Thursday, April 27, 2017

What doesn't kill you may make you stronger, but it definitely tires you out

(Friends, I started writing this post in November, now it is almost May and I had completely forgotten about it.  For the sake of posterity, I will post it in its unfinished form--clearly my title was spot on!)

The PR Sewing Bee is over.  I was not the winner, and I was pretty down about it.  I knew after the 4th round entries were posted, I had some real competition, but I also felt that I was one of the top contenders.  Sigh.  Needless to say after 6 weeks of mad sewing (and in the case of Round #3, angry sewing) I was completely wiped out.   

Now that my Bee recovery is over and Halloween costumes are done, I can revisit my Round #4 entries.

The challenge was to make a Day to Night Outfit.  I made a lined jacket, a lined sheath dress, and a sequined bolero.

I used Butterick 5147 Lifestyle Wardrobe pattern for the jacket and dress.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

It's not me, it's Rue: PR Sewing Bee Round 3

Friends, I will start this post with a Public Service Announcement:  Do not spend money on the Colette Rue Pattern.  Even if it was $1 instead of $18, don't do it!

I warned you that this round was a doozy and was it ever!!  The challenge was to make a garment using the Colette Rue dress pattern.  Ugh.  I don't like Colette patterns--they aren't drafted for someone with my body shape (pear) and my experience with the Hawthorn Dress left me with a wadder.  So I went into this round knowing it would be a lot of work.

Although I am very burnt out thinking about this dress, I will do my best to share my journey making this horrible pattern.  Upon the release of the Rue pattern Colette said they were returning to their roots-- meaning vintage inspired.  I am not on the vintage bandwagon.

I downloaded & the pattern (fyi I couldn't make it print properly using Windows 8) for version 2 with the straight skirt.  Even with the slimmer skirt it was 48 pages to print and assemble.  There was a lot of empty space around the pattern pieces, and as one Sewing Bee contestant wisely pointed out: the Colette Logo was large, dark, and on every page which used up a lot of ink.  Lots of paper, lots of taping, lots of ink was only the beginning.

Once the pattern was assembled it was obvious from the bodice piece that I was going to be reinventing the wheel. Let's begin our photographic journey on this 'Rue' (little pun for the French speakers out there).

 I printed out sizes 12, 14, & 16 using the layers in the pdf file.  The ability to print only the sizes you want are the best part of this pattern.  I cut out the size 12 for the bodice through the waist., based on my full bust/waist measurements of 40/33.  For reference, the pattern suggested a size 12 for measurements of 40/32 (close enough even though I knew they draft for a C cup).  I taped up the tucks in the paper pattern and pinned it to my dress form:

The shoulders were way too wide.  I narrowed them by an inch by folding the paper and, then held it up to me:

The shoulder width was better but that thing didn't come anywhere near the tops of my shoulders!  Forget about the seam line--the cutting line was way too short.  I had the armhole in the right spot, the CF was in the right spot, the tucks released in the general vicinity of where they should, but the shoulders were 2" too short.  I am not a tall person & I do not have a long torso... That is a very strange block Colette is using.  Let's look at the pattern piece on my dress form:

Yup, 2" too short.  You can see I drew in the seam line on the paper, and for the seam to hit my shoulder line, I needed to add 2 full inches.  So I cut and spread the pattern piece above the armhole and added over 2", better too much than not enough.  Then I raised the neckline up 2" to bring it back up where it was supposed to be.

At that point, I made my first muslin of the front bodice: aka "Big Ugly Mess"

That is not a pretty silhouette
Pretty ugly right?  So I pinned out a bunch of the excess in the center front and pinned the side panels up where they would lay smoothly.

 You can see progress being made.  In addition to pinning the side panel upward, I also pinched a dart out of the armhole.  I rotated this dart out of the pattern piece.  I felt that the tucks at the bust were not located correctly.  They were pointing toward my sternum rather than to the apex.  I wanted to experiment with shifting them upward along the seam.

There was definite progress, so I charged ahead with muslin #2.

