Monday, October 28, 2013


I flew back to the US for 2 weeks to take care of some things like doctor and dentist appointments and to go through my stash. I sold the 6x10 cargo trailer where I was storing it (and other stuff - it wasn't full of fabric!). So this was an opportunity to go through the fabric, give some away, select some to take with me, and repack the rest. It turned out to be just about all I did this week in between my appointments and a few lunches and dinners with friends.

I had a wonderful time yesterday with my BABES sewers - go see JillyBeJoyful's blog to see what a great time we had! I was so relieved to re-home most of the fabric I brought. By the way I found a big bag of fabric I had set aside a while ago to bring to BABES so there's more. I hope to make a trip to California again in April, so we'll have to meet up then.

I think I underestimated the amount of fabric I have. If you have a tendency to stash, then DO NOT buy a cargo trailer. It became my black hole of fabric stashing. I don't have any pictures of the state of my family room when I was going through the fabric, but just picture a gigantic mound of fabric, stacks and stacks of empty plastic bins, and one space left on the couch where I would eat dinner. Yes. I became a hoarder. But just for a week. The family room is cleared out and the bins are stacked in the garage. I had to clean out and organize the garage today too - whoo boy am I pooped!

27 bins of fabric
All the fabric is swatched, and the box number is written on the swatch card. I'm so organized. There are 29 bins total - 2 are in the sewing room. And then there's the fabric I'm bringing with me. Hopefully I can get it all in my suitcase.

Friday, October 11, 2013

I'm trendy!

Print block dress by jezzybelly
Print block dress, a photo by jezzybelly on Flickr.
I finished the dress and only have time to throw up this quick picture of it. I will post a review later, hopefully with a picture of me wearing it. The pattern is the dress version of the top I showed in my last blog post. The fabric is a knit from a local fabric store here in Stuttgart.

Gotta go!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Sewing progress at last

I decided to make a (wearable) muslin after all, but it's of the shirt version of the pattern and not the whole dress. But before I get to that, I will tell you that I have decided not to use the Paris fabric for the print-blocked dress. Here's what happened to make me decide this:

I needed serger thread to better match the muslin fabric so I visited my local fabric stores. I am incredibly fortunate to have not one, but two fabric stores right around the corner. I swear I didn't know about them when we were apartment hunting so that's not why we rented this apartment! At the first store, I was surprised to find almost the exact same fabric that I'd bought in Paris. They had a different colorway than I'd bought and it was a couple euros cheaper per meter. I like the color I bought so I don't feel bad in the least that I paid more, and we're only talking 4 euros total. They have gorgeous fabrics there, but not the serger thread I wanted so I walked over to store #2.

Store #2 didn't have the serger thread either (or the Paris fabric for that matter) but they did have lots of other beautiful fabrics and one in a particular that I think I may use for this dress instead of the Paris fabric. The Paris fabric has a little bit of shine on the print side that doesn't exist on the backside. Since I was planning on using the black, reverse side as an element, I'm not sure I like the mixture of textures. Better to think of this now before I start cutting! I have another idea for the Paris dress though. But I'm intent on making the print-blocked dress, so I think I may have to go back to Store #2 for some fabric.

While I was in Store #2, I did a double take. Another customer had the same Sabrina Woman magazine opened to the same print-blocked dress I'm making! I guess it's a popular style. If I spoke and understood German better I would have said something like "I'm making the same dress". Hmmm, that would be something like:  Ich nähe das gleiche Kleide. But then she would have replied something in German and I'd be lost and have to admit that I (still) don't know much German. Anyways...back to sewing.

So I decided to make a test garment. While attempting to trace off the pattern for the dress I realized that there was a simpler version of the pattern as a shirt. I have to pause for a moment to say that I thought Burda magazine patterns were tough to trace, but these magazines are worse, and not just because all the notation is in German. The pattern sheets are half the size so they end up having to provide extension pieces for dresses and pants. I'm pretty sure there's an error in the dress pattern too. I traced off the front pieces and added in the extension, but the back piece extension did not work out at all. After squinting for a long time at the tiny numbers and spaghetti of lines and symbols, I concluded that there must be an error, and the best thing to do would be to ignore the extension and just add the length I need. But that's when I decided that I should make a muslin first. Mixed in with the dress pattern was an option for a top. The key elements of fit were there: bust, waist, hip and sleeve, so it made sense to make the top first. Here it is:

Simple shirt

Pattern used: Model #38 from Sabrina Woman (German) issue 3/13. This is the same issue as Modellina (Italian) 152, Elena Couture (France) 62, Fashion Trends (Netherlands) 11, and Tendencias de Moda (Spain) 11.

Sizes: European 36-46. I made my usual alteration of a 42 in the bust/shoulders to a 46 in the waist/hips.

Alterations: I lowered the neckline by 4 cm.

