. This is a wearable muslin.

And now for more details.

First, here is a view of the back, showing the seams that split the back legs. There is no shaping in this seam (see pattern pieces at left), which surprised me. 

I cut a straight size 10 based on my hip measurement. Style Arc indicates this size is for a hip of 98cm or 38.6". But my waist is smaller than the size 8 measurement (70cm or 27.5") but a bit bigger than size 6 (65cm or 25.5"). I figured I would sew out the difference somewhere once I could try them on. I ended up sewing a dart into each of the back leg seams that was 2cm wide at the top and 12cm long. 

The waistband piece is not perfectly straight, which surprised me since it sits at the natural waist. When I basted it on to try I realized that (again to my surprise) it wasn't curved enough. I pinched out two little darts at the sides. Each dart is a bit less than 1cm at the top, tapering to nothing at the bottom of the waistband. For the future, I sliced the waistband in 5 places and overlapped the paper about 5mm at each point. My finished waistband is 7cm shorter than the original size 10 waistband.

Coin pocket
Smooth flat front, unobtrusive pockets
I think I'll skip the coin pocket in future. The pockets are a nice shape but more vertical than most standard jeans. The coin pocket is almost invisible. Who am I kidding, it's totally invisible in my busy fabric! And I will never use it. 

I don't understand why the little hem slit is not exactly in the middle of the front pant leg hem, in the same way that the seam is centred in the back leg. It's situated closer to the side seam than the inseam. I am going to move this feature in the next iteration.

I may also make the legs slightly longer. I've hemmed them as long as I could (about 1cm hem instead of the 3cm called for). 

The shape of these pants is so nice that I think I will trace them with a more conventional leg and make them up for winter!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


The Wikipedia definition of "upcycling" is:

also known as creative reuse, ... the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality and environmental value.

This project qualifies.

Original object
The fabric started its life as a rather lovely pure linen flat bedsheet. I think it was a double bed size. My husband, consummate thrift shopper that he is, spotted it as a good quality item of potential use in the sewing room. The prize feature is the white on white embroidery and deep hem.

It had been used and was not in perfect condition. I spotted a couple of small holes and in one spot the faggoting between the hem and the main body of the sheet was ripped. However there was plenty left for my purposes.

I previously made the Inari Tee Dress pattern as a dress from fabric with a heavily embroidered border and I figured I could do it again, but this time as a top.

There was one thing I did not love about the dress and that is that it tends to ride up and back as I wear it. This means the neck in front feels like it's going to choke me and the whole dress angles towards the front at the hem, instead of staying vertical like it should.

I did a bit of superficial web research and looked in some books and asked on FB forums and everybody said that all I needed to do was take a slice off the front shoulder and add it to the back. This would put the shoulder seams in the "right place". But (thought I) it would not solve my problem which seemed to me to be that the upper back was too short as a result of anatomy and poor posture. As I hunch away at my desk my curved back steals fabric from the front and this is why the thing shifts on my shoulders.

So instead I sliced through the back and added 8mm of length and then I added a little wedge in the sleeve cap to make it a bit longer, as you can see at left.

I'm pleased to say this worked perfectly. I wore the top today and it did not shift around during the day. It feels more comfortable.

The boxy shape is cool and comfy. I cut the top longer than the pattern says. I wanted it to hit me at the hip bone approximately and at 51cm from shoulder point to hem, it is probably about 4-5cm longer than it would have been if I had cut where the pattern directed. 

The embroidery makes this top special, and I didn't have to do a thing to get it! I left a little slit opening at the side seams.

It's a new silhouette for me. I think it looks OK with these wide cropped pants.

I wore it today with very wide linen pants and got a few nice comments.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Making home dec fabric with my knitting machine

If you have a knitting machine that can do patterning (punch card or electronic) you can probably make fabric like this. The technique is called "knitweave" and you can use yarn that is much too thick for the knitting machine for the face of the fabric.

I made the fabric for these cushions (which, BTW were not designed to be placed on the red upholstery in the photo) using a thin acrylic yarn from Michael's (Woolike) for the base. In the cushion on the left I used 3 strands of Woolike in different colours for the face but in the one on the right, I used Lopi which is a bulky wool yarn.

Making this fabric couldn't be easier than it was on my Brother 892 punch card machine. I punched a card from the Harmony Guide to Machine Knitting Stitches (a great resource). The Brother machine selects the needles ahead of knitting the row (as you can see at right) and it was a simple matter to lay the face yarn over the selected needles and just knit across.

I'm fascinated by the fabric this makes. It is very thick and stable across the width (since the face yarn is mostly laid straight, not knitted) but stretchy in the length. I'm sure I could make fabric for a very warm jacket...