I want everyone to note that there is no bust apex marked on the pattern.  For a pattern with so much detail on the bodice, the designed bust apex location should be marked, not left open for interpretation.  

I cannot stress how much it annoyed me to have to figure out where the bust should be in this bodice.  Based on the number of "tester" versions shown right here on Colette's blog there are a variety of locations for that bodice seam.  Some are over the bust, mushing it down, others are lower, and not mushing so much.  This variation in the locations of that seam should be a huge red flag.

Then there is Sarai's dark plaid version, which I think is very pretty, I even like the plaid. (The sleeves look like they are pulling terribly across her shoulders though). If you read through the comments, she attributes the final location of that bodice seam being below her bust as a result of her fabric stretching and the FBA she did.  Riiiight....It was a just a happy accident.   Good one.

So Muslin #2:

I did not like the tucks in their updated location either, so I changed them to gathers, and spread the gathering out across my curves.  The lower bodice piece was flaring outward, so I took a small vertical tuck in it.

During this time there was a tremendous amount of grumbling on my part. My husband asked what I had planned for the day and I'd respond with some variation of: "I'm going to work on that horrible dress."

At this point, I was finally ready to look at the back of the dress.  I knew the front was going to require the most work, so I did that first.  I tissue fit the pattern piece to my dress form:

I knew I would need to narrow the shoulders, and add length above the armhole to match the front.  I wanted to raise the back neckline as well to suit my personal preference.  The tissue fit was not terrible.  I did take a small swayback adjustment which is standard (YAY A STANDARD ALTERATION!!) for me.  I also have a very erect back.  The back darts were very wide (2") and meant for someone with a curvier back than mine.  I made them half as wide as designed, ending with a 1" final dart take-up.  After adding all of the extra length in the upper bodice and upper back, I needed to raise the back armhole up 1.25", and then reshaped the armhole to fit me.

After all of the adjustments made to the armscye, I knew the original sleeve would never ever fit.  I had absolutely no desire to redraft a sleeve from scratch, and my fabric was lightweight and summery, so my dress became sleeveless.

But wait...there is a skirt too!  I planned on making the version 2 skirt which would require less fabric (not to mention less printer paper, ink, and taping time).  The skirt is flared and the front has small gathers instead of darts.  I didn't like the dichotomy of having stupid bust tucks on the bodice and silly gathers on the skirt.  The skirt back had no darts at all, only flare.  Speaking as someone who does not possess the 'flat butt' that the Colette block is drafted for, I was suspicious of the entire Rue skirt.

Back in November of 2014, I participated in the first PR Sewing Bee.  The first round was to make an A line skirt.  I modified my trusty McCalls 3830 pencil skirt pattern into an A-line skirt.  I pulled this pattern out and compared it to the Rue.  As I was comparing, I realized that I had already reinvented the wheel on this pattern so why not just use my own pattern for the skirt.  Boom.  Done.  I did think that the skirt needed a little more volume in the front, so I added 6" across the front of the skirt and made an inverted box pleat.  The sharpness of the pleat at the center front was more pleasing to me than any gathers or darts would be.  The pleat would also align nicely with the seaming at the bodice.

I shortened the skirt, since I am only 5'-2", and omitted the pockets.  I didn't want any extra fabric visible through my lightweight fabric.

The fabric was purchased in India in 2012 during my huge, pre-departure shopping spree.  It was a lightweight cotton, and could not have cost more than $1.60 a yard.  I also had over 3 meters of it, so it was a good choice for this dress.  I could goof something up and still have some fabric leftover to re-cut.  The lining was a white poly-crepe, also purchased in India, as well as my invisible zipper.

At this point I made muslin #3, with the skirt.  In the words of my husband, (I quote) "That's not a very flattering dress, you look like a Quaker."  I guess he didn't recognize my muslin fabric as one of our old bed sheets!  My enthusiasm for this dress is clearly expressed in the expression on my face.  (Har Har)

I had a few tweaks here and there in order to align the side seams of the bodice and the skirt.  I sewed the shoulders up last (and on the outside) so that I could adjust them as needed on the muslin and then transfer the marks to the pattern.  I was pretty sick of this thing by this point and felt there was nothing to lose by forging on ahead with my actual fabric.