Construction: I didn't use the instructions in the magazine because this was very simple to construct. The hardest part of making this top, besides tracing the pattern, was changing my serger back and forth between overlock and coverstitch. I used fusible stay tape in the shoulder seam, and then serged the shoulders. Next I serged the sleeves - I find it much easier to put sleeves in flat on knit tops. I turned the neck edge under and used a coverstitch. Then I serged the side and sleeve seams and used the coverstitch for the sleeve hem and bottom hem. 

Fabric: I used a polyester knit fabric I brought to Germany from my stash. My stash-card says I bought it at Fabrix in San Francisco, so I probably only paid about $3 a yard. The fabric is slightly sueded on the outside, so it's nice and soft but the reverse side has a slick finish. It feels cool to the skin, and I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not.

Likes and Dislikes: I like the fit of this everywhere except the bust. The draglines you see on the dressform don't show up that way on me, instead there is some pulling at the sides of my bust. I didn't do a full bust adjustment (FBA) but those draglines tell me I need one. I am glad I graded out to the larger size in the waist and hips. The shirt floats over my fluffy parts without being too big. The key thing I was looking for in this wearable muslin was the fit over my waist and hips and it works, so I think I'm good to go. I also like the fit through the shoulders and neck.

Lessons learned:
  1. If you let too much time go between sewing projects, you might forget how to use your tools! I was glad I brought my manual on how to set up the serger.
  2. Test your stitch in the same manner as you will be sewing it. I always do a test serge on a scrap of fabric to make sure the stitch is correct. When I tried the coverstitch, it tunneled terribly! I re-thread the machine, double checked the settings, and even looked for advice online. In the end the problem was simple: I tested the coverstitch on a single layer of fabric...when I folded the fabric as it would be for the actual hem, the coverstitch was just fine.
  3. Resist the urge to procrastinate. I had finished everything but the sleeve and bottom hems and was tempted to stop there and stick it on the dressform. But I know me - it would take great effort to get back to finish those hems, especially if I moved on to another project and re-threaded the machine. So I pushed on and now I have a completed garment.
  4. I'm glad I returned to sewing. It made me happy to create a new top to wear, and I loved hearing the whir of the sewing machine again.

So I think I'm ready to go for the dress. I just need to do a small FBA and depending on the thickness of the fabric I buy I might add a little more width to the sleeves.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Using the good stuff

I'm going to do it. I'm going to cut into some "good" fabric. I admit that I'm apprehensive because my sewing skills are rusty. I think the last garment I made was almost 2 years ago. I have sewn some things for the home - Roman shades, pillows and such, but even for that stuff I felt out of practice at the sewing machine. So why on earth am I using the good stuff and not making some practice garments first? Good question.

Here's the deal. I bought some beautiful fabric in Paris a few weeks ago as a birthday gift. Ok, I didn't really need an excuse to buy fabric, but it actually was my birthday and our anniversary weekend, and I just couldn't be in Paris and not go to Tissus Reine. Then I saw this fabric and while I didn't need it, I felt I'd be sad if I passed it up. So I splurged (it was over €20 per meter) and bought 2 meters. Gulp.

The fabric is a knit and appears to be double faced. I didn't note the fabric content, or maybe the tag didn't say, but it feels to me like it's a rayon knit and I'd think the price would support that. The fabric has a lovely drape to it, and it's a nice medium weight with good recovery. The color may not be coming out correctly in the picture - what may show as bright red is more orange and not so bright.

New sewing project

It's a lot of print, so I knew right away I wanted to make a print-blocked dress. Now normally I would put this beautiful fabric into my stash where it would sit, along with my idea of making a print-blocked dress. But print-blocking is in style right now. I can't tell you how much fabric I have in my stash that I bought with the intent to make something that was in style right then...but didn't. So I really want to get off my butt and do this. I'd also like to get it done in the next two weeks so that I can wear it to a gathering I'm attending. I really don't have time for practice garments right now. Hey, it's not like I'm sewing a dress I'm going to wear to my nephew's wedding the night before we have to leave. Yeah, been there, done that.

So anyway, here's a line drawing of the pattern I want to use. Yes, that's German text. The pattern is from the German magazine Sabrina Woman. The magazine is also published in other countries under other names; in Italy it's Modellina. This will be a challenge, but it should be fairly straight forward construction, although that doesn't mean I'll breeze through it. I'm a poky, perfectionist sewer.

Here's a photo from the magazine. Don't worry, I will definitely add some length. It's been decades since I've worn dresses this short. I plan to wear it with black leggings.

The side pieces will definitely be black, but I'm not sure if I'll make the top strip and/or sleeves in black. The nice thing about using a double faced fabric is that I can test out these combinations without cutting extra pieces - just flip them around. I'm hoping the 2 meters I have will be enough - it's a 3 hour train ride (on a very fast train) to go back to Paris. The instructions call for more fabric because they figure you're using two different fabrics.

So now that I've proclaimed on this public site that I'm going to make this dress, will I do it? Well, you'll have to wait and see.