At left is another piece I knitted with a different card, showing the colours of my Mom's couch upholstery.

Extreme close up


This lovely and very beefy cotton waffle fabric is now partly out of my stash and has been turned into a pristine white robe.

Naturally, I only finished making this once the outdoor pool-swimming summer session ended (after a 6AM outdoor swim it is lovely to wrap yourself in a nice towelly robe). However I expect there will be more outdoor swimming in my future, and this robe will last for years as the fabric is a really great quality. Also, since when would a kimono-style robe ever go out of style?

The pattern is (natch) another Jalie, the Mélanie robe. I bought it last year at PR Weekend since there were a few of these present and they looked nice and easy to wear. However there are not many reviews on Pattern Review. I'm not sure why...

This pattern was intended for much softer and possibly drapier fabrics such as challis, crepe and satin so my thick and somewhat stiff waffle weave outfit is not quite performing as intended. I made this because I wanted a nice bathrobe, but also to see if I would like the pattern (more in a jacket length) for the double weave cotton I bought in Tokyo. I'm still thinking about it.

This robe is really easy and very quick to make. The only confusing part was sorting out which long skinny rectangles I needed to trace for the collar and belt. This was only confusing because they are the same printed piece on the pattern sheet and it wasn't immediately clear which one was which, or how many I needed to cut.

For your information, in your fabric you need one collar piece and two belt pieces. The collar pattern piece is the LONGER one (on the pattern sheet) but of course once you sew the two belt pieces together, the belt is longer than the collar. Clear as mud? Maybe a picture (left) is worth a thousand words.

Once you muddle through, the collar is precisely the right length to fit the neck, and the belt is good and long for tying in various ways.

What next?

I haven't been sewing much in August, because I haven't been at home. It has been great to see friends but I'm feeling the need for time to make stuff!

While I think about it, enjoy this photo of the Three Sisters that I took in Canmore, Alberta.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Jalie Michelle tank

Here I am again, sewing a Jalie pattern. This time it's Michelle, another one of the patterns released this year. The pattern has two views, a top and a dress. I'll leave the dress for others - I made the top.

First I made it as instructed in navy linen. The top is supremely simple - it has two pieces and they are not front and back, they are outer and inner layers. The front and back are identical. The inner layer is a long facing with the same upper shaping as the outer layer - it's just shorter. If you are using a sheer fabric, you cut four of the outer layers. In this non-see-through fabric I chose the short inner layer option.

Tucked in
The top is cut on grain. It falls a little stiffly in my linen but is very pleasing and really cool.

If making this on-grain again, I would make a modified piece for the back. I'd cut the neck line higher in back and I would consider making it a tiny bit wider. The straps are cut so that on me, they are pushed out away from the neck. This causes the centre of the piece to flare out somewhat. I'd like it to lie a tiny bit flatter at the back. However it is very wearable as is.

FYI I cut the pattern on the lines for size R through the neck and arm openings and graded out to S at the hip. This adjustment was totally unnecessary, as the top is very roomy.

Bias pattern piece
Based on how this fits I thought it would be fun to try the top cut on the bias but without any other pattern adjustments. I have lots of very light weight white linen which is semi-sheer, so after I made a full piece (tracing another half and taping it to the original at the centre line) I cut out four pieces, single layer.

Some quick on line research indicated that I should cut two layers at 90° to each other. As this site explains:

"When considering the layout of your garment it is important to remember that every fabric has two true biases, each perpendicular to the other. When the front and back of a dress are cut on parallel biases, the dress has a tendency to twist around the body. Instead, cut the front and back biases perpendicular to each other. This results in a balanced garment. If the garment has center front and back seams, the direction of the bias should alternate around the body."
Fusible "facing"

To stabilize the strap-neckline-armscye area, I cut very lightweight fusible interfacing in a facing shape and fused it on the inner layers for front and back. Then I sewed each interfaced layer to an uninterfaced piece, with the interfacing side up so the edges would stretch as little as possible during the sewing.

I made a baby hem on the outside and just serge finished the under layer a little bit shorter.

And the verdict?

The bias cut does not make as much of a difference as I expected to the look of the top. It flows a bit more over the bust, but the back is still forming a sort of fold at CB.

This is a great hot weather top!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Still here! (and more from Japan)

Here are my kimono pants with a shirt (Jalie's Rose) made from the surprising lining from the same kimono.

Back pleat
Surprising because it's dark red cotton and the colour doesn't really figure in the fabric of the outer kimono. Also, it's the kind of broadcloth that  sticks to itself (so a surprising choice for lining anything). But waste not want not and I could and I did make another garment from the very inexpensive kimono.