I threw away the lining pattern pieces.  After 3 muslins worth of changes, they weren't good for anything except scrap paper.  I cut my lining pieces from the bodice pattern pieces and trimmed the neckline and armscye by 1/8" to allow for turn of the cloth.  I used The Slapdash Sewist's tutorials on how do an all machine, clean finish bodice lining, and how to do an all machine stitched lining insertion for invisible zippers.

Once I had the bodice lining finished, I put the bodice on my dress form to see how it looked.  It needed something.  I did a risky thing and in this case, my risk paid off.  I changed the round neckline to a sweetheart shape instead.  I felt that the sweetheart shape would mimic the shape of the bodice seaming in an attractive way.  It did.  To play up the neckline and bodice seaming even more, I added 1/8" black grosgrain ribbon to both areas.

Once the neckline was done, I attached the skirt lining to the bodice lining, and the entire lining to the invisible zipper.  Then hemming and done.  Easy.

I do like the final dress.  It fits, it is flattering, but there is very little of Colette's original pattern in it.  There were major front bodice alterations, alterations on the back darts and neckline, and my own A line skirt pattern.  It hardly qualifies as a Colette pattern anymore.

Here are photos:

I am happy to report that my Quasi-Colette Rue dress has advanced me into Round #4 of the PR Sewing Bee.  I am also happy to report that Colette Patterns have removed the Rue from their pattern store and are working on fixes to the "drafting problems"
We are correcting some drafting issues on the Rue pattern and altering the design according to your feedback. Along with corrections to the armscye and sleeve that will improve fitting issues, we will adjust the bust of the pattern so that the style lines fit fully underneath the bust.
"According to our feedback??"  Didn't they test this pattern before printing it??  There are too many head shaking questions to pose.  I'm worn out talking about this terrible pattern.  Friends...Save your money.  Friends don't let friends buy the Rue dress.  (mic drop)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

PR Sewing Bee Round #2: A Bias skirt

I was in my (parked) car when I read the email from Pattern Review revealing the challenge for round #2: Make a Bias Garment.  I didn't cheer, I didn't groan, my reaction was more of a "Hmmm..."  Since I was already in the car out and about, I headed over to Joanns to peruse the pattern catalogs. McCall's patterns were on sale that day and I was hoping to find one of their patterns that would be interesting and which would work.  Nope.  Simplicity/Butterick/Vogue? Nope, nope nope.  I did find a New Look pattern, for a slinky dress, but when I pulled the envelope out of the drawer it said it was a juniors pattern!!  Nope.  Deflated, I realized I would never wear a slinky bias dress, so it was better that I not waste my time.

Then I went where I had never gone Burda.  Right away I knew I would be able to find something that would work.  Their patterns were interesting and different.  There were different styles and interesting seamlines.  I know there are a number of sewists/bloggers out there who love Burda, but I've never had a need.  I do own 4 Burda Style Magazines but have never made anything out of them.  I found 2 great patterns for bias skirts, but the one that won out was Burda 6572.

I meandered through Joann's and found what they called brushed cotton windowpane plaid in black and red.  It was perfect! I love black and red together, it would look great on the bias, and it would be much easier to match than a more complex plaid.  

There is really interesting seaming on this skirt.  The front and back are on the bias, the back yoke is on grain, there is a front yoke and pocket that look different altogether.  The top of the pocket lines up exactly with the back yoke and I wanted to highlight that cool continuous looking line using dark red piping.

The red piping looks like it is continuous around the side and back of the skirt. It also provides a visual break between the skirt back, which is cut on the bias, and the back yoke, which is not. I was very concerned about the thickness of the piping at the CB seam and invisible zipper. Invisible zippers don't like bulk, so I discovered a clever idea to keep my piping but to make my zipper happy. I was able to slide the cord (inside the piping) out of the covering and cut 5/8" of it off. I then slid the cord back inside the covering and voila! no bulky cord at the seamline! I did this on the side seams as well. 

The hardest part about making this skirt was dealing with the bias, both in layout/cutting, and sewing so that the seams didn't stretch out.
#1: Cutting out the pattern pieces and making sure the plaid was on the grain lines. The flannel was very pliable and would shift easily off grain. On my pattern pieces for the front and back, I drew extra grainlines that would line up with the windowpane pattern on the fabric. Starting in the center of the pattern piece, I folded the pattern, placed it on the fabric aligning my grainlines with the red lines in the fabric and pinned in it place. Working from the center outward, I continued folding the pattern, aligning the fabric, and pinning it in place. It was tedious and time consuming, but to me (and my perfectionist tendencies) it was necessary.

 #2: Making sure seams didn't stretch out or skew before sewing. In order to prevent the curved seam line around the front yoke/pocket from stretching out or shifting while sewing, I used small strips of fusible interfacing along the concave curve on the front skirt piece. I was worried that manipulating the fabric and sewing this curve would stretch out the fabric and make my seams pucker. I also hand basted the pocket/front yoke to the skirt front, then machine basted, and then did a final stitch to make sure the curves laid flat. I also used strips of fusible interfacing at the center back where the zipper was installed to stabilize the seam prior to sewing in the zipper.  At the center front, where the bias front piece is sewn to the inner facing, I sewed a strip of 1/8" twill tape along the seam to be absolutely sure it didn't stretch out.

Here are the final photos:

I am once again happy to report that I have advance on to PR Sewing Bee Round #3.  --It's a doozy!

Thurlow Shorts! PR Sewing Bee Round #1

Long ago, I made a pair of Sewaholic Thurlow shorts.  They were not great:

I thought I'd still wear them but I never did.  I thought I had donated them before I moved.  Lo and behold, I found them in my refashion bin and was able to assess what went wrong last time.

I have put on a little weight since I made the first pair and they were a little small in the hips.  The waistband also fell on an odd spot which made my stomach poof out over the top.  No good.  I started my new attempt by cutting a muslin one size larger, a 14.  I raised the front 1", and I raised the center back up 3/4" increasing to 1" at the side seams to match the front.  The fit was good through the hips but very large at the waist.  I needed to take it in quite a bit at the center back seam.   Rather than just adjusting the center back seam, I took a little off  the side seams at the waistline and about 1/2" off at the center back.  I didn't want the back pockets to appear too close to the center seam so I shifted them and the back dart outward by 1/2".

I am not a fan of double welt pockets.  They look like lips to me.  Not the look I'm going for for my back pockets.  So I switched them to single welt pockets.  I used this excellent tutorial by poppykettle to make for single welt pockets.

When I first had them assembled, there were some butt-flossing issues in the back.

I scooped out the CB seam at the seat and it made a big difference.  I've never had to do this adjustment before, and was very happy with the result.

Seriously...that is a great view.

See?  Impressive!

One thing I did with these shorts that was unusual for me was to hem them much shorter than I normally do.  I was talking with a friend who has a similar shape as me, (although she is MUCH taller) and she told me that a stylist once told her to wear shorter shorts. That gave me the confidence to hem these with a 3.5" inseam rather than my typical 9".  I really like how it looks and I feel young!

Apart from scooping out the CB seam and raising the waisband, I made only minor changes.  I cut a size 14 with a slight decrease at the waist and a slight adjustment on the front pieces for athletic thighs. 

I skipped the belt reason I sew is to have bottoms that fit--no belt needed.