The under collar is made from the kimono fabric - you can see it peeking out in the back view.

I've written about the Rose shirt pattern before and there is not much more to say about it. It's a great pattern and you should try it if you haven't already.

Then I made yet another version of the Bobbi top (also Jalie).

I now have three Bobbis. Click here for a look at the other two, if you forgot.

I bought the fabric at Tomato in Tokyo.

It's a panel print in (guessing) cotton/poly and the scale of the print is perfect for Bobbi. But the fabric is kind of stiff and doesn't have a lick of lycra in it. So it is NOT the type of fabric called for (a knit with fluid drape that does not stick to itself). For this reason, I used a stretchy white fabric (stash) for the inner facing instead of self fabric.The fashion fabric does sort of stick to the facing, but it's stiff enough that it doesn't matter very much. In the result it's quite a different sort of top from the other Bobbis I made.

I have a couple more Japanese sewing projects in mind but I've gotten out one of my knitting machines again so it may be a while later in the summer before I get to them.

Saturday, May 25, 2019


Kenroku-en Garden in Kanazawa, Japan
In the Hanamikoj Dori neighbourhood,
What a beautiful and interesting place! We had a wonderful holiday, looking at interesting gardens, visiting temples and shrines, tramping around various cities and seeing the sights, and of course, shopping.

Fabric makes the best souvenir, right? I didn't study prior to our trip or map out every single wonderful fabric shopping excursion because I knew I would not get away with dragging my husband and friends to fabric stores every day. And we were travelling around so I didn't want to increase the weight of my suitcase too much (or break out the auxiliary bag before the last minute). Also, I have a stash and augmenting it is something I try to be careful about.

But I could not resist those second-hand kimonos! (I did also buy fabric, that's for another post...)

I was especially taken with one cotton kimono - the print is made (I believe) in a process whereby the warp and weft threads are dyed before the cloth is woven. I knew this as Ikat but in Japan the technique is called kasuri. The background is clearly indigo but the print also has a medium blue, green, pale aqua and dots of bright yellow and red. The lining was red cotton broadcloth.

I bought this for the fabric, not to wear the kimono, and I took it apart almost right away. Kimonos are hand-sewn so it was pretty simple to pull out the running stitches. Kimonos are made with narrow fabric (13-14" or 33-35cm wide) and the selvedges are left intact. So once disassembled, I had lengths of  very usable, although narrow, fabric. Two body lengths were about 11 ft or 350 cm long and the sleeve pieces were 33" (85cm) long. The other parts of the kimono are narrower (the front overlap panels and the collar) but all are rectangular. There is only one cut into the fabric - a slit for the neck.

It didn't appear that this kimono had ever been laundered (apparently the process involves taking the kimono apart, washing it and then reassembling) because by the time I finished, my hands were completely blue from the indigo dye. While I had no issues washing the fabric by machine, I decided not to risk the dryer (fear of crocking because the tumbling action would turn my skinny strips into twisted ropes) and hung it out to dry. So pretty!

I decided I wanted to turn this kimono into breezy pants. At first I was toying with very wide Japanese-style pants (Hakama). But then I realized that the new Simone pattern from Jalie would be perfect, and more wearable.

Simone is one of the just-released Jalies. I had tested some of these (including Simone) before the release so I was familiar with the pattern. Its advantage for my kimono fabric is that it is designed for non-stretch wovens (this cotton has zero stretch) and the main pattern pieces are straight up and down with minimal curves.

Inside - view of added strip
When I traced my size (I chose size U based on my hip measurement, even though my waist is size S), I realized that the pants back piece was a bit wider than my fabric. No problem! I placed the side seam on the selvedge and added a narrow strip at the inseam. I was able to match the pattern so the seam is basically invisible.

To my surprise and pleasure, the front pattern piece was almost *exactly* the same width as my fabric. Minimal cutting was required, which also made me happy.

The assembly method instructed in the pattern is a bit different from what you might choose to do, left to your own devices. However, Jalie instructions are always thoughtful and I followed them with one exception. That is, when sewing pants (other than jeans) I prefer to sew the full crotch curve last instead of assembling the front and back completely, then sewing the inseams in one pass. The reason is that the pants fall better if the crotch seam allowances are not flattened by sewing over them.

To reflect the fact that my pattern pieces were two sizes bigger than required for my waist measurement, I cut the back elastic for size S and also took a slightly bigger side seam in the fronts only, tapering from near the bottom of the pocket. The completed pants are not super easy to pull on, but they are extremely easy to wear and I think they look pretty good.