A note to future Thurlow sewists:  check the length of the left waistband. Mine was about 1.25" too short.  The pointed end of my waistband did not cover the entire fly extension. Some online research revealed that this has happened to other people as well. I didn't have enough of the gray denim to cut a new waistband on the correct grain-line, so I had to be creative. I wanted the pointed end of the waistband to completely cover the fly extension. I cut my waistband just to the inside of the zipper and cut a small piece of denim 1.75" long and the width of the waistband and waistband facing. I used 1/4" seam allowances to sew this piece to the main waistband and also to the pointed end. I pressed the seams open to minimize bulk. This little extension stays hidden behind the front closure.  Not everyone has has this issue but there are definitely some of us.  Save yourself a headache and measure the waistband and compare it to the left front, back, and fly extension.

  I am happy to report that I made it on to Round #2 in the Sewing Bee with these Thurlows!

Friday, July 22, 2016


Jess, this one is for you!

I have been sewing all kinds of active wear since I started running regularly.  It seems my machine always has a stretch needle on it.

First up, sports bras. I have made several versions of Jalie 2563.  I made a size V and lined the fronts with firm powernet in order to have some serious compression.  I also lined the backs with less firm powernet.  Compression indeed!  The negative side effect of this compression is that once sweaty, the bra was really hard to get off.  I needed some escape help.  So...I tweaked the back and added bra hooks!  It was a simple change involving making a "U" shaped cut out of the back the width of the bra hooks I wanted to add.  I covered the edges of the U with fold over elastic before attaching the hooks. Now I can get it off without contorting myself.

I used a variety of fabrics including swimwear nylon spandex, red supplex, and a gray wicking activewear knit. 

Next up: Steeplechase Leggings!!

I really like wearing running tights in colder weather and was very interested in the Fehr Trade Steeplechase leggings since they have clever seaming an no seams on the inner thighs.  I did make a muslin of these to check the fit.  My hips were a L and waist was closer to a M, so I cut a L for the legs and made the yoke smaller by making several partial depth cuts at the top of the pattern piece and then overlapping the cuts to make it 3/4" smaller. I followed the advice of fellow pear shaped runner, Kathy, and raised the CB up 1", although she took the complicated route, and I just made the yoke taller in the back tapering to 0" at the sides.  Like her, I found the legs to be a little loose and took them in about 1/2" with my serger after they were assembled.  

My first pair were capri length and made from a gray/black "space print" I found at Hancock Fabrics (RIP).  The my 2nd pair was made to be bike short length, above the knee.  The leggings are drafted for someone with longer legs than mine, and I need to shorten them almost 3".  This pair was made with a blue/pink "space print" also purchased at Hancock.  I omitted the back pocket since I wear a hydration belt (like this) when I run and didn't need the extra pocket. 

Here they are:

(For comparison of body shape, the gray pair was photographed in mid-May and the blue on July 1st.)

I really like the Steeplechase leggings and find them to be very comfortable when running.  With that success, I really wanted to try the Cora running short from my beloved Jalie Patterns.  Again I consulted Kathy's blog to see what she did with her Coras.  Based on her recommendation, I did not raise the CB since she said they had great coverage as is.  I also wanted some compression so I made a straight size X which is one size smaller than my high hip measurement.  The fabric was a High Performance ATY Nylon Spandex in Heather Purple from for the main body of the shorts.  The waistband and leg bands were made with a Violet Nylon Activewear knit from FabricMart, which was slightly stretchier than the Heather Purple.  Construction-wise the pattern is excellent.  The fit was great too.  They are definitely compression shorts both because I made a smaller size than suggested and also because my fabric was slightly firm.  They are very comfortable for running and they make me feel awesome!  

My next pair was made with my blue/pink "space print" for the front of the legs and denim blue supplex from FabricMart for the remainder.  I skipped the back pocket for both pairs.

The blue supplex was less firm than the Heather Purple, so I didn't hesitate to make this pair in a size X as well.  They are also excellent, just not a compressing.  

But wait...there is more!  More activewear and more Jalie!

Enter Jalie 2796 multi-sport skort.  I made a few tweaks to this pattern.  I had read reviews of other curvy sewists who said that the back of the skirt was a little snug across their curves.  So I slashed and spread the back of the skirt pattern piece to be 1" wider at hip level.  The back piece is very A-line now.  

My first version was the royal blue which was made with an athletic mesh type knit that I think I bought at but I really don't know for sure.  The mesh wasn't as stretchy as was needed for the waistband (I couldn't even come close to getting it past my hips.  Thankfully I had some royal blue swimwear spandex that worked perfectly.  Underneath the skirt, I made the compression shorts using a Nike Dri-Fit purchased from  I didn't even bother hemming the need for extra seams or bulk along the inseam. I felt like the waist should have come up higher, all around, especially in the back.  I raised the front waistband up 3/4" and raised the back waistband up 3/4" at the side seams and 1.5" at the center back.  I also lengthened the skirt.  Version 2 was the marron version using the same mesh-type fabric.  I knew I didn't have any matching spandex to use for the waistband, so I used gray wicking athletic knit.  The 3rd version was the black/gray space print and black ITY for the contrast and waistband.  I love these!!

Last up is the one thing that isn't really me.  I bought the Fehr Trade VNA top, and for some reason I thought it had a built in sports doesn't.  I guess I got confused with the XYT top.  Anyway, I used my violet activewear knit from Fabric mart for the lower front/back and bindings and  the blue/pink space print for everything else.  I raised the neckline up 2" to provide more coverage on my chest.  

The instructions were very good an walked you through the assembly step by step.  I made a size Small and that seems right.  I think I need a little more length in the upper front, the seam hit me in a weird place.  I have worn it, and it is comfortable, and not having side seams is a plus, but it doesn't really feel like me.  I really don't like excess sun exposure and I feel a little exposed in this top.  Maybe I'll wear it on cloudy days. 

There you go, lots of sewing, lots of activewear!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


I spend a lot of time during the summer at the pool, and I like to vary which suits I wear each day.  I also wear rash guards so that adds more variety to my swim wardrobe.  The 3 suits I wear the most are my 2 versions of Jalie 3023, in blue (blogged here) and red polka dots (blogged here).  I also wear this one, which is a Jalie 3023 skirted bottom and a Jalie 2563 sport bra top.  



I love tankinis and wanted to make a new one in a different style.  I wound up copying a RTW suit I had that fit well, but whose elastic was showing its age and whose straps were stretching out.  For the top front, I copied the RTW suit, and for the back I used Jalie 3023 raising up the back to eliminate the back band.  I cut the straps extra-long so that I could decide later if I wanted them to cross in the back or not. 

The bikini bottoms I copied directly from my RTW suit, and once I tried it on, it was a little blousy on the back (I’ve never had that problem before!) and I removed some of the length between the legs by taking an extra large seam at the crotch.  There is still a little bit of extra fabric but it is acceptable as is. (Sorry: no photos of the bottoms). The fabric was a printed spandex from that I bought quite a while ago and had been saving for something special.

As I said before, I wear rash guards at the pool since I don’t want to tan/age prematurely.  My current collection of rash guards, most of which were purchased from Land’s End, are starting to wear out.  The fabric in several spots have worn thin and they need to be replaced.  I have made one rash guard for myself using Jalie 2566, (blogged here).  Searching on Pinterest for some rash guard inspiration, I noticed that most of the ones I liked had raglan sleeves.  I owned Jalie 3245, the raglan tee and tank pattern but had only made the tank.  I traced off a size V (2 sizes smaller than I would normally) and raised the neckline up to be much higher for a rash guard.  For the sleeve and back, I used the size FF neckline.  The front needed to be raised up even higher than the FF level.   I did a quick muslin and was happy with the fit.  Instead of doing Jalie’s method for the neck binding (which is quite clever) I cut a 2” wide band and folded it in half lengthwise, for a Renfrew-style neck binding.  I also made the sleeves full length. 

The fabric is a very pretty navy background with dark turquoise rose and leaves.  I purchased it from Hancock Fabrics before they closed their doors for good (sniff sniff).  I absolutely love how it turned out!

(the sleeves are all twisted because I was already wet when it put this on!) 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...